Science Informs Policy on Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change to Coastal Installations

02/27/2013

A new white paper developed by SERDP identifies key policy questions that need to be addressed to ensure that climate change vulnerability and impact assessments are conducted effectively and that assessment findings are appropriately used to inform decisions. The paper draws on the work of four SERDP-funded research projects that are developing and testing information, models, and tools necessary to examine the potential climate change vulnerability of and impacts on military installations along the coast.

Climate-related effects are already being observed at Department of Defense (DoD) installations in every region of the United States and its coastal waters. The effects of climate change will adversely impact military readiness and DoD natural and built infrastructure unless these risks are considered in DoD decisions. Considerations of future climate conditions need to be incorporated into the planning, design, and operations of military facilities, as well as in the strategic infrastructure decisions facing the military Services and DoD as a whole.

The SERDP white paper, Assessing Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal Military Installations: Policy Implications, details key policy questions for DoD and the military Services that are raised by the need to address climate change vulnerability and impacts. The key policy questions identified in the report are:

  • Integrating climate change considerations. How can DoD and the military Services best integrate climate change considerations into planning and decision processes to ensure military readiness and asset protection?
  • Technical guidance required. What technical guidance is required from DoD and the military Services to enable high quality assessment and adaptation planning to support planning and management decisions?
  • Degree of regional consistency. How can DoD and the military Services best balance the need for comparable assessment results across diverse regions, installations, and mission purposes, with the need for flexibility in assessment approaches to address regional/local conditions and priorities?
  • Ensuring mission resilience. How can DoD and military Services’ investments at extant military installations as well as potential future base realignment and closure investments be made so that such decisions, at the installation level and in aggregate, ensure resilience of the military mission to climate change?
  • Coordination with civilian activities. How can DoD and the military Services ensure that external/civilian activities that may affect DoD installations and military readiness are effectively accounted for in installation and civilian strategies under climate change?

The paper also identifies technical and institutional considerations that should be incorporated into DoD policies and guidance to ensure an effective and sustainable approach to enhancing military readiness and protecting DoD assets in the face of climate change. These considerations are:

  • Integrating climate change into planning and management decisions
  • Accounting for regional variation in assessments
  • Using screening level versus detailed assessments
  • Selecting and applying future condition scenarios
  • Matching analysis time frames and spatial scales to decision types and planning horizons
  • Ensuring data quality
  • Addressing uncertainty
  • Enabling the ongoing use of climate science in decisions

The white paper can inform DoD policymakers as they develop policy and guidance for assessing the vulnerability and resilience of military installations to future climate-related stressors. Although the main focus of this paper is coastal installations, the findings may inform the Department’s overall approach to climate change, helping to ensure the future ability of DoD to meet its mission, sustain its assets, and meet its stewardship requirements and responsibilities.
 

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