In response to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the National Research Council appointed a committee operating under the auspices of the Naval Studies Board to study the national security implications of climate change for U.S. naval forces. In conducting its study, the committee found that even the most moderate current trends in climate, if continued, will present new national security challenges for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.1 While the timing, degree, and consequence of future climate change impacts remain uncertain, many changes are already under way in regions around the world, such as in the Arctic, and call for action by U.S. naval leadership in response.
The terms of reference (TOR) directed that the study be based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios and other peer-reviewed assessments. Therefore, the committee did not address the science of climate change or challenge the scenarios on which the committee’s findings and recommendations are based. The TOR directed the study to:
Examine the potential impact on U.S. future naval operations and capabilities as a result of climate change….
Assess the robustness of the Department of Defense’s infrastructure for supporting U.S. future naval operations and capabilities in the context of potential climate change impacts….
Determine the potential impact climate change will have on allied force operations and capabilities….
Examine the potential impact on U.S. future naval antisubmarine warfare
operations and capabilities in the world’s oceans as a result of climate change; specifically, the technical underpinnings for projecting U.S. undersea dominance in light of the changing physical properties of the oceans.
This final report addresses both the near- and long-term implications for U.S. naval forces in each of the four areas of the TOR, and provides corresponding findings and recommendations.2,3 In an effort to identify areas that need action by U.S. naval leadership, this report and its findings and recommendations are organized around six discussion areas—all presented within the context of a changing climate.
Disputes over boundaries and exclusive economic zones as a result of new maritime transits and competition for new resources;
Strains on naval capabilities—given continuing first responder missions, and the opening of new international and territorial waters;
Vulnerabilities to naval coastal installations due to sea-level rise and increased storm surges;
Demands for establishing greater U.S., allied, and/or international maritime partnerships;
Impacts on the technical underpinnings that enable, in part, naval force capabilities, particularly those that operate and train in the Arctic; and
Investments for additional research and development that have implications for future naval operations and capabilities and might not be met by other groups pursuing climate-related research.
In total, the conclusions from this study can be viewed in the context of six areas for action by U.S. naval leadership. These conclusions, along with their corresponding major findings and recommendations, are presented below. The Summary’s findings and recommendations are not presented in priority order but highlight conclusions reached in the report. As a result, not all of the report’s findings and recommendations are included in this Summary. However, the committee points out that all of the report’s recommendations are important.4
The committee’s first report, a letter report, was delivered to the CNO in April 2010 (see Appendix D). The present report, the committee’s final report, accords with the findings and recommendations in the committee’s letter report and provides additional findings, recommendations, and analysis.
For the purposes of this report, in making recommendations for naval leadership actions, the term “immediate” is defined as requiring action now through the next Program Objective Memorandum (POM) cycle, in this case POM-14; “near term” as requiring close monitoring with action anticipated to be needed within the next 10 years; and “long term” as requiring monitoring with action anticipated to be needed within 10 to 20 years.
Based on the judgment of this committee and the best available data, and to help provide a more quantitative assessment for a range of uncertain possible outcomes, an outcome termed “likely” has at least a two-thirds chance of occurring, and an outcome termed “very likely” has at least a 90 percent chance.
