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US Military Responds To Arctic Warming

Twenty-five nations gathered yesterday to hear US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel give a major address outlining the impact of rapid Arctic warming on US military operations in the region, and when America’s top military official affirms that global warming is a real phenomenon demanding a critical adjustment of military resources it would be nice, to say the least, if the global warming deniers in Congress would go home and do something useful to support our troops, such as freshening up their Support Our Troops bumper stickers or whatever.

Well, dream on. In his keynote speech for the 5th annual Halifax International Security Forum Hagel  carefully avoided discussing the pivotal role of human activity and greenhouse gas emissions.

Since that doesn’t quite make for a good schooling, we’re still going to be hearing plenty from the usual global warming denial suspects in Congress, with plenty of support from their base (according to a Pew poll released November 1, only 25% of “Tea Party Republicans” are convinced that what is happening, is happening).

On the other hand, Hagel put in a plug for the Defense Department’s clean energy initiatives, and he did utter the phrase “carbon emissions” — twice! — so let’s take a closer look at that speech.

Chuck Hagel outlines military response to Arctic warming.

Courtesy of Official US Navy Imagery.

The Military Case For Clean Energy

Hagel’s pitch for the Defense Department’s clean energy initiatives rested on force effectiveness, troop safety and budget efficiencies rather than global warming emissions, but he made a clear-cut case. Here’s a money quote:

DoD invests in energy efficiency, new technologies, and renewable energy sources at our installations and all of our operations because it makes us a stronger fighting force and helps us carry out our security mission.

Now here’s his first mention of carbon emissions:

Planning for climate change and smarter energy investments not only make us a stronger military, they have many additional benefits – saving us money, reducing demand, and helping protect the environment.   These initiatives all support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which outlines how the United States will work with the international community in addressing these serious global challenges.  This plan also helps prepare our nation for the effects of climate change and lays out how we will work to reduce carbon emissions.

In particular, Hagel noted that at ground forces combat outposts in Afghanistan alone, energy conservation and solar gear combined to save about 20 million gallons of fuel last year, which translates into 7,000 truckloads fewer truckloads (for CleanTechnica coverage on combat-ready solar gear, see here, here, and  here).

For good measure, here’s that second mention of carbon emissions:

America’s energy security has also been strengthened through new domestic energy exploration technologies in North America.  Natural gas, in particular, promises cheaper fuel with lower carbon emissions across the continent.

Supporting The Case For Climate Action

The whole natural gas thing is problematic, but let’s skip over that for now and take another look at that reference to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.


Hagel emphasizes that all of the Defense Department’s new energy initiatives support the Action Plan, the entire foundation of which is the recognition that carbon emissions from human activity are the main driver of global warming.

The Action Plan kicks off with this unequivocal case for action:

While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.

Despite all this, don’t hold your breath for your friendly neighborhood global warming denier to come around. But if you see one of those bumper stickers, remember to honk if you support our troops.

Additional Links: US Arctic Defense Strategy, press release summarizing the Halifax speech.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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