The U.S. Military Takes On Global Warming

Image: Pamela Davis Photography

by Dominique Browning, via Moms Clean Air Force

As more polls show that a majority of Americans want action on carbon pollution and global warming, leadership on fighting climate change is coming from surprising places—starting with the military.

At a recent reception held by Environmental Defense Fund in Washington D.C….  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a speech in which he connected the dots between climate change, energy and security issues. He became the highest-ranking official in the Obama administration to do so.

Panetta explained that his Department of Defense is facing a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion because of unexpected fuel costs. “I have a deep interest in more sustainable and efficient energy options,” he said. Secretary Panetta went on to describe how the U. S. military will be called on for humanitarian assistance in the face of rising seas, longer droughts, and more frequent and the severe natural disasters that are a result of global warming.

Secretary Panetta was followed on the podium by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who has served since May 2009. In 1987, the Harvard-trained lawyer became the youngest governor in the nation when he won office in Mississippi. Mabus declared, in an inimitably rich Southern drawl: “We buy too much fossil fuel from the most volatile places on earth.”

He emphasized that “drilling alone will never solve our national security concerns over foreign oil.” Mabus went on to announce that the Navy has made a commitment to get 50% of its energy from renewable sources, like biofuels, solar and wind, by 2025. That’s the most ambitious goal for renewable energy in the country—higher even than California’s!

Mabus pointed out that the Navy has always led in pioneering new sources of fuel, whether it was from moving from sail to coal in the 1850s, to oil in the 20th century, and nuclear energy in the 1950s. “Every time, there were doubters and naysayers,” he said forcefully. “Every time. And every single time, they were wrong and they will be wrong again this time.”

Mabus vigorously countered the argument that renewable energy is more expensive. “Well of course it is! Every new technology is more expensive. What if we hadn’t started using computers because they were more expensive than typewriters? What if we hadn’t started using cell phones because they were more expensive than land lines? Where would we be?”

Both Panetta and Mabus are on the front lines again—in a battle that will help us curb carbon emissions and lead us to energy independence. Anyone want to join the notoriously craven science deniers at the Heartland Institute in their claim that any leader who fights global warming is no better than tyrants and killers like Charles Manson, Osama bin Laden and Unabomber Kacyznski?

Go ahead. Make Secretary Mabus’ day.

Dominique Browning is the co-founder of Moms Clean Air Force and its lead blogger. She is a writer and editor — and the mother of two sons. She blogs at Slow Love Life and writes a column called Personal Nature for the Environmental Defense Fund.

This piece was originally published at Moms Clean Air Force and was re-printed with permission.

16 Responses to The U.S. Military Takes On Global Warming

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Fossil fuel generation is a threat

    It was not announced yet, but people who deliberately alter the science, or push the denial agenda to delay – for their own agenda (fossil fuels ) are actually worse then terrorist. Because they threaten the survival of the entire human species.

    This is not only because of foreign oil, it is to protect our precious environment, the land we own from our grandfathers and all the ancestors. It is good to know that the military is stepping up to this emerging – developing situation.

    Risk management tells us we have to act, this is different for so many reasons – we have to do something to slow climate change, not accelerate it further. And it is a win win situation for everybody. Even for the oil companies. Oil companies have to adapt and transition to renewable energy generation. Either as a private entity or national.

    Because of peak oil, the current politic of the oil companies is to transition to liquefied natural gas, but this is not the solution. And then we not only need this on national level, we require a world wide adaption to renewable energy generation and transport. But we have to do this today.

  2. MarkfromLexington says:

    What if we hadn’t started using computers because they were more expensive than typewriters?

    That’s the best comment I’ve heard in a long, long time.

  3. Gail Zawacki says:

    Biofuels are neither clean, green nor renewable, either in terms of production or emissions. The solar and wind are just window dressing – you’ll never run tanks, warships and planes with them.

    Better for the military to bring the troops home from wars for oil and propping up international corporations that illegally extraction resources from indigenous people. Put the troops to work at home instead, refitting buildings and planting permaculture farms.

    Current proposals are just moving deck chairs around on the Titanic, and “green” organizations that get all excited about the military supposedly understanding climate change are just greenwashing. They should be demanding a quick end to this declining Empire and its wars instead.

  4. Artful Dodger says:

    … and the Stone Age didn’t end because the world ran out of stone!

  5. M Tucker says:

    “The U.S. Military Takes On Global Warming”

    Yeah, I love how Panetta and Mabus railed against the security threat of global warming. It was impressive and very forward thinking to want to prepare our naval facilities for sea level rise.

    No, wait, they did not mention global warming at all…

    “Panetta explained that his Department of Defense is facing a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion because of unexpected fuel costs.”

