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The US Military Pollutes More Than Entire Countries

The U.S. Military Emits More Carbon Dioxide Into the Atmosphere Than Entire Countries Like Denmark or Portugal

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But no one knows exactly how much, because the Pentagon’s reporting is spotty. A Humvee gets between four and eight miles per gallon; an F-35 requires 2.37 gallons per mile.

In the fall of 2018, Neta C. Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, prepared to teach a class on climate change designed to help students think about the issue in a big-picture way. Crawford’s research expertise is in war, so she wanted to include a statistic on the military’s contribution to greenhouse gases.

“I thought, ‘Well, maybe I should just tell them what the emissions are for the U.S. military,’” Crawford says. “It was meant to be a line on a slide in a lecture.”

But when she went to look up the figure, she couldn’t find anything reliable. Instead, she found scattered and incomplete data on how much fuel the military consumed and how much carbon it emitted. The information that did exist largely didn’t include overseas operations, even though the United States had been at war for nearly two decades. Major categories of fuel consumption, like much of the fuel used for aviation, seemed to be missing.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol—the world’s first legally binding, international climate treaty—created a reporting loophole for militaries, exempting many of the greenhouse gases emitted during military operations from counting against a country’s emissions totals. While the 2015 Paris Accords did away with this exemption, they didn’t replace it with an obligation. Rather, the decision of whether to report military emissions—and how to calculate them—was left up to individual countries.

The result is a gap in our understanding of the United States’ climate footprint. Research from academics like Crawford, who now studies the issue, shows that the Department of Defense is a major producer of greenhouse gases, with more emissions than many industrialized nations. The United States—and other countries—have said they are committed to reducing military emissions, and earlier this summer, NATO released its Action Plan on Climate Change and Security, acknowledging that better emissions data would help guide member states’ military planning. But there is no consistent methodology and reporting requirement for these emissions. As the United States and other countries work toward net-zero emissions by 2050, Crawford and others say, the lack of clear data from the U.S. Defense Department—the world’s largest employer—and other militaries is a major stumbling block.

“We’ve got these kind of just little fragmentary bits of information and data about how big this problem is,” says Doug Weir, the research and policy director for the U.K.-based Conflict and Environment Observatory, which studies and works to reduce the environmental consequences of military activity. “Until states actually start reporting it, then you can’t really do anything about it.”

On the final evening of negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol, at the end of an all-night session in December 1997, U.S. negotiators pushed through one last demand. The final draft of the climate agreement included two sentences that exempted emissions from multilateral operations—activities that involve more than two countries—and from ships and aircraft involved in international transport. That meant that much of the carbon emitted during U.S. military operations overseas would not need to be tracked and reported to the United Nations—which was effectively the negotiators’ goal. In testimony to Congress on the Kyoto negotiations, the U.S. lead negotiator, Stuart Eizenstat, stated, “We achieved everything [the Department of Defense] outlined as necessary to protect military operations and our national security.” (In the same hearing, Sen. John Kerry, now the U.S special presidential envoy for climate, praised Eizenstat, saying, “I thought it was a terrific job, and I thank you for it.”)

Ultimately, the United States never even ratified the Kyoto Protocol—largely because of concerns that countries such as India and China weren’t required to reduce emissions—but the damage was done. The U.S. military was not required to develop a methodology for tracking its carbon emissions, and the militaries of other countries that did ratify the treaty remained largely exempt from reporting.

Nearly 20 years later, the 2015 climate agreement signed in Paris did away with the automatic exemption for military emissions. Now, the choice of whether or not to report those emissions—and what, exactly, to report if a country chooses to do so—is left up to individual governments. As a result, the full picture of military emissions, from the United States and other countries, is still unclear.

“The level of reporting between countries varies a lot,” says Linsey Cottrell, the environmental policy officer at the Conflict and Environment Observatory. “Sometimes reporting is not occurring, [or] it’s reported elsewhere. So it’s hard to determine what contribution the military makes to the overall totals.”

