Climate change threatens the security of every person on planet Earth.
July was the hottest month ever recorded in the continental United States and the fourth time in four months that temperatures topped the hottest-12-months record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Drought covers 62 percent of the lower 48 states, threatening water supplies and food production. The Union of Concerned Scientists predicts sea level will rise 6-16 inches by the year 2050, which will pose a serious threat to Maine’s fisheries and coastal communities.
Why then the deafening silence about the Pentagon’s enormous, unacknowledged contribution to climate change?
According to its own study, in 2013 the Department of Defense consumed fuel equivalent to 90 million barrels of crude oil, or 80 percent of the total fuel used by the federal government. If it were burned as jet fuel, the oil would produce about 38.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. To put this in context, Pentagon fuel burning produced 166 percent as much carbon dioxide as all commuter train travel in the United States the same year.
And the Pentagon’s figures do not include carbon produced by the thousands of bombs dropped in 2013, or the fires that burned after the jets and drones departed.
Most people in the United States will not question the thousands of military bases, fleets of aircraft, trucks and transport ships, legions of contractors and seemingly endless supply of weapons that have the Pentagon spewing carbon dioxide 24/7. They will overlook the carbon load for cooling the warehouses filled with surveillance equipment used by the National Security Administration.
This disregard comes partly from the difficulty in measuring the Pentagon’s carbon footprint. Congress guaranteed the U.S. military exemption from any energy reduction or measurement during George W. Bush’s administration. And President Barack Obama exempted the Pentagon from an executive order requiring federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Giving the Department of Defense a pass on pollution is a bipartisan problem.
Despite being engaged in a long, costly war against terrorism, fuel is constantly wasted and pollution generated on entertainment spectacles such as air shows.
The Navy’s Blue Angels are scheduled to perform in Brunswick over Labor Day weekend. The jets from a typical show generate emissions of roughly 300,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. And the shows are repeated around the country every month of every year.
A photographer at the Great Maine Air Show in 2012 captured a runway covered with a wall of flames that organizers said was a “simulated bombing.” Carbon footprint of burning napalm for entertainment? Unknown.
In the militarized 21st century, where security is always seen as under threat, the Pentagon gets a pass on its pollution. But the disruptions caused by climate change pose a real and present threat to security for everyone on the planet.
Concerned people owe it to their grandchildren to speak up about the Pentagon’s massive carbon footprint driving climate change that affects us all.
Lisa Savage is a local coordinator for CodePink: Women for Peace. She blogs at went2thebridge.blogspot.com.