SIX AREAS FOR U.S. NAVAL LEADERSHIP ACTION
Action Area 1:
Support ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In May 2010, the CNO stated that the need for U.S. formal participation in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) becomes more pressing as ice continues to melt in the Arctic.5 Other U.S. naval leaders have expressed similar views.6 The geopolitical situation in the Arctic region has become complex and nuanced, despite the area being essentially ignored since the end of the Cold War. The Arctic Council, a governmental forum of the five Arctic nations (Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States) plus Iceland, Sweden, and Finland, offers a diplomatic vehicle for addressing contemporary Arctic issues. However, maritime boundary disputes abound. For example, Canada and the United States, and Canada and Denmark have unresolved territorial sea and exclusive economic zone disputes in the Arctic. Norway and Russia disagree over offshore areas around Svalbard. The status of the Northwest Passage through the Canadian archipelago—internal Canadian waters or an international
The committee studied the implications of the failure of the United States to ratify the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) from the standpoint of potential impacts on national security due to climate change. In this regard, the committee’s perspectives are in line with those of Department of Defense (DOD) leadership, including the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard regarding ratification of UNCLOS. For example, the 2010 DOD Quadrennial Defense Review provides endorsement for U.S. ratification of UNCLOS in its discussion of climate and energy (see Quadrennial Defense Review, February 2010, p. 86 [p. 108 of the PDF file], available at http://www.nationaljournal.com/congressdaily/issues/graphics/Defense-Review-2010.PDF). The committee realizes that the U.S. ratification of UNCLOS involves a number of nonmilitary issues. For additional reading, see Ronald O’Rourke, 2010, Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, March 30, Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., pp. 6-7; and National Intelligence Council, 1996, Law of the Sea, The End Game, Intelligence Community Assessment, March. Available at http://www.dni.gov/nic/special_endgame.html. A previous National Research Council committee, also operating under the auspices of the Naval Studies Board, examined UNCLOS and the international legal framework in the context of maritime security partnerships. See National Research Council, 2008, Maritime Security Partnerships, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
For example, in a May 2010 speech at the National Press Club, ADM Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, strongly endorsed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as “the vehicle by which we can collectively provide continuing stability in the maritime domain” (see Inside Defense, 2010. “Roughead Goes to Bat for Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty,” May 24). ADM Thad Allen, former Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, has also issued public statements supporting ratification of UNCLOS: in 2009, he provided testimony on UNCLOS to the United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security (see http://www.jag.navy.mil/organization/code_10_law_of_the_sea.htm, and http://www.hstoday.us/content/view/9912/149/). Also, ADM James G. Stavridis, USN, Commander of the United States European Command, and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, stated in a February 2010 meeting with the committee that the United States should ratify UNCLOS.
strait—has been a Canadian concern since at least 1985. The issue is not resolved, and current transits are allowed through nation-to-nation bilateral agreement for icebreaker transits.
The most notable maritime boundary issues involve existing and potential claims of the extended outer continental shelf under provisions of the UNCLOS. National Security Presidential Directive-66, which inter alia outlines national security interests of the United States in the Arctic, raised the possibility that Arctic issues will require national security attention in the future.
FINDING: The committee has studied the implications of the failure of the United States to ratify the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) from the standpoint of potential impacts on national security in the context of a changing climate. As climate change affords increased access to the Arctic, it is envisioned that there will be new opportunities for natural resource exploration and recovery, as well as increased ship traffic of all kinds, and with that a need for broadened naval partnership and cooperation, and a framework for settling potential disputes and conflicts. By remaining outside the Convention, the United States makes it more difficult for U.S. naval forces to have maximum operating flexibility in the Arctic and complicates negotiations with maritime partners for coordinated search and rescue operations in the region. (Chapter 1)
RECOMMENDATION: The ability of U.S. naval forces to carry out their missions would be assisted if the United States were to ratify UNCLOS. Therefore, the committee recommends that the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard continue to put forward the naval forces’ view of the potential value and operational impact of UNCLOS ratification on U.S. naval operations, especially in the Arctic region. (Chapter 1)
Action Area 2:
Prepare for increased strain on capabilities due to greater humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR)-related missions, as well as the opening of new international and territorial waters in the Arctic.
Greater HA/DR-Related Missions
Numerous peer-reviewed reports and scientific models anticipate a range of increasing global stresses due to the effects of climate change alone and in combination with other environmental stressors, such as projected global population growth. These reports and models suggest more severe or frequent droughts, floods, storms, and other events with negative consequences for food and water supplies, possibly leading to even greater stress on the expanded human population.
From a national security standpoint, such climate change effects would likely amplify stresses on weaker nations and generate geopolitical instability in already vulnerable regions. Furthermore, naval missions may be impacted from such effects, including the sorts of antipiracy and counterterrorism missions now being conducted off Somalia. However, the greatest impact to naval missions will be an increase on HA/DR-related missions. In short, these additional HA/DR-related missions resulting from projected climate change will have the potential to strain military resources and existing national security missions.
