Pentagon + Endless War = Climate Crisis
Amy Frame / Win Without War & The Conversation
(December 10, 2020) — President-elect Biden has committed to addressing climate change starting Day 1, and there is one single organization he’ll control that could curb the US role in driving this crisis more than any other: the Pentagon.
It requires an INCREDIBLE amount of energy to wage war across the globe, and almost all of it is derived from fossil fuels. So much, in fact, that the Pentagon is the world’s single largest producer of greenhouse gases.
Yet the House just approved $740.5 BILLION to help them keep at it. We can’t express it more clearly than UN Secretary General António Guterres: “Humanity is waging war on nature.”
It’s a damning statement that instead of addressing this crisis head-on, we’re helping to accelerate it. But in just a few weeks, we’ll have a new and critical opening to defund tools of displacement, death, and environmental devastation. We need to go further than simply making the Pentagon “green” — and we’ll need your support to do it.
2020’s rising temperatures, global wildfires, and record hurricane season have opened urgent questions on a status quo national security strategy that funds weapons and war over confronting human security threats like climate change.
Yet on Tuesday, the House, with a veto-proof majority, approved the final text of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), bankrolling yet another Pentagon spending spree. Buying the weapons of yesterday’s wars will only continue fueling the Pentagon’s role in driving greenhouse emissions. The status quo is literally killing us.
The Pentagon is getting $740.5 BILLION in 2021 — that’s about half of ALL discretionary spending. Yet within all 4,517 pages of the NDAA, “climate” is only explicitly mentioned on *26* of them. The biggest existential threat humanity faces is less a focal point and more a footnote.
But with the new Congress and a new administration taking office in just a few weeks, we can make a renewed push for an end to this unjust misallocation of resources. Our team is growing and doubling down to build the pressure we need in Congress.
Credit where credit is due: the Pentagon does acknowledge this crisis. This year’s NDAA requires an update on the Pentagon’s climate change road map and a report on how it will protect its military installations in the face of climate change. There are also provisions on water security and climate resiliency projects within the National Guard.
But it’s simply nowhere near enough. Roadmaps and protection plans are defense, and a global threat like the climate crisis requires us ALL to go on the offensive. Please help us get there.
Thank you for working for peace, Amy, Faith, Erica, and the Win Without War team.
The US Military Is a Bigger Polluter than More than 100 Countries Combined
(June 28, 2019) — The US military’s carbon bootprint is enormous. Like corporate supply chains, it relies upon an extensive global network of container ships, trucks, and cargo planes to supply its operations with everything from bombs to humanitarian aid and hydrocarbon fuels. Our new study calculated the contribution of this vast infrastructure to climate change.
Greenhouse gas emission accounting usually focuses on how much energy and fuel civilians use. But recent work, including our own, shows that the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries.
If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal.
In 2017, the US military bought about 269,230 barrels of oil a day and emitted more than 25,000 kilotons of carbon dioxide by burning those fuels. The US Air Force purchased $4.9 billion worth of fuel, and the Navy $2.8 billion, followed by the Army at $947 million and the Marines at $36 million.
It’s no coincidence that US military emissions tend to be overlooked in climate change studies. It’s very difficult to get consistent data from the Pentagon and across US government departments. In fact, the United States insisted on an exemption for reporting military emissions in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This loophole was closed by the Paris Accord, but with the Trump administration due to withdraw from the accord in 2020, this gap will will return.
Our study is based on data retrieved from multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to the US Defense Logistics Agency, the massive bureaucratic agency tasked with managing the US military’s supply chains, including its hydrocarbon fuel purchases and distribution.
The US military has long understood that it isn’t immune from the potential consequences of climate change—recognizing it as a “threat multiplier” that can exacerbate other risks. Many, though not all, military bases have been preparing for climate change impacts like sea level rise. Nor has the military ignored its own contribution to the problem.
As we have previously shown, the military has invested in developing alternative energy sources like biofuels, but these comprise only a tiny fraction of spending on fuels.
The American military’s climate policy remains contradictory. There have been attempts to “green” aspects of its operations by increasing renewable electricity generation on bases, but it remains the single largest institutional consumer of hydrocarbons in the world. It has also locked itself into hydrocarbon-based weapons systems for years to come, by depending on existing aircraft and warships for open-ended operations.
Not Green, But Less, Military
Climate change has become a hot-button topic on the campaign trailfor the 2020 presidential election. Leading Democratic candidates, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, and members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are calling for major climate initiatives like the Green New Deal. For any of that to be effective, the US military’s carbon bootprint must be addressed in domestic policy and international climate treaties.
Our study shows that action on climate change demands shuttering vast sections of the military machine. There are few activities on Earth as environmentally catastrophic as waging war. Significant reductions to the Pentagon’s budget and shrinking its capacity to wage war would cause a huge drop in demand from the biggest consumer of liquid fuels in the world.
It does no good tinkering around the edges of the war machine’s environmental impact. The money spent procuring and distributing fuel across the US empire could instead be spent as a peace dividend, helping to fund a Green New Deal in whatever form it might take. There are no shortage of policy priorities that could use a funding bump. Any of these options would be better than fueling one of the largest military forces in history.