The Pentagon emitted more greenhouse gases than “entirely industrialised” countries like Sweden or Denmark in 2017, making it the “single largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world,” according to a new study published by Brown University under “Costs of War” Project.
The study examines military fuel usage for the US post-9/11 wars and the impact of the greenhouse gas emissions. The Pentagon’s emissions for its military operations is estimated to be 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases between 2001 and 2017. Emissions from its “overseas contingency operations” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria accounted for more than 400 million metric tons of CO2.
“If the Pentagon were a country, its emissions would make it the world’s 55th largest contributor,” said Neta Crawford, the study’s author and a political scientist at Boston University.
US Military emissions are higher than those of Portugal, ranked 57th by the Global Carbon Atlas. China is the world’s largest emitter of CO2, followed by the United States.
Using, as well as moving troops and weapons accounted for about 70% of its energy consumption, mostly due to the burning of jet and diesel fuel. In the study, emissions caused by the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure in war zones and the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties to war have also been factored in.
The Pentagon added climate change to its list of “national security issues.” Climate change poses a threat to military installations and operations, feeds political tensions, fuels mass migrations and refugee crises, and leads to souring international relationships causing conflicts.
Work to decrease energy consumption and emissions is underway. The military are gradually replacing some non-tactical fleet vehicles with hybrid, plug-in or alternative-fuel vehicles, reducing idling, and developing solar installations at some bases.
The Trump administration, however, was criticized for being "in various modes of climate denial.”
The researchers suggested the Pentagon should report its fuel consumption to Congress annually, information which is currently “explicitly withheld.” The researchers also recommended that each military installation should draw up plans to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2022, and advised increased use of alternative fuels, hybrid vehicles and renewable energy. The Pentagon should also identify which military and national guard bases could be closed, whether due to climate change impacts or diminished threats.