The Pentagon occupies 6,000 bases in the US and more than 1,000 bases (the exact number is disputed) in 60-plus foreign countries. According to its FY 2010 Base Structure Report, the Pentagon's global empire includes more than 539,000 facilities at 5,000 sites covering more than 28 million acres.
The Pentagon has admitted to burning 350,000 barrels of oil a day (only 35 countries in the world consume more) but that doesn't include oil burned by contractors and weapons suppliers. It does, however, include providing fuel for more than 28,000 armored vehicles, thousands of helicopters, hundreds of jet fighters and bombers and vast fleets of Navy vessels. The Air Force accounts for about half of the Pentagon’s operational energy consumption, followed by the Navy (33%) and Army (15%). In 2012, oil accounted for nearly 80% of the Pentagon's energy consumption, followed by electricity, natural gas and coal.
Ironically, most of the Pentagon's oil is consumed in operations directed at protecting America's access to foreign oil and maritime shipping lanes. In short, the consumption of oil relies on consuming more oil. This is not a sustainable energy model.
The amount of oil burned - and the burden of smoke released - increases whenever the Pentagon goes to war. (Indeed, human history's most combustible mix may well prove to be oil and testosterone.) Oil Change International estimates the Pentagon's 2003-2007 $2 trillion Iraq War generated more than three million metric tons of CO2 pollution per month.
The Pentagon: A Privileged Polluter
Yet, despite being the planet's single greatest institutional consumer of fossil fuels, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing - or even reporting - its pollution. The US won this prize during the 1998 Kyoto Protocol negotiations (COP4) after the Pentagon insisted on a "national security provision" that would place its operations beyond global scrutiny or control. As Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat recalled: "Every requirement the Defense Department and uniformed military who were at Kyoto by my side said they wanted, they got." (Also exempted from pollution regulation: all Pentagon weapons testing, military exercises, NATO operations and "peacekeeping" missions.)
After winning this concession, however, the US Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Accord, the House amended the Pentagon budget to ban any "restriction of armed forces under the Kyoto Protocol," and George W. Bush rejected the entire climate treaty because it "would cause serious harm to the US economy" (by which he clearly meant the U.S. oil and gas industries).
Today, the Pentagon consumes 1% of all the country's oil and around 80% of all the oil burned by federal government. President Barack Obama recently received praise for his Executive Order requiring federal agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but Obama's EO specifically exempted the Pentagon from having to report its contribution to climate chaos. (As a practical matter, the Pentagon has been forced to act. With battlefield gas costing $400 a gallon and naval bases at risk of flooding from rising seas, the Pentagon managed to trim its domestic greenhouse-gas emissions by 9 %between 2008-2012 and hopes to achieve a 34 % reduction by 2020.)
Climate Chaos: Deception and Denial
According to recent exposés, Exxon executives knew the company's products were stoking global temperatures but they opted to put "profits before planet" and conspired to secretly finance three decades of deception. Similarly, the Pentagon has been well aware that its operations were wrecking our planetary habitat. In 2014, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel identified climate change as a "threat multiplier" that will endanger national security by increasing "global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict." As far back as 2001, Pentagon strategists have been preparing to capitalize on the problem by planning for "ice-free" operations in the Arctic - in anticipation of US-Russian conflicts over access to polar oil.
In 2014, Tom Ridge, George W. Bush's Homeland Security chief, stated flat-out that climate change posed "a real serious problem" that "would bring destruction and economic damage." But climate deniers in Congress continue to prevail. Ignoring Ridge's warnings, a majority of House Republicans hammered an amendment onto the National Defense Authorization bill that banned the Pentagon from spending any funds on researching climate change or sustainable development. "The climate . . . has always been changing," Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va) said dismissively. "[W]hy should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?"
Since 1980, the US has experienced 178 "billion dollar" weather events that have caused more than $1 trillion in damages. In 2014 alone, there were eight "billion dollar" weather calamities.
In September 2015, the World Health Organization warned climate change would claim 250,000 million lives between 2030 and 2050 at a cost of $2-4 billion a year and a study in Nature Climate Change estimated the economic damage from greenhouse emissions could top $326 trillion. (If the global warming causes the permafrost to melt and release its trapped carbon dioxide and methane gases, the economic damage could exceed $492 trillion.)