The U.S. Navy, as a forward-deployed force, is in position to reach disaster relief sites faster than other agencies and will almost assuredly experience increased demand for assistance if disasters increase due to climate change. The demand for Naval Construction Force capability and Navy hospital ships in support of HA/DR-related missions is likely to increase in proportion to the operational tempo of U.S.-sponsored international HA/DR operations. Likewise, the U.S. Marine Corps, with its forward-deployed Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs), should expect to be called upon to assist with extreme weather-related HA/DR missions. However, the pace and extent of this increase are as yet unknown.
FINDING: The unique capability provided by the U.S. Navy hospital ships will become even more important in supporting potential humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR)-related missions that will likely occur as a result of crises created by climate change. The Navy needs to maintain this capability beyond the life of its current two-ship hospital fleet. (Chapter 2)
RECOMMENDATION: The Program Executive Office for Ships (PEO-Ships), the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), and the Military Sealift Command (MSC) should analyze alternatives to retain the medical capability of the current hospital ships into the future. The analysis should address construction of new military or commercial platforms like the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) that will join the Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF); modification to current surface platforms or amphibious “big-decks”; or construction of next-generation Navy fleet hospitals to meet the requirements. In this context, PEO-Ships, NAVSEA, and MSC should also explore the feasibility of leasing commercial ships and crews to meet the requirements, but in doing so must ensure that the provisions for operating rooms, sophisticated trauma care, and guaranteed availability on very short notice are included. (Chapter 2)
FINDING: Global climate change projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) suggest damaging impacts in developing and developed nations that may be destabilizing in many parts of the world. These projections would affect U.S. national security and stress naval resources. In particular, naval forces will likely be required to carry out more
frequent humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR)-related missions. At the same time, U.S. naval forces would be expected to execute their ongoing national security military missions and to position themselves for supporting missions in destabilized regions around the globe. It is also expected that the demand for U.S. Naval Construction Force and Marine Expeditionary Unit capabilities will increase in proportion to the operational tempo of U.S.-sponsored international HA/DR missions. (Chapter 2)
RECOMMENDATION: In the near term, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) should not specifically fund new force-structure capabilities to deal with the effects of projected climate change; however, the CNO should begin to hedge against climate change impacts through planning for modifications of the existing force structure as climate change requirements become clearer. The U.S. naval forces (the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) should begin to consider potential specific force-structure capabilities and training standards for conducting missions arising from, or affected by, climate change, particularly HA/DR-related missions. (Chapter 2)
Opening of New International and Territorial Waters in the Arctic
U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard leaders have recognized the potential impact of projected climate change on naval operations and capabilities, especially with respect to the Arctic. In May 2009, the CNO established Navy Task Force Climate Change (TFCC); in November 2009, TFCC issued its first report—U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap—that offered a chronological listing of Navy action items, objectives, and desired effects to address climate-change-related Arctic issues for FY 2010 to FY 2014.7
As this report makes evident, the committee fully agrees with TFCC’s initial report. Indeed, recent climate change may have the most immediate and obvious implications for maritime operations in the Arctic region. The Arctic is experiencing dramatic effects due to recent trends in global climate, including significant reductions in sea-ice cover in the Arctic Ocean and the disappearance of older, thicker, multiyear ice. This committee expects the decline in Arctic summer sea ice to continue at the current rate (10 percent per decade) or more in the next few decades. This would allow “ice-free” access over large stretches of the Arctic in late summer by 2030 that would be sufficient for reliable cross-Arctic transit.8
As a result of reduced multiyear ice, the Arctic Ocean is rapidly acquiring the
The U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap is available at http://www.navy.mil/navydata/documents/USN_artic_roadmap.pdf.
Throughout this report, the term “ice-free” is used to mean that multiyear ice has nearly (or completely) disappeared; however, to date, in what are termed “ice-free” conditions, sufficient ice is present to remain a hazard to ordinary ships and routine marine operations.
types of maritime activities in the summer months that normally occur elsewhere in the world’s ice-free oceans. Related to the increasing accessibility of Arctic waters, the U.S. Geological Survey has reported that significant natural resources (oil, natural gas, and nonfuel minerals) may become available for exploitation as ice melts and climate tempers. Recent studies have also shown that despite the continued harsh conditions, maritime tourism is expanding in the Arctic, especially around Greenland and Svalbard but also in the Northwest Passage and around Arctic Alaska.
