13 May 2015

The U.S. military's war on the environment

One of the American institutions most alert to the threat of global warming is the military. The Pentagon has issued several reports stating that the greatest threat to U.S. national security is climate change. Ironically, the military itself is the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter.

The Department of Defense devours about 330,000 barrels of oil a day, more than the great majority of the world’s countries, on its more than 1,000 bases in over 130 countries and 6,000 facilities at home. And this doesn't include fuel consumed by contractors or in the production of weapons. Included among the military's fuel guzzlers are tanks, trucks, Humvees, submarines, aircraft carriers, helicopters, fighter jets, etc., etc., none known for their fuel economy.

And the military does much more than create vast quantities of greenhouse gasses. It also loads the environment with a host of toxic chemicals, from Agent Orange in Vietnam to glyphosate in Colombia to depleted uranium in Iraq. The Department of Defense is the world's largest polluter, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined. Its bases top the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list of most polluted places.

Remarkably, despite the magnitude of the threat it poses, the Pentagon has immunity from environmental agreements. The U.S. has demanded as a provision of signing that its military operations worldwide be exempted from measurement or reductions. Congress has passed an explicit provision guaranteeing such exemptions. The Department of Defense can pollute with impunity.

Thus Americans are faced with the uncomfortable irony that the institution dedicated to protecting them may in fact by the institution putting them most at risk. Its contribution to the threat of climate change alone makes any threat posed by terrorists look trivial indeed.

1 comment:

  1. To fair the military is also investing heavily into research on greener alternatives.