Two military bases in Florida and one in Arizona will see heat indexes over 100 degrees four months out of every year if steps aren't taken to reduce carbon emissions, a new study warns.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a Massachusetts-based science advocacy nonprofit, is warning that the coming decades could bring an extra month of dangerously hot days at military bases across the continental U.S. But three bases in particular will be the hottest if rising carbon emissions increase the global average temperature by 8 degrees.
For a quarter of each year, it'll feel like 100 degrees or hotter at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona and MacDill Air Force Base and Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, according to the report.
"The growing number of dangerously hot days could pose a challenge to the military's efforts to protect service members' health while also ensuring mission readiness," Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist and the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
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Pentagon data released on heat illnesses earlier this year shows the problem was on the rise between 2014 and 2018. Last year, there were nearly 2,800 heat stroke or exhaustion cases among active-duty troops.
Dahl said if carbon emissions aren't curbed, it'll continue getting hotter at the bases that have had the most heat-related illnesses in the past, including Fort Benning in Georgia, Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
The study shows Fort Benning could see its days with 100-plus-degree heat indexes quadruple to 73. It also predicts Camp Lejeune and Forts Bragg and Campbell could experience the same two months out of the year, rather than the week and a half at 100-plus heat indexes now.
Pentagon data on heat-related illnesses shows the highest rates were among male troops under the age of 20, Asian/Pacific Islander service members, Marines, soldiers, those serving in combat arms and recruits.
The Union of Concerned Scientists report says the number of 100-plus degree heat index days at four basic training bases are projected to quadruple to 52 days per year by 2050 if carbon emissions aren't cut. Those installations include Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia, and Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
The threat is greatest at Lackland, which the study says will see 105 days per year with a heat index over 100.
"New recruits, who are the most susceptible to heat-related illnesses, go through grueling outdoor training," Shana Udvardy, a climate resilience analyst who coauthored the study, said in a statement. "... Last year, drills had to be rescheduled because of dangerous heat conditions. But how do you reschedule around the entire summer in the decades ahead?"
She added that the military might need to update training guidelines to prevent heat-related illnesses in the future. She also said government leaders must enact policies to protect troops and the rest of the country from worsening conditions.
"We should be working with the rest of the world through the Paris climate agreement to rapidly and dramatically reduce carbon emissions," she said. "That would significantly limit the increase in dangerously hot days ahead and protect our most vulnerable communities."
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bob Burke told reporters last month that Navy leaders spend a lot of time thinking about climate change. They're concerned about making bases more resilient to worsening storms and getting pulled into conflicts overseas if climate change destabilizes a region, he said.
-- Gina Harkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.