U.S Military climate change
Climate change is an on-going concern for the Navy as glaciers melt and strategic coastal areas erode.Reuters

The United States Armed Forces are the single largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world despite the US Department of Defence's claims of energy conservation. A report titled 'Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War' published by Brown University on Wednesday under its 'Costs of War' project focus on the fuel used by the US in its wars following 9/11.

The report revealed that the military has emitted approximately 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases between 2001 and 2017. Emissions from military operations, including what the Pentagon calls "overseas contingency operations" in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, were reportedly more than 400 million metric tons of CO2.

It also pointed out that the total greenhouse emissions were greater than the amount generated by Sweden (50.8 million), Finland (46.8 million) and Denmark (33.5 million).

According to the report, the Pentagon's building itself emitted 24,620.55 metric tons of CO2 in 2013.

The report implicated "climate denial" by certain "elements of the present US administration" as a major concern. While it is no doubt that this was a direct implication to US President Donald Trump's contentious notions on climate change as an issue, it emphasised the connection between the global climate crisis and its future implication on the country's national security.

The report states that extreme weather situations such as powerful storms, famines and rapid depletion of fresh water will trigger not only a chain-reaction to global mass migration and refugee crisis but also create political conflicts and wars.

However, the Defence Department is committed to reducing energy consumption despite Trump administration's rollback of the previous federal energy efficiency goals by the Obama administration.

The report identified energy conservation efforts such as replacement of non-tactical fleet vehicles with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles; reducing engine idling; developing solar installations as well power purchase agreements for wind and solar energy. While it praised the military's efforts, it also said that it "has room for more reductions."

The report laid out seven major sources of greenhouse gas emissions which it claims need to be considered in discussions on such issues.

1. Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.

2. War-related emissions in overseas contingency operations.

3. Emissions caused by production of weapons and ammunition.

4. Emissions caused by deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.

5. Sources of emissions by other belligerents.

6. Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.

7. Emissions from other sources such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including Halon, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones

In early 2018, the DOD had reported experiencing climate change-related effects on about half of their military installations.

In March, the US Air Force had to request $4.9 billion to repair two bases that were damaged due to environmental factors. According to an NPR report, about one-third of the Offutt Air Force Base, in eastern Nebraska, was underwater in March due to flooding. The same report also noted that the Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle was severely damaged due to Hurricane Michael in October last year.

The rising sea level due to Artic's glacier-melting and erosion of coastal areas has been identified as a crucial concern by the US Navy. The report cited examples of regular flooding in the Norfolk Naval Base and Keesler Air Force Base which it claims only worsen in the future.


Regarding resilience efforts, the report suggested the US military reduce the overall energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2020.

It also laid emphasis on the Pentagon to identify installations that should be closed or reduced in size due to climate change impacts. Apart from this, it also suggested the department to further develop a plan for converting identified installations into carbon sequestration (a global warming mitigation method in which carbon from the atmosphere is captured and stored in a liquid or solid form) sites. 

Switching from fossil fuel to renewable energy plants such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower for energy production and change land use plans by planting trees and restoring wetlands were also suggested.