According to the National Research Council (NRC), coastal Navy bases surrounded by warming oceans are the first potential targets of climate change.
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U.S. Navy Challenged by Climate Change

In the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, the Pentagon expressed concern about climate change and rising sea levels, and their adverse affect on the U.S. Navy.

According to the National Research Council (NRC), coastal Navy bases surrounded by warming oceans are the first potential targets of climate change.

In addition, the Arctic presents two major challenges to the U.S. Navy, both environmental and territorial. Shaky maritime boundaries combined with a melting Arctic cold front are creating new pressures for which the U.S. Navy is unprepared.


In 2007, as a result of global warming, the melting Arctic pack ice allowed marine ships to traverse the Northwest Passage for the first time. It is estimated that the Northwest Passage along Canada and Alaska will become navigable as soon as 2030.

Navigating the Northwest Passage opens up a trade route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for shipping, tourism, and natural resource exploitation. Territorial claims are in dispute as nations compete for access to untouched natural resources.


The Arctic territories have been ignored by the U.S. military, largely due to their inhospitable climate. As a result, military equipment is not built to withstand Arctic cold.

The range of navy satellites in geosynchronous orbit falls short of the north Arctic circle, breaking down communication signals in those previously unreachable zones.

In addition, the US military has only three icebreakers, two of them outdated at over 30 years old. Russia, Sweden, Finland, and Canada (the other four nations with Arctic territory) have made advancements well beyond the US Navy in this area of Arctic equipment and expertise.

The NRC urges the US Navy to form partnerships with these nations to develop our navigation and communications techniques.


Melting pack ice is also causing a rise in sea levels, posing a severe threat to U.S. naval facilities along coastal lines. A 1-metre rise in sea level, predicted by the end of the 21st century, would capsize 56 of 103 US Navy bases.

Naval facilities have an estimated value of $100 billion. The U.S Navy is advised to take steps now to defend the most vulnerable naval sites from sea-level rise, as well as develop models to accommodate future climate change conditions.


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