U.S. Army releases plan to address climate change

The U.S. Army unveiled a new strategy Tuesday for dealing with global disruptions caused by climate change, which it says "endangers national and economic security."

"The time to address climate change is now. The effects of climate change have taken a toll on supply chains, damaged our infrastructure, and increased risks to Army Soldiers and families due to natural disasters and extreme weather," Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth wrote in the introduction to the report.

"The Army must adapt across our entire enterprise and purposefully pursue greenhouse gas mitigation strategies to reduce climate risks. If we do not take action now, across our installations, acquisition and logistics, and training, our options to mitigate these risks will become more constrained with each passing year."

Specifically, the report makes the case that the likelihood of armed conflict will grow around the world as temperatures continue to rise and the competition for resources increases.

"The risk will rise even more where climate effects compound social instability, reduce access to basic necessities, undermine fragile governments and economies, damage vital infrastructure and lower agricultural production," the report states.

Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division gather for prayer before boarding a C-17 transport plane for deployment to Eastern Europe amid escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia.
U.S. Army soldiers gather for prayer at Fort Bragg, N.C., before boarding a C-17 transport plane for deployment to Eastern Europe on Feb. 6. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Areas of the world cited in the report include Middle Eastern countries like Syria, where drought is seen as having played a role in that country's brutal civil war, and the Arctic, where melting ice caps are poised to set off a scramble for resources.

Part of the Army plan includes making all military installations more self-sufficient in terms of energy and water needs, but it also calls for a sweeping transformation to sources of clean energy, switching to an all-electric fleet of noncombat vehicles by 2035 and for the development of electric combat vehicles by 2050.

A list of "immediate objectives" contained in the report lists priorities such as providing "100% carbon-pollution-free electricity for Army installations’ needs by 2030," and achieving a "50% reduction in [greenhouse gas] emissions from all Army buildings by 2032."

A 2019 report by Lancaster University found that the U.S. military is one of the world's biggest polluters. If it were a country, the report concluded, it would rank as the 47th in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Some Republicans in Congress who bristle at the idea that the federal government should spend money addressing climate change objected to the report.

An overturned tank in a damaged Khan Wazir street, facing Aleppo's historic citadel, then controlled by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
An overturned tank in Aleppo, Syria, in 2014. Some experts believe the Syrian civil war was caused in part by climate change-related drought conditions. (Rami Zayat/Reuters)

"First, the Biden administration used troops as critical race theory lab rats. Now President Biden wants to turn the Army into a climate change task force," Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CQ Roll Call. "Time and money spent indulging Democrats' political goals is time and money lost in the fight against America's enemies — and our enemies know it."

But Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee, praised the report as "an important step."

The Army's new report comes on the heels of the October release of the Department of Defense Climate Risk Analysis. In the foreword to that report, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called climate change an "existential threat."

"Climate change touches most of what this Department does, and this threat will continue to have worsening implications for U.S. national security," he wrote.

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