If the US military were to be counted as a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the Planet. But the 1997 Kyoto Protocol makes it difficult to get exact figures as the US is exempt from reporting military emissions.
The US military has a massive network of ships, planes, road vehicles, and battle equipment, that keeps its well-oiled war moving around the planet. This massive infrastructure has a significant effect on climate change but remains outside any form of control or accountability.
We keep track of emission levels of greenhouse gas only for civilian facilities. But recent figures reveal that the American military remains one of the biggest polluters on the planet, consuming more fuel and contributing to gases that influence climate change, than many countries.
The issue of military influence on climate change was addressed by the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. He had spoken of the harm caused to the environment by war. It had caused the destruction of forests, contaminated land, and had caused widespread devastation all around.
Localized contamination by the American military had been widespread and has led to large-scale pollution in the US. It includes the dumping of industrial chemicals in Tuscon, the spilling of jet fuel in Norfolk, and the contamination of groundwater in North Carolina.
US Military: 47th Largest Consumer Of Fuel On The Planet
Based on fuel spent, the US military comes 47the on the list after Peru and ahead of Portugal. 2017 figures of purchases reveal that the US military purchased 269,230 oil barrels every day. Its emission was 25,000 kilotons of CO2.
The purchase bill of the Air Force for fuel alone was $4.9B, while the navy spent $2.8B. the army spent a moderate $947M, while the marines stood at $36M.
But true figures are not forthcoming as the Pentagon is not exactly forthcoming in matters of military data. The US is anyway exempt from declaring military data, and Trump’s decision to pull out from the Paris Accord has made it even more difficult.
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The figures obtained were from several requests under the information act to the American military logistics agency. This department manages US military supplies.
While the US military is aware of the implication of climate change and has taken measures to protect its military bases in anticipation of one of its consequences, the rise in sea levels. it has also invested in the development of alternate sources such as biofuels.
Changes Remain Unknown
The policy of the US military towards climate change appears to be lost in the fog of military secrecy. While there were attempts at more stress on environmental issues such as the generation of renewable energy at military bases, there have been no attempts to cut down on the use of hydrocarbons. And that is not going to change in the coming years.
There is much talk about major green initiatives by leading US politicians, but most of it will remain just that, political posturing. For any talk to be real and effective, the carbon footprints of the US military have to be looked into covering both major climate treaties and domestic environmental policies.
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Any change in the military to have any effect would mean closing a considerable section of the war machine. Any initiative by the Pentagon to reduce its fuel budget would lead to a huge fall in demand.
Any talk by politicians to ‘keep America safe’ through an increase in defense spending is making the nation less safe and leaving it vulnerable to climate change. Only a cut in US military spendings can reduce this blatant use of fossil fuel and the climate change it has put into effect.