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Heat Becoming Increasingly Harmful to US Military, Including Virginia Installations

military bases locations and heat index map
Catherine Komp
USC says if no meaningful action is taken on climate change, military bases will become dangerously hot - some for many months in a year.

This story was reported by VPM Intern Patrick Larsen

A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, says that rising heat indexes in the U.S. are a problem for the Military, and it’s only getting worse. 

The study shows the expected number of days with a heat index of 100 degrees or greater at military bases by midcentury, if carbon emissions stay at the level they’re at today. By midcentury, some bases in the Southeast could see three months per year with such indexes. 

In that scenario, dangerously hot days could affect military readiness, according to lead researcher Kristina Dahl.

“That’s important because the military already has a fairly high rate of heat related illness among its troops in the US,” said Dahl.

According to the US Military, heat-related illnesses among service members in all branches have gone up steadily in the past five years. Continued warming could exacerbate that problem.

New recruits are especially vulnerable to heat illness, as they often aren’t used to strenuous exercise in extreme conditions. Most basic training bases are set for steep heat increases, according to the study.

The military is already taking steps to address the issue, including establishing a Heat Center in Fort Benning, Georgia. The Center focuses on mitigating the effects of heat by establishing treatment and prevention procedures. Different branches of the Military have their own procedures in place already, but the Center says it aims to create a better culture of safety.

However, Dahl says the only way to truly beat the heat is to greatly reduce emissions worldwide. Still, researchers warn that dangerous heat will be on the rise in even the most drastically reduced-emissions scenario - some measure of climate change is already “baked in.”

National and local governments around the world are considering ways to reduce emissions. The UN’s special panel on climate change says that humans have to reduce global emissions to net-zero by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts.



VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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