Air Force flags 10 bases at most risk from climate change

By Philip Athey | 05/06/2019 03:59 PM EDT

Damage caused by last year's Hurricane Michael is seen at Tyndall Air Force Base, located near the coast on Florida's Panhandle.

Damage caused by last year's Hurricane Michael is seen at Tyndall Air Force Base, located near the coast on Florida's Panhandle. Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno/Air Force

This story was updated May 7.

The Air Force has sent Congress a revised list of the top 10 bases most at risk from the effects of climate change.

The new roster is the third list received by lawmakers this year on the dangers of climate change to defense installations.


The original Department of Defense report had 79 bases on the "mission assurance priority installation" list. But lawmakers slammed it for "strange gaps," including no analysis of Marine Corps bases or any U.S. installations overseas, as well as a failure to include a top 10 at-risk list for each branch of the military (Greenwire, Jan. 18).

The first revision in March did include a top 10 list for the Air Force, Army and Navy, but was equally panned on the Hill because DOD only looked at the 79 bases it originally analyzed.

Officials said the limited scope was supposed to allow the Pentagon to focus on the most mission-critical bases, but again it ignored all Marine Corps and overseas installations.

Tyndall Air Force Base, which is located near Panama City, Fla., and sustained billions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Michael last year, was also left off the mission critical list.

John Conger, director of the Center for Climate & Security, said the issues with the early reports probably stemmed from DOD’s fear that inconsequential locations, such as beach recreation areas, would be ranked high.

"You can include more than one factor," he said. But the fear of listing an unimportant base, "unfortunately, led the Pentagon sending over something the Congress found inadequate, and that only caused more problems," he said.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) called DOD’s work "incomplete" and believes the new list isn’t an improvement.

"Sadly, the revised list of vulnerable installations gives me little confidence that the Department is serious about making investments today to protect our national security from growing climate change fueled threats," Langevin said in a written statement.

Of the 79 bases analyzed in the initial report, Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah was the branch’s installation most vulnerable to climate change.

Hill Air Force Base did not make the new list of bases most "susceptible to the consequences of severe weather events," with the top spot going to Southern California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Florida bases, including Tyndall, take up six spots on the new list, while the other three spots went to bases located in Virginia, Delaware and South Carolina.

The background paper released with the list provided little explanation, something Conger is worried will cause Congress to still find it unacceptable.

"As they try to understand where to prioritize their efforts, [Congress wants] to do it where the services think it’s important," Conger said. "I think an explanation would be helpful."

Langevin also called for a more in-depth explanation, saying in his statement that Congress needs "cogent analysis grounded in fact and displaying a methodological rigor that reflects the magnitude of the issue."