Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said fighting climate change has been one of his biggest priorities since taking office, despite a growing naval threat from China as the country grows its fleet.
Del Toro met with Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis earlier this month during a visit to the island, where the men spoke at length about the threat of climate change and what the United States is doing to combat it.
"As the Secretary of the Navy, I can tell you that I have made climate one of my top priorities since the first day I came into office," Del Toro said in remarks at the University of the Bahamas on March 1. "The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps team has been working on climate and energy security for a long time, and we are accelerating and broadening those efforts."
Del Toro added that he sees climate change as an "all-hands-on-deck situation."
Del Toro's remarks occurred slightly before the Biden administration released its 2024 proposed military budget, which called for fewer naval ships, despite a growing naval threat from China. The U.S. military has been the strongest military force in the world since the 20th century and still has the strongest navy. However, the Chinese navy is larger in terms of fleet size.
The administration's proposal recommended shrinking the U.S. Navy by a net loss of two ships, despite military experts arguing the administration should increase the number of ships. The proposal recommended decommissioning 11 ships and constructing nine. The military previously set a goal of having 355 manned ships but currently has fewer than 300.
Del Toro has rejected criticism that focusing on climate change would weaken the U.S. defense system, arguing that it would actually make the Navy stronger because it could lead to new technology that can help the U.S. create a Navy that is cost-saving, energy-efficient, climate-friendly, and still keeps the U.S. dominant on the seas.
"There is not a trade-off between addressing climate security and our core mission of being the most capable and ready Navy-Marine Corps team," Del Toro said. "The exact opposite is true. Embracing climate-focused technologies and adopting a climate-informed posture strengthens our capability to stand by our partners and allies."
The chief of naval research will host a conference in Florida in April that will focus on addressing climate change and marine pollution, renewable and hybrid energies applied to the naval field, and integrating unmanned systems, according to Fox News.