In October 2015 (the hottest October in recorded weather history),BloombergBusiness expressed alarm over a joint study by scientists at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley that predicted global warning "could cause 10 times as much damage to the global economy as previously estimated, slashing output as much as 23 % by the end of the century."
This is more than a matter of "political ideology."
The Pentagon's role in weather disruption needs to become part of the climate discussion. Oil barrels and gun barrels both pose a threat to our survival. If we hope to stabilize our climate, we will need to start spending less money on war.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Gar Smith is editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, a Project Censored award-winning investigative journalist, and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War. He has covered revolutions in Central America and has engaged in environmental campaigns on three continents. He lives a low-impact, solar-assisted lifestyle in Berkeley, California. Smith is also the author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012)
How is the US military seeking to address climate change and what are its implications for environmental and social justice?
For anyone concerned with militarism, news of the terrorist attacks in Brussels brought a familiar sense of dread. We ached as we hear the stories of more innocent lives lost, and we felt foreboding from the knowledge that the bombings will predictably fuel new cycles of violence and horror in targeted communities at home or abroad. It creates the binary world that neocons and terrorists seek: an era of permanent war in which all our attention and resources are absorbed – and the real crises of poverty, inequality, unemployment, social alienation and climate crisis ignored.
It was unusual, therefore, in March 2016 to hear President Obama in an interview with the Atlantic magazine, repeat his warning that “Isis is not an existential threat to the United States. Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.” While predictably ridiculed by the reactionary US Right, it seems to epitomise Obama’s seemingly more strategic approach on foreign policy – the so-called ‘Obama doctrine’ that seeks to entrench imperial power by firstly, in his own words, “not doing stupid shit” and secondly not ignoring the long-term challenges to US interests.
President Obama’s emphasis on climate change has been a feature of his foreign policy priorities during his final term in office. While initially couched in lofty rhetoric of ‘healing’ the planet, Obama has more consistently framed climate change in terms of ensuring US national security. Addressing coastguard cadets in Connecticut in May 2015, Obama argued: “Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act— and we need to act now.” In doing so, Obama has set a tendency that has been picked up by US allies worldwide. UK Prime Minister, David Cameron has also said that climate change is “not just a threat to the environment. It is also a threat to our national security”.
Climate change security as political tactic
Within the US, the framing of climate change as a ‘national security’ issue is typically understood as a political tactic. As one Washington insider told me, it’s one of the few ways to get policy in the corridors of US power moving faster than glacial speed. It has also been seen as a way of getting climate-denier Republicans to stop blocking action on climate change, even if this has clearly failed. (The most enthusiastic US supporters of climate as a security issue have been progressives: Democrat left hopeful Bernie Sanders has been vocal in defining climate change as the number one security threat to the US).
Regardless of the advocates and detractors, climate change is being entrenched into US military policy; a process that will almost certainly continue no matter who is elected in the next US presidential elections. This is because ultimately the military concern with climate change is about ensuring its future ‘operationability’, rather than because it has become enlightened and decided to ‘go green’. A Department of Defense Directive, agreed in January 2016, that requires climate change considerations to be at the heart of all military strategic planning, says as much: “The DoD must be able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military.”
How military planning incorporates climate change
For the US, integration of climate change into military planning is being enacted in three significant ways. The first is in ensuring that US’ vast military infrastructure – made up of at least 800 bases in more than 70 countries
- continues to function in the face of hotter temperatures, rising seas and more extreme weather . (p.s. : By the time the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, there were about 1,600 US bases abroad, with some 300,000 US troops stationed on those in Europe alone.A US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2014 showed that climate change was already affecting military assets. One Alaskan radar station faced issues of accessibility after roads and runways were destroyed when the coastline receded by 40 feet due to a combination of melting permafrost, disappearance of sea ice, and rising oceans.
The second is the U.S. development of ‘green’ fuels to power its vast military arsenals. This is often sold as evidence of the military’s environmental commitment, but again is ultimately rooted in concerns about operationability. The Pentagon is the world’s single largest organisational user of petroleum: one of its jets, the B-52 Stratocruiser, consumes roughly 3,334 gallons per hour, about as much fuel as the average driver uses in seven years. The transport of this fuel to keep its hummers, tanks, ships and jets running is one of the biggest logistic headaches for the US and was a source of major vulnerability during the military campaign in Afghanistan as oil tankers supplying US forces were frequently attacked by Taliban forces. Alternative fuels, solar-powered telecommunication units and renewable technologies in general hold the prospect of a less vulnerable, more flexible military. US Navy secretary Ray Mabus put it frankly: “We are moving toward alternative fuels in the Navy and Marine Corps for one main reason, and that is to make us better fighters.”
