A newly published Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) report completed by a team comprised of researchers from the University of Arizona and Acclimatise assessed climate change impacts and adaptation on Southwestern US Department of Defense (DoD) facilities. The project aimed to:
- develop and pilot-test approaches for climate risk assessment;
- evaluate climate adaptation best practices in a series of case studies, and
- evaluate approaches and needs for climate services to support adaptation planning compatible with DoD decision-making needs and processes.
In a four-year long process the project team interacted with DoD personnel in risk assessment workshops and case-study pilots at four installations in the Southwest, through participatory processes. They conducted interviews and convened workshops with personnel, in order to identify gaps, needs, and opportunities for infusing climate adaptation thinking and practice into DoD operations. These interviews also helped evaluate promising approaches to climate services, that mesh with military culture, leadership, and practice. Current obstacles to adopting climate adaptation measures and possible solutions to overcome these obstacles were also explored.
The research team found that integrating climate change risks into decision-making processes creates active engagement as it focusses on current challenges that can be dealt with now. Furthermore, adopting publicly available data and decision-making tools can help bases with limited resources to undertake climate risk assessments comprehensively. Finally, the study showed that while base management was receptive to climate-related actions, day to-day priorities dominate decisions and resource allocation. This is further complicated by the fact that there is rarely designated funding for climate adaptation, forcing base management to allocate already scarce funds to other competing and iften immediate priorities. Thus, mainstreaming climate into existing priorities could help tackle such budget issues.
Installations are the “front lines” of climate adaptation in the DoD and their emphasis allowed the researchers to develop a unique strategy tuned to the needs and challenges of this organizational level, including (1) assessing data and information needs, (2) assessing Base wide risk, (3) engaging personnel, (4) communicating climate change information, (5) mainstreaming climate change into DoD practice and policy, (6) addressing DoD institutional norms, leadership and partnerships, and (7) providing climate services for DoD installations and supporting DoD climate services capacity. This model shows great promise to speed the incorporation of climate adaptation planning at all levels of the DoD.