For years, Pentagon officials have been discussing, assessing and reporting on climate change.
They consider its implications for imperialist military tactics and strategy. They cite the possibilities of mass migration due to water and food shortages. They stress the need to prepare to deal with possible mass uprisings. They’ve written reports that assess the vulnerability of their military installations to extreme weather events – drought, flooding, wildfires, etc.
But like the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone pretends not to notice, one pertinent fact gets omitted from every discussion, report or study by the top military brass: that the U.S. military itself is by far the single worst polluter in the world.
Many studies over the last decade rate countries based on how much their economy contributes to the rising amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. In 2016, the U.S. was the third largest polluter behind Saudi Arabia and Australia, emitting 15 metric tons per capita.
But greenhouse gases take decades or even centuries to dissipate. Historical records kept by the World Resources Institute show that since 1850, the U.S. and Europe are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the heat-trapping contaminants currently in our atmosphere.
But many contemporary studies exclude some or all of the emissions caused by armed forces.
How bad is the pollution from the U.S. military? The information is not easy to get. The authors of a study called “U.S. Military Pollution”, published on TheEcologist.org, point to the efforts of the U.S. Department of Defense to conceal information and resist any restrictions:
”It’s no coincidence that U.S. military emissions tend to be overlooked in climate change studies. It’s very difficult to get consistent data from the Pentagon and across U.S. government departments.
“In fact, the United States insisted on an exemption for reporting military emissions in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This loophole was closed by the Paris Accord, but with the Trump administration due to withdraw from the accord in 2020, this gap will return.
“Our study is based on data retrieved from multiple Freedom of Information Act requests.”
It isn’t only CO2 emissions. Mint Press News reported that the Defense Department is responsible for more toxic waste than the five largest U.S.-based chemical companies combined.
Pentagon’s environmental racism
The military is guilty of leaving toxic waste behind in various forms: contaminating drinking water with perchlorates and other components of jet fuel; the horrors of depleted uranium, used in Iraq and other countries attacked by the imperialist military, that has radiated the ground and air, causing cancer rates to spike; nuclear tests that displaced entire populations and destroyed islands in the Bikini Atoll and destroyed First Nations lands in Nevada; mining for uranium that poisoned Navajo lands in the Black Hills; the mass destruction of the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico – the list goes on and on….