June 2023 Update: Military Responses to Climate Hazards (MiRCH) Tracker 

By Tom Ellison and Erin Sikorsky

In June, the Military Responses to Climate Hazards (MiRCH) tracker identified 15 instances of military responses to climate change-related hazards across the globe. For much of the month, hundreds of wildfires burned across Canada, leading to the deployment of around 550 troops and associated aircraft equipment to assist in firefighting. The Canadian Chief of the Defense Staff Wayne Eyre warned that disaster response is straining the military’s ability to fulfill its core duties, and Ottawa is considering creating a national disaster response agency, akin to FEMA, for the first time.   

In the United States in late June, a large swath of the country was experiencing dangerous levels of heat, which the National Weather Service defines as 103° to 125°F. At these temperatures,  heat cramps or heat exhaustion are likely, and heat stroke is possible with prolonged exposure or physical activity. The affected region includes multiple military bases such as Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi and Fort Huachuca in Arizona. The latter experienced a wildfire in late June that affected its power supply. 

In South Asia, Cyclone Biparjoy prompted the evacuation of 173,000 people in Pakistan and India in June, highlighting challenging dynamics around military deployments to climate hazards. Rivals India and Pakistan deployed military forces to Gujarat and Sindh Provinces, respectively, to deal with Biparjoy’s landfall, almost certainly saving lives. The rival governments’ real-time coordination of relief was reportedly minimal, however, consistent with past disasters, highlighting the obstacles security tensions pose to collaborative responses to transboundary climate hazards. Additionally, in Pakistan, the military conducted short-notice evacuations of 60,000 people to nearby relief camps, highlighting their ability to mobilize quickly, but also spurring complaints from some residents over mandatory relocations and inadequately equipped camps.

Finally, Biparjoy illustrated the compounding strain of back-to-back climate hazards on militaries and communities. In Pakistan, the cyclone hit the same areas that suffered devastating floods last year, while the Indian military the same week had to rescue 2,000 tourists trapped by extreme precipitation and flooding, 1500 miles away in North Sikkim Province.

Meanwhile, events in Myanmar show how repressive militaries can weaponize climate relief. There, Cyclone Mocha’s landfall in mid-May devastated the largely minority Muslim Rakhine state. In recent weeks, the ethnic insurgent group the Arakan Army has provided humanitarian relief and the ruling military junta blocked international aid from reaching needy communities, putting thousands of lives at risk.

To see the full MiRCH tracker with new updates for June, click here.