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Air Force outlines plan to face ‘acute challenges’ of climate change

A US F-22 Raptor flies over Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, July 26, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cedrique Oldaker)
October 12, 2022

The Department of the Air Force outlined a plan to maintain its strength amid a changing climate, which the department said is posing “acute challenges” to its dominance.

The department’s Climate Action Plan, released last week, calls for “climate-ready and resilient” installations, cultivating climate-aware personnel, transitioning to climate-friendly fuel sources and developing “ultra-fuel-efficient aircraft designs.”

While noting that the department remains focused on modernization and keeping pace with China, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said climate change is an important priority.

“Make no mistake – the department’s mission remains to fly, fight, and win, anytime and anywhere,” Kendall states in the plan. “But we recognize that the world is facing ongoing and accelerating climate change, and we must be prepared to respond, fight, and win in this constantly changing world.”

If you’re wondering what fighter jets have to do with climate change, Kendall said a warming Arctic region is inviting more activity than ever before, and the destabilization from a changing climate acts as an overall geopolitical “threat multiplier.”

He also noted increasing threats to air bases from hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

The department sets three goals in its 24-page Climate Action plan: 

  1. Maintain air and space dominance in the face of climate risks.
  2. Make climate-informed decisions.
  3. Optimize energy use and pursue alternative energy sources.

Measures to implement the plan are laid out in a schedule that begins in FY23, with $36 million for base improvements, and extends as far as fiscal year 2035, when the department aims to have “100 percent zero emission non-tactical vehicles.”

President Joe Biden last year signed an executive order directing the federal government to meet five climate goals and uphold several environmental principles. The U.S. Army released its own plan in response to that order in February.