The US Navy quietly shuttered a task force created under former President Barack Obama to prepare the military branch for the impact of global warming, reportedly saying the team was “no longer needed”.
Its ending, which happened in March and was first reported on Tuesday by the environmental site E&E News, reflects a trend under Donald Trump in which federal agencies have shuttered operations designed to combat climate change nationwide and around the world.
Before the president seemingly fired former Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, the career military official wrote in 2017 to the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”
“It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning,” he added.
Under Mr Trump, the US has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord, an international effort to mitigate the rise of global temperatures; the Environmental Protection Agency scrubbed its website of a page dedicated to providing the public with information related to climate science; the White House significantly weakened the Endangered Species Act by making it more difficult to protect wildlife in areas threatened by climate change.
Meanwhile, the administration has continued a steady rollback of initiatives and regulations meant to curb the impact of global warming on US industries and the environment.
Mr Trump has said efforts like the Paris Accord would put the US economy at a “permanent disadvantage,” and has expressed unfounded scepticism over renewal energy resources, suggesting wind turbines cause cancer and that windmills don’t work.
The Navy’s climate change task force reportedly ended its operations shortly after the president replaced the former defence secretary with Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan in January.
But the task force was seemingly unable to implement processes to combat climate change for quite some time, according to retired Rear Admiral Jon White.
Mr White, who led the climate change task force from 2012 to 2015, said it ended “without full incorporation of climate change considerations.”
“Across all of the Department of Defence, it is hard for me to see that climate change is taken as seriously as it should be,” Mr White, who now serves as president of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, told E&E News.
There was “little evidence” the Navy’s efforts to prepare for climate change were adopted in the military’s policies surrounding the environment, he added.
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