The United States does report military emissions to the United Nations—sort of. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that military emissions, if reported, should be included in a category marked “nonspecified.” That same category also includes things like civilian waste incineration, so it’s essentially impossible to parse out which specific emissions come from military sources. And certain major military sources of emissions—like fuel during multilateral operations—are listed in the United States’ reporting as “included elsewhere,” though it’s unclear where. Other categories of military fuel consumption aren’t reported at all.

“It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle,” Crawford says. “And some of the puzzle pieces are in different units and forms.”

Crawford’s hunt for a clear statistic on military emissions to show her class led her to a new research focus: trying to puzzle out just how much fuel the U.S. military consumes and thus how much carbon it emits. Using Department of Energy data, Crawford found that the U.S. military is a major polluter. Since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has produced more than 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. Crawford acknowledges her data is likely incomplete—but even with the available data, she found that the U.S. military emits more than entire countries like Portugal and Denmark, and that the Department of Defense accounts for nearly 80% of the federal government’s fuel consumption.

Some of this is because the U.S military owns a lot of property—and has a lot of buildings to heat and power. In 2018, the Defense Department had some 585,000 facilities, spread over 27 million acres in 160 different countries. Each of these buildings emit greenhouse gases; in 2013, Crawford’s report found, the Pentagon building itself emitted more than 24,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Crawford found that installations account for about a third of Defense Department energy consumption. But the overall number has slowly decreased over the last decade, in large part due to energy initiatives across the service branches.

 

The vast majority of military emissions come from operations—moving people and things around. The workhorse equipment needed to accomplish this task, particularly when it’s built to withstand combat, can be notoriously inefficient, Crawford’s report notes. Even nonarmored vehicles guzzle gas: A Humvee gets between four and eight miles per gallon. But by far, the most fuel-thirsty equipment in the military is aircraft. In fact, of the 100 million gallons of fuel the Defense Logistics Agency bought in 2018, about 70 million gallons were jet fuel.

But the United States’ reporting of military fuel consumption omits much of the fuel used to power aircraft and ships, particularly those operating overseas. The government’s own description of how it calculates international military transportation fuel for greenhouse gas emissions specifies that all Army and most Marine Corps fuel, and any fuel delivered outside of the United States, not be counted. This leads to huge gaps in reporting, Crawford says.

“You have to count it,” Crawford says. “Jet fuel is the biggest greenhouse gas from the military.”

Take the F-35, DOD’s controversial replacement for the F-16. The new plane burns more fuel than its predecessor: about 5,600 liters of fuel per hour, versus 3,500 liters per hour for the F-16, according to the newspaper Dagsavisen in Norway, where environmentalists have protested the purchase of the planes. Crawford calculated that the Air Force’s version of the plane, the F-35A, gets about 2.37 gallons per nautical mile. Note that’s not miles per gallon—that’s 2.37 gallons of fuel burned for every mile traveled. On a single tank of gas, one plane can produce almost 28 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The United States plans to buy close to 2,500 of the planes, with the expectation that they’ll fly until at least 2070.

Military equipment is purchased with the understanding that it will be around for a long time, which critics argue contributes to the difficulty of reducing military emissions.

“They can’t just switch off [the F-35 program],” says Oliver Belcher, a professor at Durham University who has studied military emissions by tracking Defense Logistics Agency fuel purchases. “Despite these sort of pronouncements to green the military and all the rest of it, every major weapon system developed, from fighter jets to aircraft carriers to you name it, is extremely carbon-intensive. … Weapons systems lock in certain carbon-intensive technologies.”

Part of the difficulty in tracking military emissions is there are so many moving parts. A military is a sprawling, bureaucratic apparatus, with people and things constantly going in different directions.

“When you’re in a theater of operations, there isn’t somebody there who’s accounting for every single bit of, this Humvee goes here, and that Humvee goes there,” Belcher says. “[It’s] extremely difficult to keep track of.”

Belcher’s research works to develop better methodologies for tracking and estimating military emissions. He’s not the only one. Last summer, in its climate change action plan, NATO announced that for the first time, it would develop a way to help member states calculate their military emissions. It also floated the possibility of helping member nations develop targets for military emissions reductions—though it noted that any reduction targets would be voluntary.

