War On Our Climate: A Look At The Unsustainable Practices of The U.S. Military

As the most powerful and the most expensive military in the world, the United States military may also be the most unsustainable.

As of 2019, the U.S. military was the largest independent consumer of hydrocarbons in the world, and in 2017, the U.S. military spent a total of $8.683 billion on fuel. This trend led to a daily rate of 25,000-kilo tons of carbon dioxide emitted daily in 2017. Not only has this high level of emissions led to increasing effects of global warming due to carbon dioxide’s status as a greenhouse gas (GHG), but it has also led to many other adverse effects such as ocean acidification and rising sea levels due to thermal expansion.

The U.S. military has also aided U.S. corporations in acquiring oil reserves by engaging in warfare. The most recognizable modern example of this is the Iraq War, in which the U.S. invaded Iraq in an attempt to denationalize the Iraqi oil industry and open it up to U.S. corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Shell (CNN.com). In the words of General John Abizaid, who was the former head of Military Operations in Iraq during 2007, “of course [it was] about oil; we can’t really deny that”.

This conflict for oil created a domino effect. Crude oil is a fossil fuel and the acquisition and combustion of oil leads to heavy pollution. Additionally, Big Oil companies sold this oil as fuel to consumers in the U.S. as vehicle fuel. Transportation accounts for the largest percentage of GHG emissions in the U.S. and this is caused by the fuel that is used in vehicles across the country. The Iraq War allowed Big Oil to get its hands on massive oil reserves, and then sell that oil to consumers: which caused even more emissions of GHGs.

The U.S. military has begun taking small strides in reducing their carbon footprint, such as using biofuel instead of hydrocarbons in some cases. However, the small-scale use of biofuels is not enough to offset the impact of the hydrocarbon fuel that the U.S. military consumes.

Climate change is recognized as a major threat to the security of the U.S. military and national security. This is because climate change amplifies previous threats such as extreme weather events and destabilization in regions outside the United States. Because climate change is only accelerating, many believe the U.S. military may need to do more to combat this pressing security threat.