STUDY: Climate Crisis Likely to Disrupt US Military Readiness

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – US military bases in Florida and Arizona could experience heat indexes greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit for four months each year in the coming decades if carbon emissions are not reduced, a study by the advocacy nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists warned. According to the nonprofit’s data, which was released in Excel file format, many military bases across the continental US are expected to see extremely hot days.

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Specifically, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona and Florida’s MacDill Air Force Base and Homestead Air Reserve Base will bear the brunt of the heat and experience heat indexes over 100 degrees for four months every year. The analysis was based on the assumption that carbon emissions would spike global average temperatures by 8 degrees by 2050.

“The growing number of dangerously hot days could pose a challenge to the military’s efforts to protect service members’ health while also ensuring mission readiness,” Kristy Dahl, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The study also found that bases that have a history of many heat-related illnesses in the past, including Fort Benning in Georgia, Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Campbell in Kentucky, could also see high heat indexes for a couple of months each year if the carbon trend continues.

Around 2,800 active-duty US service members experienced heat stroke or heat exhaustion last year, Military.com reported. Pentagon data shows that heat-related illnesses mostly affected male service members under 20, Asian/Pacific Islander service members, marines and soldiers.

Four basic training bases – Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Sill in Oklahoma – could see 52 days out of the year with heat indexes over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the report also found.

“New recruits, who are the most susceptible to heat-related illnesses, go through grueling outdoor training,” noted Shana Udvardy, a climate resilience analyst who was also part of the study, asking, “Last year, drills had to be rescheduled because of dangerous heat conditions. But how do you reschedule around the entire summer in the decades ahead?”

Udvardy also noted that the military may need to change its training guidelines to curb heat-related illnesses among service members.

“We should be working with the rest of the world through the Paris climate agreement to rapidly and dramatically reduce carbon emissions,” she stated, adding, “That would significantly limit the increase in dangerously hot days ahead and protect our most vulnerable communities.”

Advising the US to “invest in solutions” to reach “net-zero carbon emissions by midcentury”, the study recommends “an economy-wide price on carbon, a national low-carbon electricity standard that helps drive more zero-carbon electricity generation, and policies to reduce transportation emissions would help to achieve meaningful emissions reductions at the national level”.

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