Navy Secretary Ray Mabus: ‘Our Responsibilities Have to be Tied in to the Effects of Climate Change’

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed from retired rear admiral Robert James, who called the military’s push to develop domestic renewable energy “a fad.”

But if you listen to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus explain the importance of cleaning up the military’s supply chain, it’s clear those efforts are anything but a fad — they’re a natural part of a technological progression that the military has undertaken for over 150 years.

Secretary Mabus’ approach to sourcing 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources has nothing to do with politics or satisfying the desire to look “green.” It’s all about logistics.

“It makes us a better military,” he explained in an interview with Climate Progress at yesterday’s National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. And beyond saving money and saving lives, Secretary Mabus believes it’s the Navy’s responsibility to understand the impact that climate change will have on operations – both through adaptation and mitigation:

“Our responsibilities, our concerns, have to be tied into the effects of climate change,” explained Mabus.

Again, Secretary Mabus isn’t trying to make any sort of political statement. He’s merely pointing out the scientifically understood fact that the climate is changing, which will have enormous impacts on the Navy’s operations over the coming decades. It’s as simple as that. Under Secretary Mabus, the Navy issued a Climate Change Roadmap last May outlining the various action items — mission analysis, capabilities assessments, and environmental assessments — that will help the military adapt to a changing world.

And in a way, the Navy will play a major part in that changing world — not just in responding to conflict, but in helping transition to the solutions that help actually address the root problem. It’s a subject that clearly moves Secretary Mabus, who believes we have reached an important turning point in history:

The Navy has always led when we’ve changed energy. In the 1850’s, we went from sail to coal. In the early part of the 20th century, we went from coal to oil. We pioneered the use of nuclear for transportation in the 1950’s. Every single time we did these things there were people who said ‘it’s a fad.’ There were people who said ‘you’re trading one very known source of propulsion or energy for something that’s unsure – too expensive or just won’t work.’ And every single time they were wrong. Every single time. And I am absolutely confident those folks are going to be wrong this time too.

More from the National Clean Energy Summit:

4 Responses to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus: ‘Our Responsibilities Have to be Tied in to the Effects of Climate Change’

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Hats off to Mabus for being straightforward here, but the view expressed by James shows what’s always been the case- the military is a sprawling bureacracy, too riven with divisions and fiefdoms to move decisively on an issue like this one.

    That means we’re back to where we started. Political leaders will fill the void, by obeying their own instructions from campaign funders. While brave young men get their legs blown off protecting oil convoys in the Middle East, these same political leaders get teary eyed over “the troops”, while groveling to the oil companies. Television news shows these frauds parading their patriotism. It’s all quite sickening.

    My own father fought the Joint Chiefs over field control of nuclear weapons in the late 50’s- and lost. In that case, the military was wrong and political leaders (except Barry Goldwater) were right.

    This time, most of the military seems to get it, but they are going to have to stick up for its men and fight the politicians. Fighting is in their job description. Let’s see if those old commanders have the balls to do it.

  2. Joan Savage says:

    Many a military force has claimed a victory which more ignominiously relied on some form of rapid resource exploitation.

    It will be interesting to see if that can ever change.

  3. Leif says:

    White roofs, solar array, How creative!
    The stated “Operational Energy Strategy” goals listed were reported to not be “revolutionary.” Had they listed the last goal first and perhaps thrown in “sustainable”… Then I would say “revolutionary” might be appropriate.