The Pentagon has single-handedly generated at least 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases since 2001. In other words, the Pentagon emits more greenhouse gases than industrialized countries including Portugal and Sweden. As a result, the U.S. Department of Defense holds an infamous title: the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
18 Years Worth of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data
In a recent paper published by the Costs of Wars project at Brown University, researchers looked at data accounting for 18 years of U.S. operations. From 2001 to 2017, the paper takes note of the use and movement troops and weapons. Neta C. Crawford, the co-director of Costs of Wars, uncovers an unflattering truth about the Department of Defense.
“The DOD (Department of Defense) is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world,” the Boston University professor writes. As frequent as the use of aircraft carriers is, it is no surprise that emissions numbers are astronomical.
The Demand for Action Against Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Demanding action, Crawford notes that “the U.S. military has begun greenhouse gas emissions reductions, but there is room for much steeper cuts.” The Department of Defense is developing policies to respond to mitigate climate change. However, it is publicly known that it has yet to outline a formal mission of reform.
Despite the Department of Defense’s lack of initiative, Crawford’s paper offers insight into beneficial outcomes of reducing military fossil fuel use:
- The United States could mitigate climate change and its associated threats to national security.
- The United States would reduce its dependency on oil. In turn, the country could reduce the number of troops needed to defend access to oil.
- Decreasing United States dependence on oil-rich states would allow the United States military to reevaluate its presence in the Persian Gulf. In addition, it could reevaluate relationships with Saudi Arabia and other allies in the region.
- The United States would decrease spending on fuel and operations to secure access to petroleum. In return, money could be allocated to other economically productive activities.
Based on the U.S. Military’s track record, it is unclear whether change will happen. However, with technological advances, cleaner energy sources are continually presenting themselves.
Will Department of Defense will be the ones to perfect solar or hydrogen-powered vehicles? Will it opt for greener methods? Or will they continue to rack up billions of metric tons of greenhouse emissions?