Weir was skeptical that the plan will include comprehensive emissions accounting. But, he says, any mention of reducing military emissions is welcome progress. “The fact is it’s on the agenda. It’s being talked about.”

Militaries themselves are taking notice. Last month, the head of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air ForceSir Mike Wigstonannounced plans for the service to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, a decade earlier than the United Kingdom has legally committed to reach net zero across the country. He highlighted sourcing jet fuel from more sustainable sources, like ethanol or recycled waste oil, and a zero-emissions aircraft flying by the end of the decade.

“I’ve been working on these issues for quite a long time,” Weir says. “The change in dynamic around this topic over the last 18 months has been pretty astonishing.”

In early November, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said President Joe Biden’s goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 would affect the Defense Department. “The department is committed to meeting the challenge, by making significant changes in our use of energy and increasing our investments in clean energy technology,” she said. Hicks highlighted a more sustainable supply chain, as well as a zero-emissions nontactical vehicle fleet and hybrid-electric tactical vehicles, as among the department’s goals. “As a nation and a department, we must do our part to mitigate climate change itself.”

At the beginning of November, as world leaders met in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit, Crawford, Belcher, Weir, and Cottrell, along with other academics and activists, gathered in an Arctic basecamp tent in the city for a panel discussion on the state of military emissions and to launch a new website dedicated to corralling disparate emissions reporting. The site pulls government reporting on countries’ military emissions, as well as data like gross domestic product and military expenditure, into one database to make comparisons between countries easier and to show more clearly the state of reporting.

Although military emissions were not on the formal agenda at the United Nations meeting, more than 200 civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, signed on to the Conflict and Environment Observatory’s call for governments to commit to meaningful emissions reductions ahead of the summit. During protests at COP26, climate activists called out the U.S. military specifically for its role in climate change.

“Not only have Western-induced wars led to the spikes in the carbon emissions, they have led to use of depleted uranium and they have caused poisoning of air and water,” Ayisha Siddiqa, a Pakistani climate activist, told a crowd during a youth protest.

“What we’re trying to do at COP26 is really get this on the agenda for COP27,” Belcher says.

Belcher and Crawford say the military is taking the threat of climate change seriously, and they acknowledge some of its green initiatives. But they argue that in the absence of reporting requirements, there’s a lack of real accountability. That makes it easy to avoid confronting some of the tougher questions about military operations and climate change—things like continued investment in carbon-intensive technologies, or “national security” as an automatic trump card.

But in the face of a global crisis, not thinking through those trade-offs head-on is a mistake, Crawford says. “You have to start questioning everything,” she says. “We don’t have time to have unquestioned assumptions.”

This War Horse feature was reported by Sonner Kehrt, edited by Kelly Kennedy, fact-checked by Ben Kalin, and copy-edited by Mitchell Hansen-Dewar. Kehrt is based in California. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired Magazine, The Verge, and other publications. She studied government at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and served for five years as a Coast Guard officer before earning a master’s in democracy studies from Georgetown University and a master’s of journalism degree from UC Berkeley. 

Contact DNR Today to Protect US from PFAS related Forever Chemicals

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has begun to draft rules to establish state PFAS standards for drinking water. Data, scientific evidence and community testimony around PFAS raises the alarm for strong and immediate action on proposed rules for drinking water and surface water standards. Our groundwater, Starkweather Creek, the Yahara chain of lakes and our fish in and around Madison are already contaminated with PFAS thousands of times the anticipated water standard.

WE ARE ASKING THAT YOU WRITE DNR STAFF AND SUPPORT THE ADOPTION OF NEW PFAS DRINKING WATER STANDARDS.

