New research published in our journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, has revealed that the US military is one of the largest climate polluters in history, producing more greenhouse gas emissions than most medium-sized countries.
Carried out by geographers from Durham University and Lancaster University, the study looked at the carbon ‘boot-print’ of the US Defense Logistics Agency-Energy (DLA-E), the primary buyer of fossil fuels for the US military. Using Freedom of Information requests, the researchers compiled a database of DLA-E records for all known land, sea and aircraft fuel purchases, as well as fuel contracts made with US operators abroad.
The data revealed that the US military purchased over 269,000 barrels of oil a day, making it the single largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels on the globe. If the US military were a country, it would be the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and comparable to Peru or Portugal in terms of its liquid fuel consumption.
Co-author of the research, Dr Patrick Bigger from Lancaster University’s Environment Centre said: “The US military has long understood it is not immune from the potential consequences of climate change – recognising it as a threat multiplier that can exacerbate other threats – nor has it ignored its own contribution to the problem.
“Yet its climate policy is fundamentally contradictory – confronting the effects of climate change while remaining the largest single institutional consumer of hydrocarbons in the world, a situation it is locked into for years to come because of its dependence on existing aircraft and warships for open-ended operations around the globe.”
The research highlighted that the Air Force is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, emitting the carbon dioxide equivalent of 13,000 kilo tonnes – almost double that of the US Navy’s 7,800 kilo tonnes. As well as using the most polluting types of fuel, these two branches of the US military are also the largest purchasers of fuel.
Dr Oliver Belcher from Durham University’s Geography Department and co-author of the paper, said: “Our research demonstrates that to account for the US military as a major climate actor, you must understand the logistical supply chain that makes its acquisition and consumption of hydrocarbon-based fuels possible.”
You can read the full research paper in our international, peer-reviewed journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.
The research has been covered in a wide range of news outlets including:
Times of India
Quotations taken from Lancaster University’s news piece (20 June 2019) on the research: US military consumes more hydrocarbons than most countries – with a massive hidden impact on the climate
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