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Navy Undersecretary Warns of Climate Change Challenges

SEA-AIR-SPACE NEWS: Navy Undersecretary Warns of Climate Change Challenges

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Climate change will be a major challenge for U.S. maritime forces, the acting Undersecretary of the Navy Meredith Berger said on April 3.

“Climate readiness is mission readiness,” she said.

“Climate change increases instability and demands on our forces, while simultaneously impacting our capacity to respond to those demands,” Berger said during the opening ceremony at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference at National Harbor, Maryland. “Mitigation and adaptation to increase our resilience is an operational imperative.”

In addressing the climate crisis, strong partnerships are crucial, she said.

“The value of forward naval forces cannot be overstated,” Berger said. More than 90 percent of trade and over 95 percent of international communication cables span across the seabed.

“They provide a combat credible presence, ensuring critical waterways remain open,” she continued. “Our forward deployed and strategic forces signal formidable strength to our allies and deter our adversaries.”

Among the challenges posed by a changing climate, the melting sea ice in the Arctic is a major concern for the Navy, she said. Open waterways boosts opportunities for commerce in the region while also increasing other countries’ presence there. “As maritime traffic increases in the Arctic waters, we’ll work with our partners and allies to project strength and keep the region safe and secure.”

“The Arctic is not ice free yet,” said Rear Adm. Ronald J. Piret, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. “What we’re really talking about is a lower percentage” of ice, he said during a panel discussion on the Arctic later in the conference.

“We are continuing to enhance our presence in the region,” he said although the “tyranny of distance” makes the region challenging. Communications and sensing are two of the biggest hurdles the Navy faces.

Navy Undersecretary Warns of Climate Change Challenges