U.S. military is the biggest contributor to climate change


The Pentagon uses more petroleum per day than the aggregate consumption of 175 countries (out of 210 in the world)and generates more than 70 percent of total United States greenhouse gas emissions, based on rankings in the CIA World Factbook. “The U.S. Air Force burns through 2.4 billion gallons of jet fuel a year, all of it derived from oil,” reported an article in Scientific American. Since the start of the post-9/11 wars, U.S. military fuel consumption has averaged about 144 million barrels annually. That figure doesn’t include fuel used by coalition forces, military contractors, or the massive amount of fossil fuels burned in weapons manufacturing.

According to Steve Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International, “The Iraq war was responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from March 2003 through December 2007.” That’s more CO2e than 60 percent of all countries, and those figures are only from the first four years. We downsized the war in December 2011, but still haven’t left, so the U.S. invasion and 15 years of occupation likely has generated upward of 400 million metric tons of CO2e to date. The money misspent on that war—a war for oil, let’s not forget—could have purchased the planetary conversion to renewable energy. Just sit with that for a moment. Then stand up and get back to work, please.

We’ve got wind farms to build and pipelines to stop. We’ve got solar panels to install and water to protect. We need torchbearers from every tribe and nation to walk the green path and light the Eighth Fire . But to do so while continuing to feed the fossil-fueled military beast chewing up nearly 60 percent of the national budget is energy inefficient and environmentally self-defeating. We cannot cure this man-made cancer on the climate without addressing underlying causes. In order to achieve the massive systemic and cultural transformations required for mitigating climate change and advancing climate justice, we’re going to have to deal with the socially sanctioned, institutionalized violence perpetrated by U.S. foreign policy that is pouring fuel on the fire of global warming.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has the largest carbon footprint of any enterprise on the planet. The DoD is the single greatest manufacturer and disseminator of tools and toxins like Agent Orange and nuclear waste that are destructive to ecosystems. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. environmental disasters the EPA classifies as Superfund sites have been caused by the Pentagon, which is a primary polluter of U.S. waterways. There should be no surprise, then, that at least 126 military bases have contaminated water, causing cancer and birth defects in service members and their families. (So much for supporting the troops.)


We cannot continue the moral, spiritual, fiscal or environmental policy of benign neglect that underwrites the decimation of land, air and water around the world. That, my green friends, is the single most unsustainable policy on this nation’s books.

I know a lot of folks have decided not to speak out about war in order to avoid being labeled a traitor or accused of being anti-military. If we learn nothing else from the Iraq war—and it seems we have not—we learn that silence is a luxury we cannot afford when lives are on the line.The hands of the Doomsday Clock are two minutes from midnight . Life itself is on the line. It is time to find your voice.



One comment

  1. “…Wednesday, Brown University released a report revealing that the Department of Defense is “the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world.” According to the report, the DOD released approximately 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, between 2001 and 2017.

    Burning diesel and jet fuel for troop and weapons transport and usage causes 70% of the emissions, the report said.

    In other words, the same institution that has kept America at war since 2001 is not only killing people, but also the planet. As CNBC pointed out, “The findings showed that if the Pentagon was listed as a country, its emissions would make it the world’s 55th largest contributor of greenhouse gases”—bigger than Portugal or Sweden.”

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