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U.S. Military Combats Climate Change

Photo by James L. Stanfield


A 2010 Defense Department review cut through political rhetoric and stated that climate change and energy security are “prominent military vulnerabilities”.  Climate change in particular is an “accelerant of instability and conflict,” the report noted.

In a recent article, Scientific American noted that in addition to the very real combat situations that the U.S. military faces due to America’s over-reliance on fossil fuels, rising sea levels and increasing numbers of severe storms will have serious impacts on Navy and Marine operations and bases.  The humanitarian and political crises that will follow disasters, increased drought and potential fighting over resources will raise the burden on U.S. troops.

In response, the U.S. armed forces are accelerating their efforts towards energy efficiency and reduction of carbon emissions. The Army is planning to make several bases net-zero energy use and the Air Force and Navy are experimenting with powering their jets on wood waste and algae.   In Afghanistan, patrols now carry eco-friendly solar blankets and LED lamps.

Energy investments are not about “advancing an environmental agenda,” said Thomas Hicks, the Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy. “They’re about improving our combat capability, improving our mission effectiveness, and reducing our vulnerabilities to foreign sources of fossil fuel.”

For all the latest science news, check out the National Geographic’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.