Hurricane Ian, which tore through the Caribbean, smashed Puerto Rico and decimated parts of Florida, is the most recent reminder that climate change is already happening and causing new burdens and costs on people worldwide.
Daniel Erickson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, and Kristina O’Brien, from the Joint Staff, helmed a tabletop exercise to examine the effects climate change will have on the Western Hemisphere and examine how to respond to increasingly violent storms and natural disasters.
DOD often works in support of civilian agencies in humanitarian disaster relief assistance operations. The department’s personnel and logistics capabilities are often the difference between life and death for those affected.
The tabletop exercise was entitled “Precipitous Storm,” and it was important to identify the ways that climate change will “irrevocably alter the context in which the department operates,” Erickson wrote in a report on the results of the exercise.
Climate change, he said, will create new operational demands on DOD and could undermine existing capabilities.
The Western Hemisphere is susceptible to climate impacts and the homeland will be affected as well as neighbors in the region. The tabletop exercise “envisioned climate-related scenarios in 2037 followed by a discussion regarding how DOD and the interagency would need to respond, and steps that we can now take to be better prepared to mitigate climate-related risks,” Erickson said in the report.
The exercise highlighted the need for more capabilities in the hemisphere, more cooperation among interagency partners and more interoperability among the countries of the region, he said.
The exercise brought together many DOD personnel, members of U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Southern Command and interagency partners.
Erickson would like to see more tabletop exercises with regional partners. He would also like to see DOD work more closely with partners in the region to help develop their capabilities. He would also like to see a climate change aspect to any future table-top exercises sponsored by DOD.
The exercise did, in fact, point to ways the department can prepare now for the challenges inherent in climate change, said DOD officials. The officials said the United States really needs a whole-of-government coordination mechanism to develop actions and messaging to compete in the arena created by climate change.