However, the Navy currently has limited surface capability in the Arctic, and its supporting operational infrastructure in the region is severely limited versus the growing security demands in this increasingly accessible maritime domain.
FINDING: The nation has very limited icebreaker capability, which could limit the U.S. ability to train, operate, and engage in the Arctic. Furthermore, as noted in a 2007 National Research Council report, “both operations and maintenance of [the] polar icebreaker fleet have been underfunded for many years, and the capabilities of the nation’s icebreaking fleet have diminished substantially” and, among other things, “the U.S. Coast Guard [USCG] should be provided sufficient operations and maintenance budget[s] to support an increased, regular, and influential presence in the Arctic.”9 Moreover, U.S. national icebreaker assets are old, obsolete, and under the control of another agency that does not have a national security operational mandate. The present committee believes that future USCG missions in the Arctic will require autonomy and command of their vessels. (Chapter 2)
RECOMMENDATION: In order to support the U.S. naval forces’ missions in the Arctic, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) needs icebreaker capabilities under its operational control. While there are other national requirements for such ships, action should be taken to provide these operational capabilities to the USCG. Therefore, the Chief of Naval Operations should support the initiatives of the Commandant of the Coast Guard to define future USCG icebreaker needs. As such, future U.S. national icebreaker assets should be defined as part of a holistic force structure that also accommodates ongoing National Science Foundation-sponsored polar research needs. (Chapter 2)
FINDING: The current situation of the three combatant commanders—Commander, U.S. European Command; Commander, U.S. Northern Command; and Commander, U.S. Pacific Command—having overlapping areas of responsibility for the Arctic was perhaps workable when the Arctic was less important than it is rapidly becoming. This division of responsibility in the Arctic is inconsistent with
U.S. national interests and does not match the command structure of other U.S. agencies (such as the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State) in this increasingly significant region of the world. (Chapter 2)
RECOMMENDATION: The Chief of Naval Operations should engage the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a review of combatant commanders’ responsibilities for the Arctic, with the goal of ensuring the most effective command structure. Interagency considerations, including but not limited to the U.S. Department of State, should be included in these deliberations. (Chapter 2)
FINDING: In the post–Cold War era, the U.S. Navy has had a very limited surface ship presence in true northern latitude, cold-weather conditions. According to information presented to the committee, the U.S. military as a whole has lost most of its competence in cold-weather operations for high-Arctic warfare. (Chapter 2)
RECOMMENDATION: The Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard should establish a strong and consistently funded effort to increase Arctic operations and share lessons, including with allies. In the immediate term, the Navy should begin Arctic training and the Marine Corps should also reestablish a cold-weather training program. (Chapter 2)
Action Area 3:
Address naval coastal installation vulnerabilities due to anticipated sea-level rise and increased storm surges.
Among the many manifestations of climate change projected for the next several decades, sea-level rise is both highly certain to occur and highly certain to come with economic costs. Precision in the measurement of changes in globally averaged sea level was improved substantially in the early 1990s with the deployment of the Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidon satellite altimeter followed by later high-precision satellite altimeter missions. As a result, it is now possible to detect acceleration in sea-level rise over the past few decades. The current estimated rate (3 mm/year) is already at the upper limit of the range of global sea-level rise projections that were presented 20 years ago in the first IPCC assessment. Although this rate is small relative to the magnitude of tidal excursions at most localities, the probability of the sea level rising at this rate or faster (while adding to tidal excursion and storm surges) over the next century requires serious assessment of the implications for coastal facilities.
