Game It Out: The Navy adapts to the emerging threat of climate change

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The Department of the Navy recently concluded a unique “climate tabletop exercise” at Marine Corps Barracks in Washington. The goal was to take a closer look at the effect of climate on U.S. naval operations and how a changing climate could negatively affect the Navy’s combat capability.

“As the Secretary of the Navy, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of Naval Operations have said, we are looking at the impacts of climate change because it makes us better fighters,” said Meredith Berger, deputy secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and the Environment, in a U.S. Navy statement covering the tabletop exercise. “The Navy and Marine Corps must address climate change in their readiness and operations to retain every advantage to fight and win,” she continued.

Taking place in October 2030, the game “focused on a Navy Amphibious Ready Group and a embarked Maritime Expeditionary Strike Group preparing for an amphibious exercise with a partner nation in the Indo-Western Pacific AOR”, said explained the navy.

The first roadblock in wargaming was bad weather. “A typhoon impacts the exercise and quickly creates cascading effects on operations,” the Navy explained. “The storm came on the heels of other destructive storms that made the land and local people less resilient and more susceptible to greater damage from mudslides, the power grid and other disruptions to key infrastructure.” , Navy officials added.

Several important lessons learned from the exercise highlighted the importance of taking into account the challenges of climate change. “The group spoke about the importance of logistics, both as an enabler of war, the vulnerability of resilience, and an area where the Department can make strides to become more energy efficient and therefore a more capable combat force,” the Navy statement noted.

Additionally, “the group discussed identifying single points of failure that could be compromised by climate impacts and the need for redundancy as well as efficiency. The importance of collaborative planning in order to develop resilient partnerships in the face of a dynamic and changing climate environment was also discussed.

As the eyes of the world are currently on the conflict in Ukraine and developments in Europe, other future threats are becoming more prominent for the US Navy. The navy is particularly focused on the threat from China and how climate change will affect operations in the Indo-Pacific.

“In order to strengthen and maintain our maritime dominance, we must strengthen and maintain our maritime partnerships,” Berger said. “Partnership is a key driver of success and diversity of perspectives is the catalyst. Today, we had the chance to work with diverse partners to hear their views and share ours to better tackle the climate crisis together,” she added.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and advocacy writer with National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. It covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.

Image: Flickr/US Navy.

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