With US military bases in more than 130 locations around the world, and with greenhouse gases emitted by all US military installations comparable to those for which entire countries are responsible, the event is by no means small-town.
Formally, the appearance of the climate initiative of the US Army is a consequence of the decree "On overcoming the climate crisis at home and abroad", issued in January 2021 by the White House. With this document, Washington told the world that environmental problems are not alien to the government, although the United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In an executive order, the Washington administration called on federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, to make climate change a key priority in all policy and planning documents.
The army reacted first, and not only out of a desire to distinguish itself. The environment is indeed changing and, as stated in the foreword to the strategy, written by US Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, is already affecting the activities of the ground forces, supply chains, infrastructure. Extreme weather conditions and natural disasters also pose an increased risk to the health of military personnel and their families, and even "increase the risk of armed conflict".
The 20-page paper provides some examples of how climate change is changing the strategic landscapes to which one has to adapt. In particular, the Arctic is cited as an example, which is warming on average twice as fast as the rest of the world.
Melting ice fields open up new trade routes and access to new natural resources. Accordingly, the armed forces have new directions in defending American interests. Moreover, Russia promptly responded to climate change in its North and is actively developing its military infrastructure in the Arctic. This greatly worries Washington, which until recently showed no interest in ice hummocks and white bears, focusing on much warmer latitudes.
In addition to changing the global landscape, warming, write the drafters of the military environmental strategy, is leading to an increase in extreme weather events, such as those that have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the US military in recent years. So, in 2019, three people died and several thousand were evacuated from the heavily damaged headquarters of the US Strategic Command and from the Offat base due to flooding in the states of Nebraska and Iowa. And in Florida in 2018, a hurricane completely destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base.
Wildfires in the western United States in recent years have also caused the US military to divert personnel and resources from military missions, forcing base evacuations and training cancellations. These fires, according to a 2019 study by the U.S. Accounts Office, have resulted in more than 100 U.S. military bases facing water shortages.
U.S. Navy facilities are also experiencing growing challenges due to rising sea levels and an increase in severe storms.
In hopes of mitigating the negative impact of the climate, the Army has set itself several goals: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and finally, to proactively consider the impact of change climate for facility safety, in strategy development, planning, acquisitions and supply.
The goals are expected to be achieved, in particular, by developing more sustainable sources of energy and water, moving to carbon-free electricity generation methods, improving the energy efficiency of army facilities, electrifying non-combat vehicle fleets, and improving land management and planning.
The army also expressed its intention to invest in new advanced technologies for the delivery of necessary materials and optimize supply chains. According to the developers, it is necessary to achieve "demand reduction through advanced technologies, optimization of sustainable supply chains in emergencies and environmentally friendly procurement."
Finally, it is proposed to modernize the training of personnel in a world in which climate change has already occurred. “Such training requires changes in what and how the army trains its people, units and headquarters”, - the document says.
To keep green thinking on track, the strategy calls for reviewing climate change lessons and best practices every two years starting in 2024, implementing “climate-smart” training programs by 2028, and increasing the number of military personnel and civilians with "graduate degrees in climate change" in strategic positions in the Army.
Encouraged by the goals of the strategy, several leading contractors have already proposed cleaner automotive technologies using hydrogen and hybrid-electric propulsion. And the Pentagon is even dreaming of more exotic energy solutions - the transfer of solar energy from space and nuclear microreactors.
But it looks like the contractors were a bit hasty. While the climate strategy outlines an ambitious plan for the military to engage in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it does not say a word about the most important thing - financing.
When bewilderment came from the lips of journalists, Acting Assistant Secretary for Army Facilities, Energy and Environment Paul Farnan replied: “This is a strategy that outlines steps ... many in the next decade and some even beyond the next decade. We will be creative. We will look for ways to stretch the dollar.”
This figure of speech can mean only one thing - there is no money yet.