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US Navy Discusses Climate Change

Public Policy

As the oceans get warmer, they expand and take up more space, causing the sea level to rise. In addition, the land-based ice that already is melting — including mountain glaciers, the Greenland ice field, and even the western Antarctic ice sheet — will add volume to the ocean. He acknowledged considerable uncertainty over the time line and extent of sea level rise, but he noted that leading climate scientists believe sea levels could rise as much as six feet by the end of the century.

“How probable is this?” Titley asked. “I’m not really sure right now, but I am sure there are significant consequences. We need to make sure, as time goes by, that we understand it, we have a plan, and we know what it will cost us to execute that plan.

“That’s really one of the foundational elements the task force is going to pursue,” he added.

In response to a question on specific infrastructure upgrades, Titley noted that there is no single answer, and said scientists and engineers will need to work together with local communities, taking into account the specifics of every critical location, to determine what types of solutions will be needed.

“That is what our capabilities-based assessments will be tasked to figure out,” he said.

When asked whether naval bases were prepared for stronger and more intense hurricanes, Titley said that the impact a warming climate may have on tropical storm development is controversial and subject to much research. He explained that ocean warming is only one component of hurricane formation, and that other factors such as upper level wind shear may not support increased frequency and intensity.

“What I can tell you,” he said, “is that our regional commanders make sure their bases are prepared for severe hurricanes every year.”

US Dept of Defense

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