    Oh, it is fuel cost they are worried about…

    “Mabus vigorously countered the argument that renewable energy is more expensive. “Well of course it is!”

    No again. They welcome the increase in fuel cost in order to promote nonexistent biofuels to power the fleet. Unless they can do it with corn ethanol the Navy is SOL for years. Better to go back to the old fashioned fuel of the 1950s, nuclear. Cheaper too.

    Don’t blow smoke Mabus. The Navy went to coal and bunker fuel as soon as the age of iron clads arrived. Hard to move an iron ship with sail and anyone can look up the history. When was the first contract to supply bunker fuel for shipping written? Hmmm Mabus?

  6. Switche says:

    As someone who did not know Panetta’s or Mabus’ record, I would have liked to have read some background that proved their records with environmental and climate change issues.

    This article did not make the crucial link between the headline and the content, by giving only statements regarding alternative energy, supported only by economic arguments. This economic premise does not guarantee an interest in climate change.

    It wasn’t until I read the earlier link to the story of Panetta’s speech, and did my own searches into Mabus’ work with the Deepwater Horizon spill recovery plan, that I agreed that these two men have environmental policy in mind.

    What I still fail to see is any substantial plan. Once you know the records of these men, this does not seem to be anything but posturing, possibly for campaign season (granted, it’s working since I now like more of what I know about Obama admin’s appointees). Even so, what exactly are Panetta and Mabus proposing to further alternative energy progress that the offices of SecDef and SecNav have the power to do? Isn’t that a crucial point to make in saying “the U.S. military takes on global warming?”

  7. wili says:

    Yup. Nothing our military does can really be considered ‘green.’

    Think about what it would be like if our enormous, bloated military didn’t exist.

    Suppose then someone proposed starting to spend trillions of dollars every year building enormous machines for killing people and destroying things.

    Would your first thought be, ” Ah, this will be a truly pro-environmental, ecological, earth-friendly endeavor, as long as they use a little bit of bio-fuels or wind power once in a while.”

    The notion it absurd on the face of it.

    The one thing that our military could be used for is to permanently shut down all mines and wells that are busily UN-sequestering carbon (as well as the plants that process these pollutants-to-be), since these represent an existential threat not only to the nation, but to global civilization and to life on the planet.

    But that does not seem to be high on the priority list for our fearless leaders. Instead, the armed forces have been and will continue to be used primarily to be sure that “our oil under their sands” continue to flow like a torrent into our SUVs and thence out into the atmosphere.

    Have we started a pool yet here placing bets on when CO2 reaches 400ppm yet? May 2013 is looking more and more likely. It’s near 397 now.

  8. prokaryotes says:

    Just type “pentagon climate change” into google.

  9. prokaryotes says:

    Also i can recommend these 2 introductory videos to the topic of climate change and national security.

    Climate Crock – Climate Change and National Security (2010)

    Climate Crock – Climate Change and National Security – Part 2 (2010)

  10. John McCormick says:

    Pamela Davis’ photograph of that beautiful baby is worthy of an award. And, that baby is why we climate hawks must defeat the crazies.

  11. J Bowers says:

    The Marines Go Renewable

    “Two of India 3/5’s forward patrol bases, in fact, were powered entirely by solar for the duration of the seven-month mission. “We were the only company that had sufficient energy the entire time,” says Captain Stephen Cooney, the mission’s commanding officer.”

  12. J Bowers says:

    “What if we hadn’t started using computers because they were more expensive than typewriters?”

    A keeper :)

  13. Raul M. says:

    A neurophysiology makeup of the movements of society and of our leaders might be helpful.
    Rather than what is said though, the actions still speak.
    TV programming would be a read.

  14. Ric Shorten says:

    Going green eh?
    What about jet aircraft? They use how much fuel on each sortie?
    And the exploded shells the US military use in action and practice – maybe make them of bio-degradable ‘nerf foam? The terrorists can reuse them.
    OR the 50+ fuel truck transports daily in Iraq and ONLY one driver is killed daily…not bad. Just collateral damage, eh.
    Oh and the USA military IS the world’s largest consumer of oil right? Way, way above all else?
    Darn those pesky foreign oil giants…oh right 5 of the 7 are american? Lets tax their profits enough to pay for it!
    Better still lets try PEACE…just a hope.

  15. EDpeak says: when they are not killing hundreds of thousands of children with cluster bombs, with occupation and sanctions, and also with left over land mines from past wars of aggression, our military can save kids lives and future, yay!

    Yo Dawg, I hear you like not killing kids

    so not the military is NOT killing kids (by ‘taking on global warming’) while the military also IS killing kids (everything else), yo dawg

  16. Josh W says:

    Warms my heart to know that the US military will be leaving a small carbon footprint as it slaughters civilians around the globe