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US Navy prepares for opening of Arctic sea lanes and rising waters

By Colin Ricketts - 12 Mar 2011 13:37:1 GMT
US Navy prepares for opening of Arctic sea lanes and rising waters

With most of the changes threatened by climate change centred on sea-levels and coastal settlements, it's no surprise that the US Navy is making plans to change the way they operate.

A new report from the National Research Council says that America's navy will have to prepare to operate in the Arctic; expect more humanitarian missions and check whether its coastal facilities are prepared for changing sea-levels.

''Even the most moderate predicted trends in climate change will present new national security challenges for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,'' said Frank L. Bowman, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and a retired U.S. navy admiral. ''Naval forces need to monitor more closely and start preparing now for projected challenges climate change will present in the future.''

With sea ice retreating in the Arctic, new sea lanes could be open by the summer of 2030, bringing with them new security challenges says the report, which recommends increased activity in the Arctic Ocean and cold weather training.

American has three icebreaking vessels and the report would like to see these moved from the National Science Foundation to the coast guard, along with future planning for ice breaker needs.

The navy should also prepare for more disaster relief missions and may have to consider contracting private vessels to help supply emergency medical aid and evacuation facilities.

With the vast majority of the navy's infrastructure, quite naturally, based on coastlines the report estimated that a sea level rise of just one metre could put $100 billion-worth of infrastructure at risk and steps should be taken to address this.