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Climate Hazard Pathways Appendix

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Research Questions

  1. How does climate affect force readiness?
  2. How can information on climate effects be organized to facilitate analysis of links between climate and readiness?
  3. What are the key challenges of and opportunities for integrating climate-related information into readiness reporting and assessment?

The physical environment in which the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) must operate is being affected by climate hazards, which adversely affect the performance of the joint force and the systems that support it. Generating, maintaining, and even increasing force readiness in light of changing climate threats is a key component of meeting high-level U.S. strategic goals, from defending the homeland to deterring aggression and strategic attacks. Acknowledging that climate effects are likely to become more severe as global temperatures rise, the authors of this report discuss the results of an initial study they conducted to develop links between climate and readiness, laying the groundwork for the eventual integration of climate risk with quantitative readiness assessment and decisionmaking to help ensure that military forces can reliably and affordably sustain needed readiness in a changing climate.

A key contribution of the study is a climate readiness framework for understanding the risk to readiness that may result from a combination of (1) exposure to climate hazards, such as drought, flooding, wildfire, and tropical storms, and (2) the underlying vulnerability of readiness inputs — i.e., people, training, equipment, and force projection — to such hazard exposure.

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Key Findings

Climate and readiness are understood and studied by separate communities

  • Climate and readiness thinking operate on different timescales.
  • Many readiness-related decisions occur at the operational and tactical levels, but climate-related decisionmaking will need to occur primarily at the strategic level.
  • Near-term climate impacts may be small and locally addressed using tools currently available to operational and tactical decisionmakers; it remains possible to view climate change mainly as a "training condition" related to short-term weather events.

Climate risk is not currently integrated with readiness measurement or reporting

  • The proposed climate readiness framework can provide a useful structure for understanding readiness vulnerability to climate risk.

The climate readiness framework can provide a useful structure for understanding readiness vulnerability to climate risk

  • The framework provides a standardized means to organize ways in which climate change could affect readiness and to visualize and analyze patterns among framework elements.
  • These patterns can reveal areas of risk that may be targeted for further investigation or prioritized for adaptive action.

The full impact of climate change on readiness requires consideration of all climate hazard pathways in aggregate

  • While minor hazards in isolation may be easily overcome, a confluence of multiple pathways could quickly aggregate to mission-level impacts.
  • Many hazards could have similar impacts, leading to an aggregate effect on readiness inputs.

Information beyond hazard representation in pathways is required to understand the vulnerability of readiness to climate

  • Understanding a readiness input's vulnerability to climate change requires consideration of the input's adaptive capacity and sensitivity to a variety of hazards.


  • DoD should consider developing, adapting, and building upon a climate readiness framework.
  • DoD should continue to strengthen linkages between climate and readiness.
  • Readiness reporting should be structured to provide information to track climate impacts.
  • DoD should continue to identify and prioritize opportunities for implementing climate-informed decisionmaking.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and conducted within the Personnel, Readiness, and Health Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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