Fueling the Fire

We are experiencing a catastrophic feedback loop.


Oil and energy have been an underlying contention of global war for centuries.

During World War II, the Allies highest priority bombing targets in Nazi-occupied territory were oil refineries. More recently, the United States has spent $8 trillion from 1974 – 2010 protecting the strait of Hormuz, from which 30% of the world’s oil is shipped daily through the Persian Gulf (Roger Stern). Somewhat ironically, now that the oil has been consumed and the associated carbon emitted into the atmosphere, a new crisis has emerged.

“For the Department of Defense, this  (climate crisis) is a mission reality, not a political debate. The scientific forecast is for more Arctic ice melt, more sea level rise, more intense storms, more flooding from storm surge, and more drought. Therein is a recipe for the kind of instability that will inevitably involve the United States in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, or indeed, in a regional conflict.”

– Mark Wright, Pentagon, U.S. Department of Defense (May 2014)

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Climate crisis is a direct threat to the U.S. Department of Defense.

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The U.S. Department of Defense is a direct threat to the climate crisis.

And thus the feedback loop endures.


THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF ENERGY AND SECURITY:

The global climate crisis poses a multitude of risks to the U.S. Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation. Yet, somewhat paradoxically, in order to fuel the fire, the U.S. Department of Defense consumes an excessive amount of energy, directly intensifying the current climate crisis.

The simple truth is that climate change is no longer a future environmental threat of consideration. Rather, our current climate crisis postulates an immediate threat to national security, such that inaction will likely prove disastrous.

U.S. military and intelligence agencies are increasingly monitoring and preparing for how, when, and where the consequences of a warmer planet will collide with national security, requiring the eventual need to deploy American troops to weather-torn lands. Inside and outside the DoD, many experts agree U.S. national security already is being tested by massive unrest, revolts, and humanitarian calamities triggered, in part, by climate change. – NBC News.

Climate change inflames global crises: hunger, poverty, infectious disease, resource deficiencies, social tensions, weak political institutions, instability, armed conflict – the list endures.

Massive floods, threatening water shortages, severe droughts, ocean acidification, and other extreme weather events are drastically affecting the availability of, and competition for, much-needed resources. Extreme weather events are threatening the infrastructure of our military bases and installations, as well as the nation’s overflight, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, delivered a speech delineating the severe threats that climate change poses on national security. Kerry stated that the State Department, effective immediately, will integrate analysis of climate change and security into all facets of U.S. foreign policy.

Kerry described the affect that climate change has on civil war, explaining how just before Syria’s 2011 civil war, the country experienced the worst drought on record, prompting 1.5 million people to move from Syrian farms into Syrian cities, exacerbating political unrest. Kerry recognized that while the crisis in Syria was certainly not caused by climate change, the drought heightened the brutality.

Unless the world meets the urgency of this moment, the horrific refugee situation we’re facing today will pale in comparison to the mass migrations that intense droughts, sea-level rise, and other impacts of climate change are likely to bring about. – J. Kerry.

The Pentagon agrees.

In July of this year, the Department of Defense released a report acknowledging the severity of climate change as a hurdle to security.

The Department of Defense’s primary responsibility is to protect national security interests around the world. It is in this context that the department must consider the effects of climate change – such as sea level rise, shifting climate zones, and more frequent and intense severe weather events – and how these effects could impact national security.

– The United States Department of Defense.


THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW.

“Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act – and we need to act now.” – U.S. President Barack Obama, June 2015.

Last week, U.S. president Barack Obama rejected the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, terminating a seven-year battle between oil titans and Democrats. This decision comes at an opportune time, as the COP-21 Paris Negotiations will convene in one month.

We know that human activity is changing the climate. We know that human ingenuity can do something about it. We’re even starting to see that we might actually have the political will to succeed. So the time to heed the critics and cynics is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. The deniers are increasingly alone, on their own shrinking island. – President Barack Obama.

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As the single largest consumer of energy in the United States, the U.S. Department of Defense is inflaming the global climate crisis.

Consider the following.

The United States Department of Defense operates over half a million aircrafts, vessels, and vehicles, consuming more energy than 3/4s of the countries in the world.

OPPORTUNITY ON THE HORIZON:

The DoD is positioned to become the single most important driver of the cleantech revolution in the United States. In particular, military investment in renewable energy and related technologies can help bridge the “valley of death” that lies between research & development and full commercialization of these technologies. – Clint Wheelock, Pike Research.

Recognizing this truth, the U.S. military has taken drastic strides to reducing their use of energy and embracing cleaner methods.

DoD’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Initiatives

U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives

Progress has been made.

But it’s not enough.

CHALLENGING THE BOUNDARIES OF HUMAN POTENTIAL:

man on the moon

On May 25th, 1961, Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy made a bold assertion of sending a man to the moon.

Low and behold, eight years later on July 20th, 1969, the seemingly impossible became possible when Neil Armstrong ventured forth onto the moon.

Without the military industrial complex, we would not have nuclear energy. Without the military, we would not have the Internet, Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, microwaves – the list of inventions continues.

The world has tremendously benefited from the military, not only the sacrifice and compassion these soldiers have put forth in protecting the nation, but also from the longevity of the innovations such patriotism has produced.

Following the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973-1974, the United States established the 700 million barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserves, colossal salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico that are now home to emergency supplies of light oil. Currently, China is quickly filling their own reserves. Other countries have followed suit. These salt caverns are testimony to the importance of oil to our national security. But, wouldn’t a program to accelerate renewable energy be equally as effective in reducing our reliance on imported oil? Perhaps the United States should take a play out of Germany’s book, as the Germans, in response to World War II, developed synthetic fuel. If the U.S. DoD could finish this promising research and scale synthetic fuel out of biomass, natural gas, and other low carbon-intensive materials, the implications could be tremendous.

I therefore throw down the gauntlet to the Department of Defense.

We already know the ability of the DoD to create and innovate. Is it possible a DoD renewable energy invention could mitigate the feedback loop, enabling protection of our nation, and assuaging the global climate crisis?

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