Climate Change pentagon

Published on May 21st, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Can the Military Save Us from Global Warming?

I’ve read a lot about military efforts to address global warming. Though it’s doing a lot on this front, I’m sure it’s got a long way to go — I think it’s the largest oil consumer in the world. Nonetheless, it seems to have gotten past the most important step: realizing that we’re facing huge risk and need to address it.

Jules Boykoff of the Guardian wrote an excellent piece today on this matter, one of the best I’ve read in a long time (on any subject). I highly recommend checking it out. Here’s the intro:

Federal legislation to combat climate change is quashed for the foreseeable future, scuttled by congressional climate cranks who allege the climate-science jury is still out. What’s become clear is that, for some, the jury will always be out. We can’t stack scientific facts high enough to hop over the fortified ideological walls they’ve erected around themselves. Fortunately, though, a four-star trump card waits in the wings: the US national security apparatus.

A recent report, “A National Strategic Narrative” (pdf), written by two special assistants to chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Mike Mullen, argued, “We must recognise that security means more than defence.” Part of this entails pressing past “a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability)”. They went on to assert climate change is “already shaping a ‘new normal’ in our strategic environment”.

Seriously, thank you! Security risks do not just concern people attacking us, they concern us ruining our water, air, and climate and sacrificing the lives of countless humans as a result.

More from Boykoff:

For years, in fact, high-level national security officials both inside the Pentagon and in thinktank land have been acknowledging climate change is for real and that we need to take action to preserve and enhance US national security interests. The Pentagon itself stated unequivocally in its February 2010 in its Quadrennial Defence Review Report (pdf), “Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment.” It noted the department of defence is actively “developing policies and plans to manage the effects of climate change on its operating environment, missions and facilities”.

CNA Corporation, a nonprofit that conducts research for the Navy and Marines, echoed the Pentagon’s urgency, writing, “Climate change, from the Military Advisory Board’s perspective, presents significant risks to America’s national security.” The Army Environmental Policy Institute, theNational Intelligence Council and the Centre for a New American Security have issued similar reports on the dangers of runaway climate change and what it could mean for geopolitics.

This isn’t a tree-hugging festival. It’s the US military and its partners making clear-eyed calculations based on the best available climate science.

Seriously, when are people going to get that this is not some wishy-washy hippie concern, this is about a livable world for our children, our grandchildren, and ourselves?

While it is great that the U.S. military is taking this issue seriously and preparing for it, there is no substitution for immediate action by Congress and you and me! Additionally, I have to admit that I’m a little concerned about the geo-engineering solutions the military may be working on. But, with Congressional and widespread public action apparently on hold, at least the military is preparing….

Uncertainty is an inherent element of honest science. But in the political sphere, uncertainty has been harnessed as an alibi for denial and inaction. The military, however, operates under conditions of uncertainty all the time. Like scientists, they wade through the unknown to assess varying degrees of risk. As CNA Corporation put it, military leaders “don’t see the range of possibilities as justification for inaction. Risk is at the heart of their job.”

Read Boykoff’s full piece here: US military goes to war with climate sceptics

Photo via michael baird

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

  • Jeremy

    Military save us? If that is a n euphemism if I ever heard one. These folks spent over ten years and 3 trillion dollars to find one guy . I also read those folks are worried about peak oil and developed algae based fuel at costs $400 a gallon.
    I only thing I can think of that they would be employed for is to round up the unruly straving population to contain and them away from the ruling class.
    Nice sci-fi book theme.

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