Thursday, July 23, 2009

Infrastructure at Risk

Climate change is clearly impacting the security of military and industrial infrastructure. Yesterday, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on climate change and security, Vice Admiral Lee Gunn described how rising sea levels could permanently damage low lying US naval bases at Norfolk, Virginia and on the island of Diego Garcia, strategically located in the India Ocean near Pakistan, and Iraq.

Scientific American also has an article outlining how melting permafrost could weaken the foundation of the 4$ billion dollar China-Tibet railway. Glaciers on the Tibetan plateau are among the fastest melting. Similarly, gas pipelines and other types of infrastructure built over permafrost could face severe design challenges as the ground beneath melts.

At the hearing, all of the testifiers emphasized that climate change's complex and interconnected impacts make it more paramount to examining its security implications. Even the outgoing head of NATO, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said yesterday "You cannot deny that the melting of the polar cap, the ice cap on the North Pole is having a lot of security consequences".

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