The US Navy – Global Warming's Latest Convert

Mark M. put me on to the US Navy’s recently published strategy document “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

So what does the US Navy have to say about its global strategy?

The vast majority of the world’s population lives within a few hundred
miles of the oceans. Social instability in increasingly crowded cities,
many of which exist in already unstable parts of the world, has the
potential to create significant disruptions. The effects of climate change
may also amplify human suffering through catastrophic storms, loss of
arable lands, and coastal flooding, could lead to loss of life, involuntary
migration, social instability, and regional crises. (page 7)

Yes – the United States Commander-and-Chief may be uncertain about global warming, but his Admirals and seamen are confident that it is real and that it will/should shape their maritime strategy.

But then, given how reluctant Bush has never been one to listen to his Generals – it’s unclear why he would listen to his Admirals.

Another thought, courtesy of Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus: when the US Navy is planning around Global Warming you know the debate has moved on. Why even bother engaging the deniers – let’s focus on the problem, the US military is.

7 thoughts on “The US Navy – Global Warming's Latest Convert

  1. Veronica

    Your point about the need to address global warming in strategy & planning is important, of course. A quick glance at the strategy (for I am a strategy geek) leads me to wonder whether it is actually happening in this strategy.

    In a strategy, we want to see an identification of ends and means, and some kind of a rationale for why the means we choose should lead us to the ends we desire. Also, there should ideally be some kind of prioritization of ends and means. (Pardon the professor voice, but I just finished teaching this to my undergrads.) In this strategy I still see an overwhelming focus on the ‘coming war with China’ (as I like to call all of this big-war / deterrence planning for short) and a secondary focus on expeditionary capacity for “globally distributed, mission-tailored” undertakings, which I guess is where global-warming related disruptions would come in. But again here, the focus is primarily on transnational threats – humanitarian assistance shows up last on the list, and global warming related stuff really has to be read into the implementation priorities. As for rationales, the rationale for why the navy is necessary seems to be the same-old, same-old (which is not to say unimportant) argument that the navy is what gets people / planes / equipment from the USA close to the kinds of places where you want to use them. That’s important, but to me it doesn’t necessarily suggest that climate related instability is a focus for new planning. If they’d said something different from what I’d expect them to say, I’d be more receptive to the idea that this is a change in thinking (note: I have not read previous naval strategies. Maybe this is a big change. But not according to the little I know about naval strategy).

    So before I’d say that the navy / coast-guard / marine corps (for this is a co-operative strategy…whatever that means in practice) is planning for climate related instability, I’d want to ask:

    1. Is climate change just a trendy thing tacked onto the beginning of the strategy to argue for the navy’s continued relevance in a context where the infantry and air force (engaged in stabilization and shock & awe, respectively) seem to get all the glory, or does it actually permeate the strategy? How much did strategists think about it, and its effects, and the role of the navy in addressing climate-related instability while writing the strategy?

    2. Knowing the answer to #1 would help us to answer this: Does planning for climate related instability look the same as planning for transnational threats and post-conflict stabilization? This strategy makes it look as if it does. Maybe it does. I have no idea. But again, knowing how much strategists actually thought about climate change while making this strategy would help us to know if they’re actually planning for it, or just tacking it on the front.

    I’m not expecting you to have the answers here, Dave. But I thought I’d throw out the questions anyhow.

    Also, “trust and co-operation cannot be surged”! is my new favourite saying.

    Reply
  2. Veronica

    Your point about the need to address global warming in strategy & planning is important, of course. A quick glance at the strategy (for I am a strategy geek) leads me to wonder whether it is actually happening in this strategy.In a strategy, we want to see an identification of ends and means, and some kind of a rationale for why the means we choose should lead us to the ends we desire. Also, there should ideally be some kind of prioritization of ends and means. (Pardon the professor voice, but I just finished teaching this to my undergrads.) In this strategy I still see an overwhelming focus on the ‘coming war with China’ (as I like to call all of this big-war / deterrence planning for short) and a secondary focus on expeditionary capacity for “globally distributed, mission-tailored” undertakings, which I guess is where global-warming related disruptions would come in. But again here, the focus is primarily on transnational threats – humanitarian assistance shows up last on the list, and global warming related stuff really has to be read into the implementation priorities. As for rationales, the rationale for why the navy is necessary seems to be the same-old, same-old (which is not to say unimportant) argument that the navy is what gets people / planes / equipment from the USA close to the kinds of places where you want to use them. That’s important, but to me it doesn’t necessarily suggest that climate related instability is a focus for new planning. If they’d said something different from what I’d expect them to say, I’d be more receptive to the idea that this is a change in thinking (note: I have not read previous naval strategies. Maybe this is a big change. But not according to the little I know about naval strategy).So before I’d say that the navy / coast-guard / marine corps (for this is a co-operative strategy…whatever that means in practice) is planning for climate related instability, I’d want to ask: 1. Is climate change just a trendy thing tacked onto the beginning of the strategy to argue for the navy’s continued relevance in a context where the infantry and air force (engaged in stabilization and shock & awe, respectively) seem to get all the glory, or does it actually permeate the strategy? How much did strategists think about it, and its effects, and the role of the navy in addressing climate-related instability while writing the strategy?2. Knowing the answer to #1 would help us to answer this: Does planning for climate related instability look the same as planning for transnational threats and post-conflict stabilization? This strategy makes it look as if it does. Maybe it does. I have no idea. But again, knowing how much strategists actually thought about climate change while making this strategy would help us to know if they’re actually planning for it, or just tacking it on the front. I’m not expecting you to have the answers here, Dave. But I thought I’d throw out the questions anyhow.Also, “trust and co-operation cannot be surged”! is my new favourite saying.

    Reply
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