Washington: The US military is one of the largest climate polluters in history as it consumes a considerable about of non-renewable liquid fuels and emits more CO2e (carbon-dioxide equivalent) than most countries, recent findings claim. As part of the latest study, researchers suggest that the US military’s carbon footprint is enormous and must be confronted in order to have a substantial effect on battling global warming.
The majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting routinely focuses on civilian energy use and fuel consumption, not on the US military. This new study, published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, calculates part of the US military’s impact on climate change through critical analysis of its global logistical supply chains. The research provides an independent public assessment of the US military’s greenhouse gas emissions. It reports that if the US military were a nation state, it would be the 47th largest emitter of GHG in the world if only taking into account the emission from fuel usage.
According to the team of researchers, the US Military has long understood it is not immune from the potential consequences of climate change – recognising it as a threat multiplier that can exacerbate other threats – nor has it ignored its own contribution to the problem. “Yet its climate policy is fundamentally contradictory – confronting the effects of climate change while remaining the largest single institutional consumer of hydrocarbons in the world, a situation it is locked into for years to come because of its dependence on existing aircraft and warships for open-ended operations around the globe,” explained Patrick Bigger, co-author of the research.
The research comes at a time when the US military is preparing for climate change through both its global supply networks and its security infrastructure. This study brings transparency to one of the world’s largest institutional consumers of hydrocarbons at a time when the issue is a hot-button topic on the US Presidential campaign trail. Leading Democratic candidates, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, are asking critical questions of the role of the US military in climate change and examining its plans for the future. “This research provides ample evidence to support recent calls by activist networks to include the US military in Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal and other international climate treaties,” said Benjamin Neimark, one of the lead researchers of the study.
In 2017 alone, the US military purchased about 269,230 barrels of oil a day and emitted more than 25,000 kt- CO2e by burning those fuels, the researchers said. In 2017 alone, the Air Force purchased $4.9 billion worth of fuel and the Navy $2.8 billion, followed by the Army at $947 million and Marines at $36 million, stated the study.
The study says that if the US military were a country, it would nestle between Peru and Portugal in the global league table of fuel purchasing when comparing 2014 World Bank country liquid fuel consumption with 2015 US military liquid fuel consumption. For 2014, the scale of emissions is roughly equivalent to the total – not just fuel – emissions from Romania. According to the DLA-E data obtained by the researchers, which includes GHG emissions from direct or stationary sources, indirect or mobile sources and electricity use, and other indirect, including upstream and downstream emissions.
The Air Force is by far the largest emitter of GHG at more than 13,000 kt CO2e, almost double that of the US Navy’s 7,800 kt CO2e. In addition to using the most polluting types of fuel, the Air Force and Navy are also the largest purchasers of fuel, said the study.