The third and probably most significant way in which the US is preparing for climate change is through its planning for ‘security’ threats. These are typically done through war-gaming scenarios, the most famous of which was the Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change. Published in 2007 by a coterie of former Defence ministers, security analysts and establishment think-tank researchers, the report sketched out three potential climate scenarios. The ‘severe’ and ‘extreme’ scenarios paint visions of state meltdown, civil conflicts, scramble for resources and mass migration in the kind of dystopian colours you would expect to see in a bad Hollywood B movie. But the dominant theme that emerges is that climate change is a “threat multiplier”, which “will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”
Preparing for conflict
These scenarios have been followed up with ever-more detailed plans by the many different arms of US military and intelligence. The U.S. European Command, for example, is making preparations around potential conflict in the Arctic as sea-ice melts, and oil and shipping in the region increase. In the Middle East, U.S. Central Command has factored water scarcity into its campaign plans for the future. While the US is ahead of the game, where it leads, its allies tend to follow.
US climate security planning has encouraged similar efforts elsewhere, particularly in the UK, the EU and Australia. All have adopted the same framing of climate change- seeing it as a catalyst of conflict and also a cause of potential further terrorism. Notably they are all Western countries with significant militaries; attempts to make security the framing for climate change at the UN have met with short thrift from developing countries that rightly see climate change as an issue of responsibility, one in which the most polluting nations have an historic debt to the Global South.
This military planning for climate change is paralleled by ever-growing numbers of national risk strategy assessments, critical infrastructure protection planning and emergency power planning – in part in response to climate change but also reacting to ever-more complex emergencies and awareness of the systemic vulnerabilities of a hyper-connected globalised order. Major corporations are also in on the game – developing risk and resilience strategies – notably developing long-term scenarios that in some cases mirror the dystopian visions of the military.
Threats to civil liberties
Suddenly risk is everywhere and control is everything. The UK Civil Contingencies Act 2004 – drawn up in the aftermath of 9/11 and the fuel crisis 2000 and the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001, allows the UK government to declare a state of emergency without a parliamentary vote. These grant the executive powers to "give directions or orders" of virtually unlimited scope, including the destruction of property, prohibiting assemblies, banning travel and outlawing "other specified activities." The UK emergency powers review – and many elements of the subsequent legislation - were mirrored in Australia and Canada and share much in common with US emergency powers statutes.
In the wake of the war on terror and in military plans for a climate-changed world, what we see emerging is a maximum security state, one that goes beyond Eisenhower’s warning of a military-industrial complex to a broader military-industrial-security complex – one which security expert Ben Hayes calls a “new kind of arms race, one in which all the weapons are pointing inwards.” Certainly Blacks Lives Matter protestors in Ferguson or indigenous protestors in Peru– along with many other frontline communities worldwide – would recognise this arms race as they face off against ever more heavily-armed police.
Corporate profiteering in the ‘maximum security’ state
And for some the new arms race is proving very lucrative indeed. As if the record heights of global military spending (u$ 1.8 trillion in 2014) wasn’t enough, it has been accompanied by a massive expansion of the homeland security industry, which since 2008, has grown at 5% annually despite a worldwide recession. Many involve the same well-known arms dealers: US defence contractor Raytheon openly proclaims its "expanded business opportunities" arising from "security concerns and their possible consequences," due to the "effects of climate change" in the form of "storms, droughts, and floods".
The merging (and blurring) of military and police, state and corporations, along with the emerging dominance of security as the framework for so many issues nowadays – think food security, energy security, water security and so on - carries its own logic and consequences. It soon becomes clear from studying security strategies that while protecting human lives and supporting social needs are the declared objectives, some needs and some lives are clearly worth more than others. Migrants, frequently posed as threats, are clearly disposable people – as we can see so visibly in Europe today. The frequent references to shipping routes and supply chains in Defence strategies also unveil that ensuring the smooth flow of commerce of capital is an overriding priority. Moreover the expanded search for threats all too easily encompasses any group that seeks to resist injustice. It is hard, for example, to envisage that a US Department of Defense Minerva Initiative which funds US academics to uncover “the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate” is anything other than an attempt to forestall such necessary radical social change.
