What is The Pentagon’s CO2 Footprint?

I’ve been wondering that, myself. Presumably the answer is somewhere between “yuge” and “outrageous.”

According a report in The Guardian it’s bigger than Portugal’s, and much bigger than Sweden’s. If the US military was a country, it would be #55 on the global carbon producing chart. [guard]

I guess that probably does have something to do with why the US has been careful not to count its military against its carbon targets. Not that its carbon targets mattered because a) clearly the US never intended to meet them b) the US pulled out of carbon accords anyway c) the US actually projects its emissions to continue to increase through 2050, which is also known as “the time when everyone starts to die” d) the US strategy has always been to do nothing until it’s too late, then say “whups, it’s too late.” In the meantime, enjoy the distracting WWE-style politics as entertainment that we’ve arranged for you.

The Pentagon, which oversees the US military, released about 59m metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in 2017, according to the first study to compile such comprehensive data, published by Brown University.

It’s using fuel to distribute more fuel!

We probably already figured this out:

Using and moving troops and weapons accounted for about 70% of its energy consumption, mostly due to the burning of jet and diesel fuel, Crawford said.

There is a great deal of pointless driving-about, for sure. It’s important for the army to be seen and heard, otherwise nobody will realize how scary it is.

It dwarfed yearly emissions by Sweden, which the international research project the Global Carbon Atlas ranks 65th worldwide for its of CO2 emissions.

Take that, libs! USA! USA!

Let’s rename the stuff “FreedomO2: Because Liberty Has A Cost“(tm)

As the Guardian article also points out, global temperature rise is on a course for a 3C-5C increase, conservatively. Remember that most climate models say we all begin to go extinct around 4C, and that’s going to come with about a 20 foot (what’s that, 6 meters in euro-wimp units?) sea level rise. That’s not going to matter much because there won’t be anything much alive in the sea by then, except algae and things that love carbon dioxide.

I know I sound alarmist and defeatist but, seriously, it’s bad and it is getting worse faster. In China, which has overtaken the US in carbon emissions, emission growth is increasing ahead of economic growth. That means that even as China’s economy has slowed, their emissions have gotten worse – that’s basically the same model that the US followed in the 60s to 90s today. China;s just bigger. [kos]

Part of that is because of the nature of the energy that was added. In the United States, the cost of renewables and natural gas have both undercut the economic viability of coal. But the same can’t be said for India, China, and neighboring countries. That made coal one of the fastest-growing fuel sources for 2018. Renewables grew rapidly as well. They’re just not growing rapidly enough to meet the increased demand.

US military air conditioned tents in Iraq

Some of that demand is being driven by increased demand for climate control. It’s a nasty feedback loop, and it’s how you get things like that the US military spent $20 billion on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan. [npr] That’s going to scale across our whole civilization, and others as well. As temperatures continue to rise, being outdoors without air conditioning will be a fatal condition. That means power-grid security is a serious threat: if someone cuts off the power to the AC for a couple days in an Arizona summer, you could have mass casualty events as everyone runs to their cars, turns the AC up, then runs out of gas.

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“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” and that’s what we’re leaving future generations.


  1. says

    I learned an interesting fact this week, which is that several common anesthetics are greenhouse gases. Some doctors and hospsitals are trying to find ways to deal with the problem, such as installing capture devices on ventilation systems to recycle the gases. Others are switching to gases that generate less emissions than the biggest contributor, desflurane. In total the US medical industry is reportedly responsible for 10 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions. Which I’m guessing is still less than the US military puts out.

    But hey, the US military could be worse. At least its submarines and aircraft carriers are all nuclear powered. Of course there’s the obvious question of what happens if one of the bad guys actually manages to successfully attack a carrier. Or there’s a really bad aircraft crash on one. A floating nuclear disaster will do no one any good.

  2. komarov says

    20 billion dollars, part of which is spent on small, individually airconditioned tents in the desert? And what powers all those AC units? That wouldn’t be a diesel generator (or maybe a dozen), per chance, with the fuel being shipped from distant places, would it?

    For that kind of money you can throw up some proper barracks with a big (i.e. efficient) AC system powered by a state-of-the-art solar generator / battery system. You can do this in every one of your little outposts and still have money left over to break it all down and ship it to the next country you’re occupying when, if ever, you’re done in this place.

    The inability of the US army to modernise away their crippling fuel dependency baffles me anyway. Even if you don’t care about the climate a renewably powered armour column should sound like a fantastic idea. The solar-powered drone that can loiter indefinitely, or at least until it runs out of cluster bombs, ought to be considered a must-have. Heck, with tech like that a land-war in Asia might become feasible, as long as you don’t mind eating the local population to keep logistics simple.* I’m just putting that out there for any US strategists / warhawks who happen to be eying that continent with eager anticipation.

    *Don’t fret. If you don’t do it the partisans will. That makes it a strategic decision, as necessary as any atrocity you’re likely to comit, and a-ok in the US handbook of international democrification.

    That means power-grid security is a serious threat: if someone cuts off the power to the AC for a couple days in an Arizona summer, you could have mass casualty events as everyone runs to their cars, turns the AC up, then runs out of gas.

    I can’t help but notice that all the feedback loops driving the climate back towards a healthier direction involve megadeaths and tend to be a little on the late side.

    Re: timgueguen, nuclear ships (#1):

    That’s indeed an interesting question. I couldn’t find anything with a (shallow) search but woudn’t be suprised if the contingency plans for a disaster on a nuclear carrier included evacuation and sinking the ship as quickly as possible. At least it wouldn’t be a floating disaster anymore and an actual meltdown would presumably down the ship sooner or later. So it would probably be an overall improvement if the core started leaking at the bottom of the ocean rather than somewhere up top where currents could spread the contamination far and wide.

    P.S.: I’ll add anesthetics to the list of unexpected climate change causes.

  3. voyager says

    You said once that sometimes the need for a thing increases the need for a thing. It was in a post about horse manure removal in Victorian times. This sounds like the same type of scenario. We need air-conditioning to deal with climate change, but air conditioning contributes to further climate change requiring even more air-conditioning.
    It does all seem bleak.

  4. dangerousbeans says

    have they tried insulating the tents? and painting them a lighter colour? (or maybe darker? weren’t Bedouin tents black?)
    maybe they could get [military contractor] to develop some billion dollar IR reflective coating if they really want a solution that costs money

  5. avalus says

    But komarov, you can’t move barracks that quickly. These soldiers are on the brink of victory, so they will leave soon ™ *wink wink – nudge nugde*

    (Or: think of the tent-industry! – It’s needed everywhere around US troops)

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