Few organizations, private or public, take more seriously the threat of climate change than the Department of Defense. The Pentagon has invested billions of dollars into research to develop adaptations, including improved fuel-efficiency for its planes, ships and vehicles.
On Friday, the National Research Council, one of the nation’s leading scientific organizations, released a report that reinforces the thinking of the military. Commissioned by the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the analysis warns that a warming planet ensures more frequent and disruptive crises, upsetting water supplies, food and energy markets and public health systems.
The report stresses that for all of its unknown aspects, climate change is real, driven by humans sending increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. What the report advises is that the federal government must do a better job preparing for the trouble to come in the form of failing governments, famine, disease, floods and refugees. The country cannot afford the mismanagement that has diminished the capacity of the weather satellite program.
The point often is made about the cost in responding to global warming, say, higher electricity bills or workers displaced. The report makes plain the expense in failing to respond, reinforced by Hurricane Sandy, highlighting the need for adjustments to rising seas, among other things. What will be the cost to the international community in aiding those battered by a changing climate?
The report recommends doing a better job monitoring the climate and seeking to anticipate crises. It proposes “stress tests” for vulnerable countries. Such steps represent a beginning. Eventually, the international community must mobilize on a wide range of fronts, from supporting green technologies to reducing the emissions that are pushing the planet’s temperature higher.