Security for the rich
Of course, this is the reality of nearly all security policies, particularly national security policies. They seek to secure those who already have wealth, and in the process often dispossess those without, turning victims into threats. Which is why turning climate change into a security issue is so disturbing. It creates a double injustice. Not only are those who had the least to do with causing climate change suffering the most from the consequences of climate change, but they are now being targeted with security responses to those very climate impacts. It is why it will be critical that peace, civil liberty and climate justice activists and movements join together to oppose the securitisation of our future. For a climate just world will not be possible if our response is based on security, and a peaceful world will not be possible if we don’t fight for climate justice. For a long time, there has been a tendency for our movements to operate apart in different arenas, but this is starting to change as movements realise the need to link our struggles and confront the same power structures. At the Paris climate meetings – in which environmental activists were also swept up under the state of emergency laws in the wake of the bombings – the beginnings of a network emerged bringing climate and peace activists together. As environmental and peace activist, Tim DeChristopher, cogently argues, “Our challenge has changed. It is no longer about just reducing emissions. We have to work out how to hold on to our humanity as we head to increasingly difficult times.”
to be found in Broken Rifle
on security and climate change, published by War Resisters International, May 2016.
France was at war long before the attacks on November 13. However, those attacks have greatly served as a pretext to intensify military operations. Since the beginning of the 21st century, wars of plunder for control of resources have not been lacking: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic,
to name a few. These conflicts have to be labelled for what they are, wars of imperialist intervention. France has no "positive role" in these interventions despite claims drawn from a colonial past.
These military interventions by the French state go largely unreported in the media. The little that is mentioned imposes a rationality based on security, with or without humanitarian packaging. The hawkish language is intended to anaesthetise or paralyse the population. Yet how is it possible not to recall the disasters that war creates, the millions of dead, wounded and displaced, the misery and despair that force populations to flee while those profiting from war, the multinational arms dealers, get ever richer? France is the fourth most important arms manufacturer in the world. The colossal cost of war diverts public money from vital social, cultural and ecological needs. Furthermore, the state, which carries out these wars like a pyromaniac fireman, drags us into a monstrous spiral of ever more hatred leading to ever more attacks. Rafale aircraft kill civilians just as innocent as those at Bataclan (theatre).
The acceptance that legal protection for the environment from the ravages of armed conflict needs improvement has a long history. During the last three decades, initiatives have repeatedly flowered, only to wither and die in seminars and conference rooms, while wartime environmental damage continues largely unchecked. What lessons should a new generation wishing to tackle the topic take from past failures?
As we reported earlier, Ukraine needs to find $30m to cover the cost of a two year programme of urgent environmental assistance, doubtless millions more will be needed beyond that. Damage to Ukraine’s natural environment and direct and urgent threats to public and environmental health thanks to damage to industrial sites are widespread. In Iraq and Syria, protracted conflicts are continuing to create new environmental threats and exacerbate pre-existing problems. Environmental damage from conflict is not just of historical or academic interest, it is threatening civilians and livelihoods around the world. How then to recapture a sense of urgency in efforts to minimize damage and ensure that environmental assistance gets to where it’s needed?
It is sheer coincidence that Paris was struck by terrorists on the eve of a key climate conference known as COP 21.
To some, the attacks may appear like an unfortunate distraction in the face of efforts to meet a civilizational challenge like no other. Yet there are important cross-connections between security and climate concerns.
Runaway climate change will impose growing stress on natural systems and human societies, and it could well usher in a whole new age of conflict. We live, after all, in a world marked by profound disparities in wealth, social and demographic pressures, unresolved grievances, and a seemingly endless supply of arms of all calibers. Far from being a separate concern, climate change is certain to intensify many existing challenges. More frequent and intense droughts, floods, and storms will likely play havoc with harvests and compromise food security. Extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and spreading disease vectors could undermine the economic viability and long-term habitability of some areas. The result could be escalating social discontent, mass displacement, and worse.
In fact, such scenarios are no longer mere conjecture. Consider Syria.