US Military Is A Bigger Polluter Than As Many As 140 Countries

US Military Is A Bigger Polluter Than As Many As 140 Countries US Air Force fighters during the 1991 Gulf War. Everett Historical/Shutterstock

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 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide by burning those fuels. The US Air Force purchased US$4.9 billion worth of fuel, and the navy US$2.8 billion, followed by the army at US$947m and the Marines at US$36m.

US Military Is A Bigger Polluter Than As Many As 140 Countries A US Navy warship refuelling off the coast of California. Jason Orender/Shutterstock

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 – recognising 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 trail for 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 fuelling one of the largest military forces in history.

About The Author

Benjamin Neimark, Senior Lecturer, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University; Oliver Belcher, Assistant Professor of Geography, Durham University, and Patrick Bigger, Lecturer of Human Geography, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know

by Joseph Romm
0190866101The essential primer on what will be the defining issue of our time, Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know® is a clear-eyed overview of the science, conflicts, and implications of our warming planet. From Joseph Romm, Chief Science Advisor for National Geographic's Years of Living Dangerously series and one of Rolling Stone's "100 people who are changing America," Climate Change offers user-friendly, scientifically rigorous answers to the most difficult (and commonly politicized) questions surrounding what climatologist Lonnie Thompson has deemed "a clear and present danger to civilization.". Available On Amazon

Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future second edition Edition

by Jason Smerdon
0231172834This second edition of Climate Change is an accessible and comprehensive guide to the science behind global warming. Exquisitely illustrated, the text is geared toward students at a variety of levels. Edmond A. Mathez and Jason E. Smerdon provide a broad, informative introduction to the science that underlies our understanding of the climate system and the effects of human activity on the warming of our planet.Mathez and Smerdon describe the roles that the atmosphere and ocean play in our climate, introduce the concept of radiation balance, and explain climate changes that occurred in the past. They also detail the human activities that influence the climate, such as greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions and deforestation, as well as the effects of natural phenomena.  Available On Amazon

The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course

by Blair Lee, Alina Bachmann
194747300XThe Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course uses text and eighteen hands-on activities to explain and teach the science of global warming and climate change, how humans are responsible, and what can be done to slow or stop the rate of global warming and climate change. This book is a complete, comprehensive guide to an essential environmental topic. Subjects covered in this book include: how molecules transfer energy from the sun to warm the atmosphere, greenhouse gases, the greenhouse effect, global warming, the Industrial Revolution, the combustion reaction, feedback loops, the relationship between weather and climate, climate change, carbon sinks, extinction, carbon footprint, recycling, and alternative energy. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

POLITICS

How The Politics Of Fear Manipulates Us To Tribalism
How The Politics Of Fear Manipulates Us To Tribalism
by Arash Javanbakht
People have always used fear for intimidation of the subordinates or enemies, and shepherding the tribe by the leaders.
Using Language To Fight Dirty Fossil Fuels
Using Language To Fight Dirty Fossil Fuels
by Matthew Hoffmann
I had a room full of bright first-year university students in front of me, but confusion reigned as I tried to describe…
The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change
The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change
by Kamyar Razavi
In a May episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Bill Nye the Science Guy took a blowtorch to a miniature globe.…
What Does The Dutch Court Ruling On Climate Targets Mean For Australia?
What Does The Dutch Court Ruling On Climate Targets Mean For Australia?
by Katherine Lake
In a landmark ruling, The Hague District Court has ordered the Netherlands government to take more action to reduce its…
How Students Grow Their Community Roots And Critical Consciousness
How Students Grow Their Community Roots And Critical Consciousness
by Jennifer D. Adams and Pieranna Pieroni
Iris, a high school student in New York City, took a course aimed at preparing public school students for college.
7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It
7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It
by Jessica Corbett
We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a…
Half-Submerged Trump Head, Says Artist, Designed to Silence Destructive Words and Deeds of US President
Half-Submerged Trump Head, Says Artist, Designed to Silence Destructive Words and Deeds of US President
by Eoin Higgins
"The idea was to gag Trump, to silence him, but he continues to speak."
'The Climate Crisis Doesn't Go on Summer Holiday, And Neither Will We,' Says Greta Thunberg as #FridaysForFuture Returns to the Streets
The Climate Crisis Doesn't Go on Summer Holiday, And Neither Will We, Says Greta Thunberg as #FridaysForFuture Returns to the Streets
by Jessica Corbett
A campaigner in Nigeria adds, "It doesn't matter the course you study nor your age, we need you to join climate…

