The U.S. military not only accepts the notion of climate change, its leaders see climate change as a national-security priority. But Congressional climate-change-deniers continue to pretend that the military’s full-speed-ahead program isn’t happening.
Looking at official policy statements reveals that the military is well on the way to spending vast sums of taxpayers’ dollars to deal with the national-security implications of global climate change. Yes, Senate and Congressional skeptics and deniers, you heard that right. The military establishment has solidly planted its boots in the camp of the tree-hugging, Sierra-clubbing, inconvenient-truthing climate changers.
Just take a glance at excerpts from the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report:
Climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions. …The Department of Defense will need to adjust to the impacts of climate change on our facilities and military capabilities. …Climate change is expected to act as a “threat multiplier.”
Or try parsing the words of retired Navy Vice-Admiral Lee F. Gum, president of the American Security Project, to try to find a shred of evidence to refute the reality of climate change:
Addressing the consequences of changes in the Earth’s climate is not simply about saving polar bears or preserving the beauty of mountain glaciers. Climate change is a threat to our national security. Taking it head-on is about preserving our way of life.
And what about the claims of those who accept that climate change is real, but reject the role of human behavior? Perhaps they failed to read the official statements of the Department of Defense:
The Department is increasing its use of renewable energy demand to improve operational effectiveness, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in support of U.S. climate change initiatives [italics added], and protect the Department from energy price fluctuations. . . . The U.S. military is clearly working to address the twin threats of energy dependence and climate change.
Is it possible to explain away the words of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who identifies “energy as one of the Department’s top 25 ‘transformational priorities’ “? And Gates knows why that goal is at the top of the department’s list. At 80% of the U.S. government’s total energy consumption, defense is the largest government user of energy.
The evidence of the military treating climate change as settled fact is virtually everywhere: from official documents to policy statements. So, ignore the grandstanding of the skeptics and deniers, because the back story is that they’re not about to publicly affirm the truth that a momentous shift in energy policy is happening virtually under the radar. And that this shift was initiated at the very top by President Obama. The President, taking advantage of his seat at the head of the table, has quietly exploited his prerogatives as commander-in-chief to outline and implement bold and far-reaching renewable-energy initiatives within the military.
The number of program initiatives is staggering and the costs of implementation huge. And make no mistake about it: whatever the public positions of the deniers and skeptics, their sacred cows—the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force—are fully in the game.
- A 500-megawatt solar power plant at Fort Irwin, California, intended to end the base’s reliance on the public electric grid within a decade
- 4,000 electric vehicles put into action during the next three years to prevent emission of more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide
- A geothermal project in Nevada
- A pilot project for biomass conversion for fuel use
- Development of micro-grids for use in forward operating bases in combat
- The forming of Task Force Energy and Task Force Climate Change
- Investing $550 million in energy-efficiency effort
- Launching the Great Green Fleet using alternative fuels by 2016
- Conducting tests to certify algae and camelina-based biofuels for use as jet aircraft fuel and shipboard fuel
Air Force Initiatives
- Department of Defense’s largest energy user at $9 billion
- Largest solar array in North America at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base
- Under construction: Soaring Heights Community at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, that will rely on solar power for 75% of residential needs, the nation’s largest community-wide solar-power system
- Began using fuel made from algae in 2010
- Entire fleet to be certified to fly on biofuels in 2011
- Fleet presently using a 50/50 mix of plant-based biofuel and jet fuel
Facts? Military policy? Skeptics still stonewalling
The 2010 election seated at the legislative table the greatest number of climate skeptics and deniers the House and Senate has ever seen: 56 percent of the new Republican caucus in the House and 74 percent of Republican senators. These far-righters choose to ignore—with impunity—facts , figures, and conclusions based on sound science. Unfortunately, for Americans as well as for the global community, they may be winning their cynical and dangerous game.
Dismissing the conclusions of the more than three thousand earth scientists from around the globe who study climate change and who have affirmed that human activity is, in fact, a contributing factor in changing mean temperatures, the skeptics and deniers exploit the complexity of the science to confuse and misrepresent. The result? The public is fed a steady diet of increasingly outrageous misinformation peddled by politicians who are beholden to the oil, gas, and nuclear-energy lobbies.
Incredibly, the skeptics and deniers seem to be getting away with it. But can they get away with dismissing the conclusions of their own military? To put this issue in perspective, when was the last time these same conservatives were skeptical about any policy, decision, or request from the military establishment? Just take a look at the Ryan budget. Is military spending on the list of Republican austerity cuts? Of course not.
Look closer and the hypocrisy is even more stunning. The skeptics and deniers pander on the one hand to the traditional energy industry—some of their major campaign donors—while pretending on the other that the fully funded program well under way in the military to develop and use alternative energy is motivated by something other than climate change.
If the pretenders have their way, their stonewalling and hypocrisy may ensure catastrophic long-term effects that will be particularly disruptive in the developing world—that is, if the government of the country that contributes the greatest quantity of greenhouse gases into the global atmosphere—yes, that would be us—fails to muster the political courage to take even the first tentative steps toward reducing our polluting ways.
Renee Shur lives and works in New York’s Hudson Valley.