By this Wednesday, December 8th, please register your support for Board Order DG-24-19 to revise chapter NR 809 and adopt new drinking water maximum contaminant levels for PFAS substances. (More details about the rule and processdetailed Board Order DB-24-19


Write to:

Adam Deweese, Water Supply Specialist

Bureau of Drinking and Ground Water

C/O DG/5

PO Box 7921

Madison, WI 53707-7921


Email – DNRNR809Comments@wisconsin.gov

Background In order to establish standards for PFAS, the DNR will need to revise the NR 809 regulations, the Safe Drinking Water Standard. The DNR already held a public meeting on December 1st. Many state citizens commented during this virtual meeting. They said:

  • Six of twelve wells in Eau Claire were closed due to high levels of PFAS, chemicals used in many products including food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). PFAS contamination in Madison is largely due to decades of fire-fighting training at Truax Field using foam containing PFAS.

  • An OB/GYN physician presented evidence that PFAS and PFOA, lipophilic substances, are not only found but concentrated in breast milk. She called it “alarming.” Other documented adverse health effects of PFAS in drinking water include decreased response of antibodies to vaccines, low birth weight, testicular cancer and thyroid cancer.

  • A resident of Marinette called for amending NR 809, “to prevent the slow poisoning of the people of Wisconsin from municipal water systems.”

The next step in the rulemaking timeline is the DNR Board meeting on January 25-26, 2022, where they will consider adoption of the rule.

For more information, visit: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/calendar/hearing/50806

Thank you, thank you!
For safe water and skies,
Lance, Anne, Tom, Vicki and all the folks at Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin

Over 500 Join in Parade Opposing War Profiteers & F-35 Weapons Threatening Madison

Wisconsin State Journal  |  Saturday, February 29, 2020  | 
*Headline – Brad Geyer of VFP-Madison

Picture by Paul McMahon

Veterans for Peace-Madison Statement in Support of Opposition of F-35’s

“A chant of “take your planes and go away” grew in intensity as several hundred protesters temporarily blocked Anderson Street near Madison Area Technical College early Saturday afternoon.

A passing driver honked along to the beat, adding to the festive atmosphere. Keeping pace with swinging big-band music from the Forward Marching Band, protesters of all ages, including whole families, held signs reading “Noisy polluting jets,” “Tell the truth,” “No nukes,” and simply, “No!” 

The march was organized by the Safe Skies Clean Water Coalition, a grassroots organization that opposes basing a squadron of $90 million F-35 fighter jets at Truax Field in Madison. The protesters peacefully marched from the intersection of Anderson and Wright streets to outside the base of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing.

Steve Lyrene, of Madison, said he joined the protest because he believes the planes would be “noisy and polluting” and a symbol of “America’s aggression and warlike presence.”

“That’s not what Madison is,” he said. “We’re not a warlike people, and we don’t want to push people out of established housing.”

 

 

 

It isn’t just the noise that concerns opponents of the F-35s. The Safe Skies coalition has decried the potential environmental impacts of construction in areas contaminated with hazardous PFAS chemicals; the cost of the F-35s relative to domestic needs such as education and employment; the capability of the planes to deliver nuclear payloads; and the potential displacement of low-income families and people of color who live close to Truax Field.

Picture by Paul McMahon

Madison remains the top choice among five Air Guard bases under consideration, despite impacts to local housing and the environment outlined in a final environmental impact statement released Feb. 19.

Those in favor of basing the F-35s in Madison, including the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, say the squadron would boost the local economy, create dozens of jobs, and keep the 115th Fighter Wing and its estimated $99 million annual economic impact at Truax Field.

Ald. Grant Foster, whose 15th District would be one of the most affected by increased noise at Truax Field, was watching the protest march from the opposite sidewalk. For the second time, he and Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District, will introduce a resolution opposing the F-35s during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Foster said. The resolution will likely be up for discussion during the council’s March 17 meeting.

“I don’t see how anybody can stand by and say this is a good idea, based on the final (environmental impact statement),” Foster said.

Foster said he was somewhat disappointed by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s recent statement about the F-35s — specifically, that where they will be based is a federal decision, not a local one.

That’s why some protesters expressed feeling like wheels are turning somewhere out of reach.

 

“I get that impression,” Lyrene said. “There’s this sense of powerlessness, like we don’t have a voice. It’s sad that people aren’t being listened to. But that’s why we’re doing this — to make our voices heard.”

