Climate change will play a significant role in the Department of Defense’s ability to fulfill its mission in the future. It will affect both built and natural infrastructure, which will impact readiness and environmental stewardship responsibilities at hundreds of installations across the nation. SERDP and ESTCP’s investments are developing the understanding and tools necessary to identify vulnerable assets, assess impacts, and determine appropriate adaptive responses.
Climate-related effects already are being observed at DoD installations in every region of the United States and its coastal waters. These physical changes include:
- rising temperature and sea level
- increases in both heavy downpours and the extent of drought
- thawing permafrost
- shifts in growing seasons
- lengthening ice-free seasons in the oceans and on lakes and rivers
- earlier snowmelt
- altered river and stream flows
The direction, degree, and rate of these changes will differ by region, as will the impacts to the military’s infrastructure and capabilities. SERDP and ESTCP investments are improving the understanding of the potential impacts of climate change and developing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies that will enable DoD to respond appropriately.
SERDP and ESTCP investments are focused on the following:
Vulnerability and Impact Assessment
Quantifying climate change impacts requires understanding how physical drivers, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events, will change. It also involves determining which components of DoD infrastructure are potentially vulnerable to these changes and how they could be affected. Another essential aspect is an improved understanding of how species and ecosystems associated with DoD lands and waters will respond to climate change in the context of other stressors. The primary emphasis of research is the development of region-specific tools and models to better predict the impacts both to the features that protect coastal areas and to the built infrastructure of installations, ranges, and the surrounding communities.
Adaptation to climate change involves reconfiguring DoD’s natural and built infrastructure or increasing its resilience. Research is focused on improving the understanding of how to manage species and ecosystems that will be affected by climate change. Certain types of natural infrastructure provide physical protection from extreme weather events for training and testing areas and built infrastructure. Research involves studying how to enhance the resistance, resilience, or recovery capacity to enable such natural infrastructure to continue to provide benefits in the face of climate change.
Land Use and Carbon Management
Land-use practices affect the rates of carbon cycling and storage within the soil and vegetation. Research to be initiated in FY 2011 will improve the understanding of carbon cycle dynamics across the various landforms and vegetation types that DoD manages. This knowledge can be used to ensure land and carbon management is compatible with maintaining military mission support, desired ecosystem services, and biological diversity.
The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on DoD Installations on Atolls in the Pacific Ocean
Regional Sea Level Scenarios for Coastal Risk Management: Managing the Uncertainty of Future Sea Level Change and Extreme Water Levels for Department of Defense Coastal Sites Worldwide (2016)
Climate-Sensitive Decision-Making in the Department of Defense: Synthesis of Ongoing Research and Current Recommendations (2016)
Use of Climate Information for Decision-Making and Impacts Research: State of our Understanding (2016)
SERDP Climate Change Program Review and NOAA Partnership Meeting Summary Report (2015)
Infrastructure Damage/Fragility Models and Data Quality Issues Associated with Department of Defense Climate Vulnerability and Impact Assessment (2015)
Assessing Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal Military Installations: Policy Implications (2013)
NOAA Technical Report:
Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment (2012)
DoD Workshop on Coordinating Climate Change Research and Policy Implications (2011)
Tools and Training
Put innovative research and technologies to work.