DOD Measures Up On Climate Change, EnergyMay 5, 2010 By Schuyler NullReenergizing America’s Defense: How the Armed Forces Are Stepping Forward to Combat Climate Change and Improve the U.S. Energy Posture.
The military as a leader and catalyst for renewable energy was a key focus of the recently released Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which for the first time included consideration of the effects of climate change and excessive energy consumption on military planning:
Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.
According to the Pew report, the Department of Defense has set a goal of producing or procuring at least 25 percent of its non-tactical electric energy needs from renewable sources by 2025. Highlights of the service’s efforts include:
The Pew report offers a generally favorable appraisal of the military’s response to the “twin threats of energy dependence and climate change” and the progress made towards reaching federal energy mandates. However, the authors let slide that the overwhelming amount of DOD energy usage is tied to tactical consumption, which has been given inadequate attention thus far (consider that the senior Pentagon official overseeing tactical energy planning was only just appointed, although the position has existed since October 2008).
- The U.S. Navy’s “Great Green Fleet” carrier strike group, which will run entirely on alternative fuels and nuclear power by 2016;
- The construction of a 500-megawatt solar facility in Fort Irwin, California by the U.S. Army which will help the base reach ‘net-zero plus’ status;
- The goal of acquiring 50 percent of the U.S. Air Force’s aviation fuels from biofuel blends by 2016;
- The U.S. Marine Corps’ 10×10 campaign to develop a comprehensive energy strategy and meet ten goals aimed at reducing energy and water intensity and increasing the use of renewable electric energy by the end of 2010.
Interest in this field has grown quickly, as evidenced by the more than 400 people gathered at the launch of the latest report from the Center for New American Security (CNAS), Broadening Horizons: Climate Change and the U.S. Armed Forces – a big increase from the 50 or so at CNAS’ first natural security event in June 2008.
The CNAS study, much like the Pew report, breaks down the military’s efforts by service, but the study’s authors – including U.S. Navy Commander Herbert E. Carmen – thankfully provide more specific recommendations for what could be done better.
Based on research, interviews, and site visits, the study offers geographically specific recommendations for each of the Unified Commands, as well as seven broad recommendations for DOD as a whole:
“While we believe there is still much work ahead, there is a growing commitment to addressing energy and climate change within the DOD,” said USN Commander Carmen in the report:
- In light of its implications for the global commons, ensure that DOD is included in the emerging debate over geoengineering.
- Urge U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in order to provide global leadership and protect U.S. and DOD interests, especially in the context of an opening Arctic sea.
- Eliminate the divided command over the Arctic and assign U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) as the supported commander.
- The U.S. government should make an informed decision about constructing nuclear reactors on military bases and provide clear policy guidelines to DOD.
- Congress and DOD should move away from the “cost avoidance” structure of current renewable energy, conservation, and efficiency practices in order to reward proactive commanders and encourage further investment.
- All of the services should improve their understanding of how climate change will effect their missions and capabilities; e.g. migration and water issues may impact Army missions, a melting Arctic, the Navy.
- The Air Force should fully integrate planning for both energy security and climate change into a single effort.
Indeed, in our conversation with officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, it was clear that, in developing the climate change and energy section of the 2010 QDR, the Department of Defense has developed a nascent, intellectual infrastructure of civilian and military professionals who will continue to study the national security implications of climate change, and, we hope, will continue to reevaluate climate change risks and opportunities as the science continues to evolve.A holistic view of national security that includes energy and environment, as well as demographic and development inputs, continues to gain traction as an important driver in DOD policy and planning.
Photo Credit: “Refueling at FOB Wright” courtesy of Flickr user The U.S. Army.