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Former Soldiers Battle Administration Over Climate Change

Marines were ordered not to evacuate Camp Lejeune and to shelter in place during Hurricane Florence last September. (Marine Corps)
Marines were ordered not to evacuate Camp Lejeune and to shelter in place during Hurricane Florence last September. (Marine Corps)
March 11, 2019

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Hurricane Florence left approximately $3.6 billion of damage at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. And a group of former military leaders and advisers say the partisan battle over climate change could harm our troops and national security in the future.

Retired Rear Admiral David Titley will testify before a Congressional panel on Wednesday. He is one of 58 who penned a letter pushing back against what they say is the administration's attempt to downplay the impact of climate change.

The review by the 12-member panel will be led by climate-change critic William Happer. The administration's official position is that climate change is a threat to national security. But Titley and his comrades say the appointment of Happer to the National Security Council and a leaked document say otherwise.

"The internal documents that were leaked show, in the administration's own words, that this so-called review is meant to be adversarial in nature and to undermine the well-established fundamental scientific underpinnings of climate science which have been established for well over a century,” Titley said.

Titley provided training and recommendations for a U.S. Army tactical unit based in Fort Bragg while others toured damage to Camp Lejeune caused by Florence last September. The former meteorologist said it's important to prepare soldiers for extreme weather events that are impacting bases and installations in a number of ways, including increased damage from flooding.

Extreme weather events and warmer temperatures have the potential to affect base training and testing by causing more "black flag" days when outdoor training is suspended, Titley said. He said a lack of training and preparation presents dangerous conditions for troops, and it's important for national security that U.S. military installations are prepared for severe weather.

"Do you have the right training? Do you have the right equipment, the right tools to be successful in a region where it may be seeing rainfall like they've never seen before, or you may be having many more high heat-stress days?” Titley questioned. “These types of disasters, be they hurricanes or floods or something like that, that becomes a tremendous distraction."

He said a lack of preparation for severe weather also has an impact on military families. Last year, up to 70 percent of the housing at Camp Lejeune was damaged by Florence and nearly 5,000 military personnel and their families reportedly were displaced.

Titley will testify before Congress as research is presented from a peer-reviewed National Climate Assessment from more than 80 independent scientific bodies.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC