U.S. military, world’s single largest producer of GHG, says study

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The U.S. military is the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world, says a new study report.

The report – “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War” – by Neta C. Crawford, Professor of Political Science at Boston University and Co-Director of the Costs of War project, has been prepared under Brown University’s Costs of War project, focuses specifically on “post-9/11 wars” and impact of these wars on emissions.

The report said: the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of GHG in the world.

According to the report, the best estimate of U.S. military GHG emissions from 2001, when the wars began with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, through 2017, is that the US military has emitted 1,212 million metric tons of GHG (measured in CO2equivalent, or CO2e). And of these military operations, it is estimated that total war-related emissions including for the “overseas contingency operations” in the major war zones of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, are more than 400 Million Metric Tons of CO2e.

In 2017 alone, the report says, the Pentagon’s emissions were greater than all emissions from entire industrialized countries as Sweden and Denmark.

The reports said: In its quest for security, the U.S. spends more on the military than any other country in the world, certainly much more than the combined military spending of its major rivals, Russia and China. Authorized at over $700 billion in Fiscal Year 2019, and again over $700 billion requested for FY 2020, the DOD budget comprises more than half of all federal discretionary spending each year. With an armed force of more than two million people, 11 nuclear aircraft carriers, and the most advanced military aircraft, the US is more than capable of projecting power anywhere in the globe, and with “Space Command,” into outer-space. Further, the US has been continuously at war since late 2001, with the US military and State Department currently engaged in more than 80 countries in counterterror operations. All this capacity for and use of military force requires a great deal of energy, most of it in the form of fossil fuel.

It quoted General David Petraeus: “Energy is the lifeblood of our war fighting capabilities.” (General David Petraeus, quoted in Department of Energy, “Energy for the War fighter: The Department of Defense Operational Energy Strategy,” June 14, 2011, https://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-war-fighter-department-defense-operational-energy-strategy.)

The report said: Although the Pentagon has, in recent years, increasingly emphasized what it calls energy security — energy resilience and conservation — it is still a significant consumer of fossil fuel energy.

The report noted that the DOD does not report fuel consumption information to Congress in its annual budget requests. Indeed, although the Pentagon calculates fuel consumption for internal planning purposes, this information is explicitly withheld by the DOD in its reporting to Congress.

The new study report said: Global warming is the most certain and immediate of any of the threats that the U.S. faces in the next several decades. In fact, global warming has begun: drought, fire, flooding, and temperature extremes that will lead to displacement and death. The effects of climate change, including extremely powerful storms, famine and diminished access to fresh water, will likely make regions of the world unstable — feeding political tensions and fueling mass migrations and refugee crises. In response, the military has added the national security implications of climate change to its long list of national security concerns. Unlike some elements of the present US administration, which is in various modes of climate denial, the US military and intelligence community act as if the negative security consequences of a warming planet are inevitable. The DOD has studied the problem for decades and begun to adapt its plans, operations and installations to deal with climate change.

The effects of climate change will soon be “feeding political tensions and fueling mass migrations and refugee crises,” said the report.

Crawford has previously estimated that the budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars, including Homeland Security and U.S. government’s future obligations to care for the veterans of these wars, are nearly $6 trillion dollars.

The report said: There are many sources of GHG related to war and preparation for it. Specifically, there are seven major sources of GHG emissions: overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations; war-related emissions by the U.S. military in overseas contingency operations; emissions caused by the U.S. military industry — for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition; emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum, namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties; sources of emissions by other belligerents; energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure; emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including Halon, a GHG, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in war zones.

The study focused on the first two sources of military GHG emissions — overall military and war-related emissions — and briefly discuss military industrial emissions.

The report said: Domestic and overseas military installations account for about 40 percent of DOD greenhouse gas emissions. Jet fuel is a major component of U.S. military fuel use and therefore of GHG emissions. During each air mission, aircraft puts hundreds of tons of CO2 in the air, not to mention the support activities of naval and ground based assets for these air missions. The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began with days of massive airstrikes. Moreover, in each case, material was flown to the war zones and bases were set up to prosecute the wars and occupations. Similarly, the U.S. war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq has entailed tens of thousands of aircraft sorties for various missions — from reconnaissance, to airlift, refueling, and weapons strikes. A B-2 Bomber on a mission from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri might be refueled many times. For example, on 18 January 2017, two B-2 B bombers, accompanied by 15 KC-135 and KC-10 aerial refueling tankers made a 30-hour round trip mission from Whiteman Air Force Base to Libya to drop bombs on ISIS targets in Libya.

While the military received praise for making some effort to decrease its energy consumption, including by gradually replacing some non-tactical fleet vehicles with hybrid, plug-in or alternative fuel vehicles, reducing idling, and developing solar installations at some bases, the report says there is “room for more reductions.”

The study questions whether the huge U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf is necessary, since the U.S. itself is less dependent on the region’s oil than in the past and does not necessarily need to “protect the global flow” of oil.

The study recommended that each military installation should draw up plans to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent by 2022, and advised increased use of alternative fuels, hybrid vehicles and renewable energy. The Pentagon should also identify which military and National Guard bases could be closed, whether due to climate change impacts or diminished threats.

The U.S. military must urgently “reduce their role” in creating GHG emissions as a matter of national security, the report urged.


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