LATEST VIDEOS

Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater
by USA TODAY
In places around the world, supplies of groundwater are rapidly vanishing. As aquifers decline and wells begin to go…
Why Climate Change Won't Be Solved Easily
by Thom Hartmann Program
Solutions for Climate Change are going to have to be much more radical and much more powerful than the solutions we…
The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change
The Counter-Intuitive Solution To Getting People To Care About Climate Change
by Kamyar Razavi
In a May episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Bill Nye the Science Guy took a blowtorch to a miniature globe.…
5 Ways To Be A Responsible Wildlife Tourist
5 Ways To Be A Responsible Wildlife Tourist
by Tracie McKinney
Imagine walking through a lush tropical forest. You hear a rustle overhead, and a half-eaten fruit plops onto the…
Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
by Deepak Ray
Farmers are used to dealing with weather, but climate change is making it harder by altering temperature and rainfall…
The Arctic Paradox
by Tobias Thorleifsson
Explore Ellesmere Island with Tobias in this talk, as he urges us to protect this arctic environment from the hands of…
Increased Drought Amid Climate Change & Warming
by Kate Marvel, Radio Ecoshock
Columbia/NASA scientist Kate Marvel explains “hyroclimate” as rains and droughts go extreme. When it comes to your…

LATEST ARTICLES

A New Wave Of Smart Cities Has Arrived
A New Wave Of Smart Cities Has Arrived
by James Ransom
An abandoned mine shaft beneath the town of Mansfield, England is an unlikely place to shape the future of cities.
An EU Ban On Palm Oil Won't Save Asian Rainforests, But Here's What Might Help
An EU Ban On Palm Oil Won't Save Asian Rainforests, But Here's What Might Help
by Elizabeth Robinson and Herry Purnomo
Anyone lucky enough to visit Ghana could do worse than order a plate of boiled yam and red-red – a stew made with beans…
How The Politics Of Fear Manipulates Us To Tribalism
How The Politics Of Fear Manipulates Us To Tribalism
by Arash Javanbakht
People have always used fear for intimidation of the subordinates or enemies, and shepherding the tribe by the leaders.
Betting On Speculative Geoengineering May Risk An Escalating Climate Debt Crisis
Betting On Speculative Geoengineering May Risk An Escalating Climate Debt Crisis
by Shinichiro Asayama and Mike Hulme
The opening of the Oscar-winning film The Big Short, a comedy-drama on the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, begins…
Solar Weather Has Real, Material Effects On Earth
Solar Weather Has Real, Material Effects On Earth
by Michael Batu
On Sep. 1, 1859, solar astronomer Richard Carrington witnessed sunspots that suddenly and briefly flashed brightly…
Using Language To Fight Dirty Fossil Fuels
Using Language To Fight Dirty Fossil Fuels
by Matthew Hoffmann
I had a room full of bright first-year university students in front of me, but confusion reigned as I tried to describe…
Adapting Cities To A Hotter World
Adapting Cities To A Hotter World
by Jennifer Weeks
Heat waves can be deadly, especially when they combine high temperatures with elevated humidity levels that make the…
How Ice Cores Shape Our Understanding Of Ancient Climate
How Ice Cores Shape Our Understanding Of Ancient Climate
by Tas van Ommen
It is just over 50 years since French scientist Claude Lorius dropped some glacier ice in his whisky and started a…