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The Defense Department Fights Against Sea-Level Rise


Every ten years, the Naval Station in Norfolk faces flooding. World’s largest naval base has power shortages especially with the full moon triggering higher waves that create even worse floods.

The military is worried about this situation as the Norfolk station is the Atlantic fleet’s headquarters. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, by 2100, it is estimated that the Norfolk station will have to face 280 floods a year.

The Defense Department recognizes the situation that certain changes in geography has put the Norfolk station in. With a push from the Defense Department, there is a possibility of a new era for a political change in Washington regarding the climate change.

Although the Defense Department has been preparing for the effects of the climate change for a long time, there is still some opposition against this notion in the Congress. In 2014, the Republicans have suggested a bill that would decrease the funding of the Defense Department for the climate change preparation. Instead, the Republicans stated that the department should focus more on defeating terrorists. The bill didn’t pass; however, it is a clear voice against the preparations for the climate change.

There Are Many Risks

According to the Government Accountability Office, in the Defense Department, there are 555,000 facilities and it carries 850 billion dollar of replacement value.

Due to the climate change, the Arctic warms faster than any place on Earth. The melting Arctic ice and the thawing permafrost caught the Air Force’s attention due to the danger they pose against the facilities.

No matter how much spotlight is put on the Norfolk and Virginia Tidewater region, other places on sea-level are at great risk of flooding both in the US and other countries around the Atlantic coast. Also, the U.S. Geological Survey has announced that the land surrounding the ocean is also shrinking.

Florida, Virginia, and South Carolina bases are predicted to submerge by the end of the century. Moreover, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland faces 50 floods a year, meaning it can be also under water in a near future.

Due to the accelerated risks, the Defense Department decided to collaborate with state and local officials, as well as scientists to researching ways to find a permanent solution by adapting the flooding regions to sea-level rise.

As stated before in the article, the problem with replacing the facilities is that it costs a lot of money, even for the government. While billions are required for the project, VanderLey suggests to replace more facilities. Yet, that kind of funding cannot be supported even with all the Congressmen agreeing that climate change exists.

Retired Rear Admiral Jonathan White says that time is passing by to replace the facilities to protect them against the sea-level rise:

“Just like timing [is important] for sorties out of Norfolk in advance of a hurricane is critical—if you wait too late, you can’t get the ships out because the seas are too high. The same kind of thing is going on with sea-level rise. You can’t wait for a certain yes, it’s going to be here or not. You’ve got to make decisions in advance, based on the uncertainty that you have.”

Once the ice melts and the sea-level rise becomes way too overwhelming, there is no way to take back the damage.

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