US Pacific Forces Chief calls climate change the biggest security threat
This week a Boston Globe article reported that the top military official for the Pacific, Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, has named climate change the most dangerous long-term threat to security in the Pacific. The Globe quoted him saying that upheaval related to the world’s changing climate “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’
As the leader of United States Pacific Command (PACOM), Admiral Locklear is in charge of monitoring an area encompassing about half of the earth’s surface, from the waters off the west coast of the U.S. to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole. His office monitors high profile security issues such as hostile actions by North Korea and tensions between China and Japan.
“You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.” Admiral Locklear described the magnitude of the threat facing Pacific Islands, recognizing the likely forced migration of entire populations of Pacific Island nations and the increased vulnerability to seasonal events, including storms and fluctuations in sea-level. He views sea-level rise as a major destabilizing force in the region, noting that 80 percent of the world’s population lives within 200 miles of the coast.
As further evidence that PACOM is taking seriously the threats of climate change, its Hawai‘i-based headquarters is developing strategies to respond. Working with Asian nations, PACOM will stockpile supplies in strategic locations and run a major exercise in May with nearly two dozen countries, to practice responding to various possible scenarios.
Cover photo: Thunderbolt II flying over Hawaii Island during RIMPAC 2012 aerial exercises. Courtesy of PACOM.