Although a great deal of attention has focused on the question of mean sea-level rise, it is the regional variations that are of most serious concern to naval forces and their installations. Worst-case regional changes are more than an order of magnitude greater than the global mean. In many situations, neither regional nor global sea level is directly of primary interest. Rather it is the increased vul-
nerability to extreme events (storm surges) and their dependence upon changes in regional relative sea level, tidal amplitudes, and the nature of extreme meteorological forces that are of greatest importance. Evaluating future risks involves an understanding of changes in storm frequency and intensity as well as local sea-level rise. Each naval facility has a unique configuration and requires ongoing evaluation of changing risks as the climate changes.
FINDING: Peer-reviewed literature since the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) suggests that loss of ice from small ice bodies (e.g., mountain glaciers and small ice caps) may have been underestimated in the last IPCC report and that major changes in Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet dynamics can take place over relatively short timescales. Sea-level variations caused by shifts in wind, rain, evaporation, and land-ice volume can cause far greater local changes in sea-level variations than the global mean rise that is projected from thermal expansion of the ocean and land-surface meltwater runoff. (Chapter 3)
RECOMMENDATION: Based on recent peer-reviewed scientific literature, the Department of the Navy should expect roughly 0.4 to 2 meters global average sea-level rise by 2100, with a most likely value of about 0.8 meter. Projections of local sea-level rise could be much larger and should be taken into account for naval planning purposes. However, U.S. naval leadership (e.g., the Oceanographer of the Navy) should be aware that this estimate is subject to change, and it should be reviewed routinely for any significant change. (Chapter 3)
FINDING: Neither regional nor global sea level is of primary interest in determining naval coastal installation vulnerability. Rather, it is the increased vulnerability associated with extreme events (storm surges) and their dependence on changes in regional sea level, tidal amplitudes, and the nature of extraordinary meteorological forces that are of greatest importance. (Chapter 3)
FINDING: U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps coastal installations around the globe will become increasingly susceptible to projected climate change. Several assessments now under way on naval installation vulnerabilities appear to be focused primarily on static sea-level rise and coastal inundation only. According to these current assessments, some adaptive actions are indicated owing to already identified vulnerabilities at specific naval installations. The preliminary review of climate-change-related base vulnerabilities across the DOD—currently under way as directed by the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review10—does not include some important factors that affect coastal installation
vulnerabilities, although it provides a baseline assessment across all branches of the armed services and serves as a starting point for more in-depth analysis and action. (Chapter 3)
RECOMMENDATION: The Commander, Naval Installations Command, and the Navy Director for Fleet Readiness and Logistics should work with their U.S. Coast Guard and Marine Corps counterparts—and in conjunction with the other armed services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense—to ensure that a coordinated analysis is undertaken to address naval-installation vulnerability to rising sea levels, higher storm surges, and other consequences of climate change. In performing this vulnerability analysis, naval facility managers should recognize that each and every naval facility has a unique configuration and requires ongoing oversight of the changing risks as the climate system shifts. For example, local storm surge impact in climate-induced extreme storm events is likely to represent a bigger vulnerability than sea-level rise alone. (Chapter 3)
RECOMMENDATION: For Program Objective Memorandum (POM)-14 planning purposes, the Chief of Naval Operations should prepare to invest in early-stage adaptation for targeted low-elevation naval installations identified in current vulnerability assessments as being at “very high risk” from more intense storm surges, sea-level rise, and other climate change impacts. Other risks for naval installations as a result of projected climate change require further analysis and planning at this time, but no immediate direct additional substantial investment beyond current budget plans. (Chapter 3)
Action Area 4:
Address U.S., allied, and/or international maritime partnership demands based on climate change scenarios.
U.S. allies and their militaries will face national security challenges similar to those faced by the United States and its naval forces as a result of climate change. As climate change influences the geopolitical landscape, demands are expected to increase for HA/DR and maritime security missions and, in some cases, potential Arctic engagement. However, internal economic and political pressure, as well as geographical proximity to climate-change-influenced geopolitical hot spots, will lead to different responses from U.S. allies and their partners. Some allies will have an inherently greater capacity than others, and some may be required to deal with severe local climate-change-related issues internally or just across their borders.11 According to information presented to the committee, several climate-
change-related global hot spots will be of particular concern to the United States and its allies.
