Close this search box.

‘Wag The Sea-Level Rise’ How Climate Activists Spin Data To Fearmonger

by J.E. Dyer

Whenever I see media reports that the U.S. military was behind a climate study, I know to approach it with caution.  It was a favorite messaging tactic of the Obama administration to defense-wash its political themes, presenting them as if the most trusted brand in American public life – the uniformed military – had made those themes a priority, independent of partisan politics. Such is the reports of a “military” paid study about a rising sea-level.

The “Pentagon,” in the sense of the people in uniform operating our armed forces, doesn’t do that.  Its policy priorities are the priorities of the political leadership in the White House.  That’s what “civilian control of the military” means.

It means the Pentagon is required to prioritize what the Commander-in-Chief tells it to prioritize.  It means that when the Pentagon is spending operating money on renewable energy, and R&D money on climate studies, it’s because that’s what the president wants money spent on.

It’s a good idea to remember that when you see aggregator headlines like this.

(Screencap by the author, 26 Apr 2018)

The Washington Post article is about the study entitled “The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Department of Defense Installations on Atolls in the Pacific Ocean (RC-2334),” on which we carried a separate treatment by Michael Bastasch earlier.  The report was sponsored and funded by the Pentagon’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), and was posted in final form in August 2017.  It has been promoted in popular science media since February 2018.

As Bastasch reports, the study, project RC-2334, misinterpreted the significance of a Pentagon study done for separate purposes and published in 2016.

The estimate of sea-level rise on which the study focuses is not – in Michael Bastasch’s words – an actual climate scenario.  It’s a worst-case possibility, posited in a risk-management study.  The title of the 2016 study clarifies that: “Regional Sea Level Scenarios for Coastal Risk Management: Managing the Uncertainty of Future Sea Level Change and Extreme Water Levels for Department of Defense Coastal Sites Worldwide.”