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and to help secure U.S. interests in sensitive regions.12 However, the pace and extent of this increase are unknown.
Based on the current uncertainty regarding the pace and extent of this demand, the Navy should not at present fund changes to force structure for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, but over time it should consider changes to the construction of future naval platforms of appropriate classes in order to accommodate HA/DR operations and potential increases in climate-change-related mass human migration. The benefit of the Navy’s providing such HA/DR support was demonstrated in the 2004 tsunami relief effort in Indonesia and in the recent earthquake relief work in Pakistan and Haiti.13 The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps need to consider the ramifications of this enhanced HA/DR mission and the ways to prepare for it, including regular reviews of advanced staging requirements. A possible near-term investment might be considered for increased Navy Construction Battalion capacity for such deployments. If such efforts are not planned already, U.S. naval forces could benefit from a full inventory and review of the lessons learned from recent HA/DR deployments, such as the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard deployment to provide HA/DR after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Allied Forces Responses in Future Climate-Change-Related Events
An issue closely related to U.S. naval capabilities and global response to projected climate change is the role of allied forces partnerships. The committee received briefings from the National Intelligence Council suggesting that, in addition to the security challenges discussed above, the impact of projected severe climate change on food or water supplies and on disease patterns in certain regions of the world may lead to large-scale regional population movements, resulting potentially in millions of what some have termed “climate refugees” fleeing environmental “hotspots.”14,15 These assessments suggest that if such large-scale movements were to develop, U.S. naval leadership should be prepared for the possibility that allied forces might be occupied by their own domestic and regional climate-change-related responses, or that allied forces might lack the appropriate response capacities to assist with international efforts. In
For example, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ketsana striking the Philippines on September 25, 2009, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps worked with the Philippine government (and in support of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance) to rapidly provide critically needed supplies in support of disaster relief to help mitigate human suffering and prevent further loss of life. In this case, a team of approximately 100 personnel composed of Marines from 111 Marine Expeditionary Forces flew from Okinawa to the Philippines on September 29, 2009, to conduct humanitarian assistance assessments. On September 30, U.S. Navy ships USS Denver, USS Tortuga, and USS Harpers Ferry, with embarked Marines and sailors of the 31st Expeditionary Unit, set sail from Okinawa toward the Philippines. On October 1, the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade flew from Okinawa to the Philippines to lead planning and humanitarian assistance efforts. See U.S. Marine Corp News. Available at www.okinawa.usmc.mil/public affairs/info/archive/news. Accessed November 23, 2009.
MajGen Richard Engel, USAF (Ret.), Director, Climate Change and State Stability Program, National Intelligence Council, “National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030,” presentation to the committee, October 19, 2009, Washington, D.C.
The term “climate refugee” in this report refers to persons who cross international borders because of drought, flooding, or other severe weather or extreme events related to climate change. Currently the term “climate refugee” or “environmental refugee” has no standing in international law; it is not defined with any entitled protection under the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention or the 1967 UN Refugee Protocol, although there is a movement among many nongovernmental organizations to petition for this recognition. See Bonnier Docherty and Tyler Giannini, 2009, “Confronting a Rising Tide: A Proposal for a Convention on Climate Change Refugees,” HarvardEnvironmental Law Review, Vol. 33, pp. 349-403.