Based on these geopolitical hot spots, projected climate change will affect U.S. allies in varying ways domestically and regionally. While these challenges are unlikely to trigger any treaty obligations (under NATO; the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty; or the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, for example), it is likely that allies may request U.S. assistance, particularly in dealing with humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and mass migration. Traditionally, the posture of the United States has been to assist allies to the greatest extent possible.
The historical record of U.S. military support for global HA/DR-related missions suggests that the President of the United States is likely to continue directing U.S. naval forces to respond to hot spots around the globe as a result of climate change contingencies. The capabilities and willingness of U.S. allies and their partners to participate in these responses will be critical because the United States will lack the resources and, in some instances, the strategic justification for responding alone to every request for assistance in dealing with climate-related contingencies, even when U.S. interests may be directly at stake. More robust partnerships will be required to deal with climate-change-related issues.
Given the scope and scale of potential climate change contingencies, and the projected global climate change vulnerabilities, the United States and its naval forces will want to cooperate with allies, non-allies, and private organizations in both anticipating and responding to global climate change and geographic hot spots. At this time, these partnerships either are not sufficiently robust or are not tailored for the quantity and type of missions that are most likely to occur, including the need for additional partnerships for the United States to properly deal with Arctic issues.
FINDING: All regions of the world will experience the effects of projected climate change. Some climate change effects, such as changes in storm patterns and drought, will have direct impacts in the United States. Should regional storms and droughts intensify over time they may well drive mass migrations to the United States from neighboring countries, including Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Projected climate change will also directly and indirectly affect most U.S. allies, including NATO countries, Australia, Japan, and all other major non-NATO allies, which in turn may request or require U.S. assistance. (Chapter 4)
impact of climate change may be more marked there than in other regions of the world, potentially leading to mass migration pressures that would also impact Southern Europe. See The World Bank, 2009, World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change, November, The World Bank, Washington, D.C.; and National Intelligence Council, 2008, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, November, p. 53; available at http://www.dni.gov/nic/PDF_2025/2025_Global _Trends_Final_Report.pdf. Accessed May 25, 2010.
RECOMMENDATION: Given that U.S. naval forces cannot be fully prepared for or respond to all plausible climate contingencies, the Chief of Naval Operations, working with the combatant commanders, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, should develop or expand maritime partnerships with other nations. Projected climate change will affect all regions of the world, and so U.S. naval forces should seek to develop these partnerships with long-standing allies and nontraditional partners alike, including Russia, China, and nongovernmental organizations. In particular, developing climate change response capabilities within the NATO alliance could strengthen global climate change response capabilities and the alliance itself. (Chapter 4)
FINDING: Although the likelihood of conflict in the Arctic is low, it cannot be ruled out, and competition in the region is a given. However, cooperation in the region should not be considered a given, even with close allies. Although there are mechanisms for bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the area, including the Arctic Council, these relationships and mechanisms are largely untested for emerging conditions. Additionally, with the ratification of UNCLOS, U.S. naval forces will be better positioned to conduct future naval operations and protect national security interests, especially in the Arctic. (Chapter 4)
RECOMMENDATION: The Chief of Naval Operations, working with the combatant commanders, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, should build maritime partnerships in the Arctic region and encourage the United States to continue to identify and adopt policies and relationships in the Arctic that will build cooperation for new circumstances and minimize the risks of confrontation. (For example, naval leaders should pursue bilateral and multilateral training and exercising of U.S. naval personnel with partner nation personnel in maritime security, search and rescue, and HA/DR, and continue strong support of the U.S. efforts in the Arctic Council.) There should be no assumption that the geostrategic situation will take care of itself or that U.S. interests in the region are currently protected and promoted. (Chapter 4)
Action Area 5:
Address the potential impacts on the technical underpinnings that enable, in part, naval force capabilities, especially any impacts due to the necessity to operate in polar regions.