Vicki Berenson, a member of Clean Skies, doesn’t believe the F-35s are a done deal.

“It’s totally not a foregone conclusion,” she said. “We just don’t know what the answer will be.”

The final environmental impact statement was published in the Federal Register on Friday. After a 30-day review period ending in late March, a final decision will be issued by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett.

Find the background data and facts on our concerns at Safe Skies Website


Photographs marked are from Paul McMahon

Heartland Images Photography,  4317 Tokay Blvd

Madison WI  53711 608-215-5031 (cell)

Photos:  www.flickr.com/photos/heartlandimages

Bio:  www.linkedin.com/in/heartlandimages

Hundreds march on Truax Field to protest basing F-35s in Madison


Veterans for Peace-Madison stands with Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin and the concerned citizens engaged in the struggle. We oppose F-35’s coming to Madison, we oppose F-35’s anywhere and we oppose the war machine and its crimes. 

We oppose the racism and systemic racism that forces brown, black, natives and the poor to sacrifice their health and quality of life so that corrupt politicians can enrich the billionaire owners of Lockheed Martin and the corporate rulers connected to the Chamber of Commerce: US Chamber and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.  We oppose the effect that these jets and the military will have on children. 

We must not allow the pollution of our water and soil to continue while the US government avoids accountability for around 80 years of PFAS forever chemical pollution and burn pits. This has poisoned much of Monona and Madison’s groundwater.

The F-35A, is a combination stealth fighter and bomber and can carry several B61 nuclear bombs with a range of less than one kiloton of explosive mayhem to 50 kilotons. That seems to be a lot of environmental impact, when compared to the 12-kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Is the hundreds of billions dollar cost of this latest child of the military-industrial complex worth it? As a low-flying stealth bomber capable of carrying nukes, it is an extremely risky and potentially destabilizing war machine in an already unstable world, whether you consider the Middle East, the near east, or the far east. One error in deciphering a tense situation could set off a nuclear tit-for-tat that would produce the worst environmental impact statement of all.

One only has to read nuclear war planner Dan Ellsberg’s recent “The Doomsday Machine” to learn of the horrors American cities could experience, and that we have been living on the brink.

The Pentagon has hyped the F-35 as a “computer that happens to fly,” and Lockheed Martin says there are 8 million lines of software code which control weapons deployment, communications, radar and flight controls. Given the extent of computer hacking continuously going on, what could anyone have to fear with a flying computer carrying nuclear weapons?

Veterans for Peace works to end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, and to abolish war as an instrument of national policy. We do not want to see nuclear-enabled stealth fighter bombers stationed here in Madison — or anywhere, for that matter. 

The cost of F-35 fighter jets, Lockheed Martin calls it the “F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” is phenomenal and will be paid by taxpayers. A recent book – Preventing War and Promoting Peace: A Guide for Health Professionals – tells that Lockheed Martin claims that parts of the F-35 are “built in forty-five states.” That makes it possible for politicians across the U.S. to claim that the F-35 and, therefore, the defense industry, will produce jobs everywhere. Compared to needed civilian jobs that could be funded for much less taxpayer money, the sum for F-35s is enormous and the jobs to be produced are few.

Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor for F-35s, and “…the world’s largest defense contractor,” according to the book, edited by William Wiist and Shelley White.

With a (current) price tag of $1.4 trillion per plane…[F-35] has become the most expensive weapon system in history…punctuated by reports of one malfunction after another, from flaws in the fuel tanks that made the planes vulnerable to lightning-caused fires, to criticism of its maneuverability….”

The F-35 program is projected to use most of the U.S. budget for aircraft through 2030, the authors write.

The size of the US military machine is massive and currently causes more violence than it prevents. The US has far more bases, jets, aircraft carriers than anyone. Our military spending is more than the next seven nations combined. We do not need F-35’s for defense. This is war profiteering and imperialism.

None of the effects on human beings were improved in the final Environmental Impact Statement, in fact, the US government made no effort to alleviate the impacts. The money is there to protect people, the choice is made to serve the war profiteers and harm the people.

For Peace & Justice,

Bradley J. Geyer