Graphic: Medium

Senator Elizabeth Warren yesterday released a detailed plan on how the military can lead the nation in meeting the challenge of climate change.  Warren explained in a blog on Medium, that the plan is ambitious but will not impede readiness, saying “[w]e don’t have to choose between a green military and an effective one.”  There are 5 main elements to the plan; it would:

  • achieve net zero carbon emissions for all its non-combat bases and infrastructure by 2030;
  • create a dedicated source of funding to adapt our bases in the United States and around the world;
  • ask contractors to achieve net zero carbon emissions and those who don’t will pay a fee of one percent of the total value of the contract  into a dedicated fund that will invest directly in more resilient military infrastructure;
  • appoint a senior official within the Defense Department and each of the military services to ensure that the military is prioritizing the climate threat; and
  • invest billions of dollars into a new, ten-year research and development program at the Defense Department focused on microgrids and advanced energy storage.

Senator Warren rightly recounts several key parts of the world that are destabilized due to climate change and elevated security risks such as highly infectious diseases and terrorism.  In sharp contrast to Secretary of State Pompeo’s assessment, for example, Warren says that the Arctic’s melting ice has created a greater chance for competition and conflict over access to these waters and natural resources, and in Southeast Asia, she points to sea level rise that is causing mass migrations increasing the risk of ethnic and political strife.  And she notes that at home, climate change is already impacting our military’s training, equipment, supply chains, construction, maintenance, and deployments.

Why This Matters: Climate change is real and the military knows it. Just look at the latest scary statistics — temperatures in the Russian Arctic reached 84 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday, and  CO2 levels are the highest they have ever been in human history.  And as the past year’s devastating floods, fires, and powerful storms demonstrated, the military must find a way to continue its operations through all of those destructive disruptions in order to accomplish the mission.  The Trump Administration is ignoring this climate threat and worse yet, is refusing to agree to a disaster relief bill in Congress that would help to pay for needed repairs at military installations simply because the President refuses to fund more disaster assistance for Puerto Rico.  So Warren’s plan comes at a key time and sets her apart from the other Democratic candidates by elevating climate as a national security issue.

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