The technical underpinnings that enable, in part, naval forces’ capabilities are sophisticated, widely available, and reliable throughout the temperate and tropical oceans, and they are therefore often taken for granted. While the effects of climate change do not directly affect these underpinnings, they mandate that naval forces operate in areas that present challenges for supporting systems and infrastructure and, ultimately, challenges to overall capabilities. Indeed, there is a high likelihood that a warming climate will increase the operational tempo in
polar regions and consequently intensify the demands on navigation systems, communication systems, and nautical charts. The initial increase in tempo will be driven by scientific and exploratory missions, especially so in the Arctic. However, navigation in the polar regions is challenging not only due to sea-ice and adverse weather conditions but also due to limitations of current navigation systems and technologies at high latitude which are degraded relative to the performance in other regions of the world.
On the other hand, there are no significant first-order effects from climate change on U.S. antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capabilities. A robust infrastructure that collects, analyzes, and distributes oceanographic data essential to ASW effectiveness is in place and covers active submarine operating areas adequately. Climate change will, however, mandate that submarine and ASW operations become more robust in the Arctic Ocean, where essential data are sparse or nonexistent in both spatial and temporal senses. Moreover, as potential adversarial submarines have become acoustically more quiet, ASW operations have evolved away from a pure submarine-on-submarine mission to a cooperative, coordinated mission involving fixed and mobile sensors and surface, subsurface, and air platforms. This extensive and deployable ASW infrastructure that supports the principal nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) hunter platforms is generally deployed in the temperate oceans but would be challenged to operate in the Arctic and does not presently do so. As well, the supporting tactical oceanographic data collection, analysis, and distribution system does not extend to the Arctic, although it must be established or restored to enable effective ASW operations in that region, which will become an inevitable national imperative.
FINDING: U.S. military navigation and communications systems have been optimized to support operations in non-polar regions. Likewise, data on terrain elevation and bathymetry to support military operations and nautical charting are of low resolution and sparse in the Arctic. Moreover, while accurate ice coverage charts are available to guide surface navigation, reliable real-time ice characterization and maps in emergent Arctic transit routes are not. The combined effect of degraded navigation, communications, and charting systems could impact safe operations and reduce the performance of military systems in the polar regions. (Chapter 5)
RECOMMENDATION: The Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition should increase research and development efforts at the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Laboratory to address the operational shortfalls of existing and planned navigation, communications, and charting systems, leveraging both local and global augmentation technologies. In conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of the Navy should increase priority for extending modern navigation, communications, and charting coverage to include the Arctic region. (Chapter 5)
FINDING: The United States had an Arctic research program during the Cold War that has essentially ceased. Moreover, there is no infrastructure to support antisubmarine warfare (ASW) in the Arctic. While there are no significant ASW activities now in the Arctic, U.S. naval forces need to be prepared to operate there safely. The United States’ diminished Arctic research program and capabilities from what existed during the Cold War—plus the need for even better performance from its ASW systems—put U.S. naval forces’ ability to operate as needed in the Arctic at risk if the United States does not keep pace with the capabilities of other Arctic nations, especially Russia with its extensive claims of Arctic sovereignty, as well as with non-Arctic nations, such as China. (Chapter 5)
RECOMMENDATION: Given that climate change may drive the U.S. naval forces to conduct antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations in the Arctic, the Department of the Navy should increase its submarine Arctic presence for training purposes, extend its supporting ASW oceanographic data infrastructure to the Arctic Ocean, and begin to conduct multiplatform ASW training exercises in the Arctic. Specifically, this should include:
Increased research for Arctic passive and active sonars;
Long-range planning to install facilities that support Arctic ASW, such as refurbishing and expanding the fixed array systems;
Planning for aircraft support from the new P8;
Development of high-latitude communications systems for relaying tactical and environmental data;
Identifying ports for emergencies; and
Incorporation of a more robust under-ice capability on Virginia-class submarines. (Chapter 5)
Action Area 6:
Support investments for additional research and development that have implications for future naval force operations and capabilities and might not be met by other groups pursuing climate-related research.
Naval operations and capabilities require, in part, knowledge of environmental information in the form of observations, model-based analysis products, and model forecasts for navigation, communication, general fleet support, ASW, and search and rescue. There are also many ocean, atmosphere, cryosphere, and land measurements needed by the Navy. Currently, global measurements in the marine environment come from a mix of Earth observing satellites and in situ sensors as part of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). There are also Department of the Navy (DoN) and Department of Defense (DOD) measurement assets geared toward addressing the needs of their specific mission sets but which contribute to the
ocean observing system. In addition, classified DoN and DOD measurement assets could make significant contributions to GOOS if more open access were provided. As one example, release of images of Arctic sea ice from 1999 to the present as part of the Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis (MEDEA) Program is providing unique and fundamentally new information on the loss of Arctic sea ice that is largely attributable to climate change.12 The early MEDEA Program resulted in increased U.S. Navy collaboration and cooperative experiments with non-U.S. Navy entities, and this could serve as a model for today’s efforts to expand maritime operational data and knowledge in the Arctic. In a related example, the use of U.S. Navy submarines in the interagency Science Ice Exercise (SCICEX) Program has provided unique three-dimensional under-ice oceanographic data, including very valuable upward looking sonar ice-draft measurements.
As the Navy considers the use of these measurements and the potential impact of climate change on its operations and capabilities, it is clear that evolutionary and transformational advances may be required to improve modeling and prediction of seasonal, decadal, and beyond (century-scale) climate change. At the same time, it is quite challenging to assess climate model value or success because simulations from even the most advanced modeling systems have considerable spread and uncertainty. Included in this uncertainty is the possibility of unexpected rapid changes, extreme events, or abrupt climate change associated with potential fast processes either not resolved or resulting from unaccounted-for interactions/feed-backs among different Earth system components. While progress has been made to improve climate models, there is no capability for coupled ocean-atmosphere-land-cryosphere modeling in the Navy, and there are no programs focused on seasonal-to-decadal timescale prediction to support strategic decisions related to operations, platforms, and facilities. Because of its presence on the global oceans, its long-term global ocean/ice observations and data collection, and its unique physical assets, the U.S. Navy can both benefit from and contribute strongly to a better understanding of the ocean component of climate science.
In an emerging area, one aspect of ocean acidification that might be of special importance to the Navy—the potential effects of a pH decrease on sound absorption—is still under study. The Navy should continue to monitor the research in ocean acidification closely, as the results may have potentially important implications for ocean acoustics critical to U.S. naval operations.
FINDING: Open access to previously classified Navy data and to other Department of Defense assets through the MEDEA Program has enabled advances in climate change research that have benefited the scientific community studying climate change. A clear example of this benefit is the analysis of submarine upward
looking sonar, which shows that sea ice has been thinning in response to climate change. (Chapter 6)
RECOMMENDATION: The Chief of Naval Research, the Oceanographer of the Navy, and the Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, should consider findings by the MEDEA Program (and take lessons from MEDEA actions within the intelligence community) to develop and support a Navy philosophy for providing access to previously classified information that can be used by the climate research community. Such actions would enhance the potential of these researchers to help the Navy better prepare for its mission in a future with a warmer climate. (Chapter 6)
FINDING: The Navy has billions of dollars in assets exposed to the threats of climate change, and it must make strategic decisions in the face of considerable uncertainty about the pace, magnitude, and regional manifestations of climate change. Yet Navy research at present has no capability for modeling the coupled ocean-atmosphere-land-cryosphere system and how it will respond to greenhouse gas forcing. The Navy also has no programs in seasonal-to-decadal timescale climate forecasting to help guide long-range strategic planning for operations, platforms, and facilities; it relies almost entirely on civilian agencies and international assessments to inform its policies and practices related to climate change. (Chapter 6)
RECOMMENDATION: The Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition (ASN RDA) should examine the U.S. Navy’s overall research and development capabilities vis-à-vis climate studies, especially with respect to coupled models and climate forecasting on seasonal-to-decadal timescales. The ASN RDA should give special emphasis to regional aspects of sea-level rise, and sea-ice concentration and extent, because of their relevance to coastal infrastructure and operational needs. The Department of the Navy should also become actively engaged in the development of an Arctic Observing System, specifically with respect to development and deployment of in situ and remote sensing systems (i.e., gliders, buoys, and satellites) as well as icebreakers in support of research. (Chapter 6)