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The Pentagon’s new climate change policy does not address the military’s contribution to climate change, says researcher Tamara Lorincz

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ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.

On Monday, 13 October, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made a speech at the the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Peru, where he described how the Pentagon was preparing to deal with national security issues arising from climate change. He said the following:

“Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’ … because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we already confront today–from infectious disease to armed insurgencies–and to produce new challenges in the future.”

“These climate trends will clearly have implications for our militaries. A higher tempo and intensity of natural disasters could demand more support for our civil authorities, and more humanitarian assistance and relief. Our coastal installations could be vulnerable to rising shorelines and flooding, and extreme weather could impair our training ranges, supply chains, and critical equipment. Our militaries’ readiness could be tested, and our capabilities could be stressed.”

“Drawing on these assessments, we will integrate climate change considerations into our planning, operations, and training.”

From Hagel’s speech to the DOD’s new study, called 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, what’s absent is any discussion of the carbon emissions of the U.S. military and plans to change the role that it plays in fueling climate change.

Joining us now to discuss this is Tamara Lorincz. Tamara is a senior researcher with the International Peace Bureau, a Rotary International world peace fellow from 2013 to 2014, and she serves on the board of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. She’s also the author of a recent report titled Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization: Reducing Militarism and Military Expenditures to Invest in the UN Green Climate Fund and to Create Low-Carbon Economies and Resilient Communities.

Thanks for joining us, Tamara.


WORONCZUK: So Hagel seems to be saying that the policies that the Pentagon will be [incompr.] further militarization and military preparedness to deal with national security threats and climate change. What’s your response to his remarks?

LORINCZ: Well, that’s right. The Secretary of Defense is concerned about how climate change is going to have an impact on the U.S. military. So the roadmap that he’s just introduced in Peru gives a bit more detail to what the Pentagon is going to do to deal with the climate crisis.

But as it relates to the military, so the military has already acknowledged that climate change is going to be a problem for the military in its 2010 and 2014 quadrennial defense review. But in this new road map, the secretary of defense is just giving a bit more detail about how the U.S. military will adapt to the climate crisis. And it’s really just a document that says how the U.S. military will deal with operations, with training, with its supply train, and with infrastructure and how those aspects of the military will be affected by climate change, and it gives no information at all about how the U.S. military has been contributing itself to the climate crisis.

WORONCZUK: Well, your research has actually look at the contribution of U.S. military to carbon emissions. Can you give us some statistics and facts on this matter?

LORINCZ: So the U.S. military itself acknowledges that it is the largest institutional consumer of oil. And the burning of fossil fuels, the burning of petroleum products, oil, is causing the climate crisis. And the U.S. military spends approximately $17 billion on oil, and it needs this oil to fuel its fighter jets, its vehicles, and to power its military bases domestically and internationally.

The problem, though, is that the U.S. military emissions and, actually, the military emissions of all countries’ militaries outside their borders are not included in the national greenhouse gas reporting for countries.

WORONCZUK: Why is that?

LORINCZ: It’s something called international aviation and bunker fuels. This is the fuel that’s used by fighter jets and by warships, for example, outside of state borders. So those military emissions are not included in the national greenhouse gas inventory reporting. And the reason why those emissions are not included is because of the lobbying of the United States in the mid-1990s around the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. delegation at the Kyoto negotiations was able to secure an exemption for military emissions, these international aviation and bunker fuels, and it was also able to secure, under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change guidelines, a confidentiality clause so that it actually doesn’t need to report all of its emissions and it doesn’t have to dis-aggregate its emissions.

So right now countries need to abide by the UN Framework Convention guidelines on reporting for greenhouse gases in all different types of sectors, so for transportation, for energy, for buildings, etc. But the military is not a separate category, and the military has these exemptions. It is required to report its energy use in fuel use domestically, but not internationally. And the United States military is operating all over the world, and all of those greenhouse gas emissions that it’s emitting around the world in its wars overseas, in its thousand bases overseas, those emissions are exempt from its reporting.

WORONCZUK: And I imagine, then, that if all these are exempt from the national tally, that this must have a significant effect on the figures that are used to make things like emission targets.

LORINCZ: Absolutely. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the three working group assessment reports that have just been released over the last ten months, none of those three documents refer to military emissions. And the calculations and the analysis that the intergovernmental panel on climate change is using, it exempts these emissions. So it’s not a full analysis of the emissions and the projections of the IPCC going forward, the kind of reductions that we need for greenhouse gases. They are not including the military emissions. So the forward projections for the IPCC are not adequate, because they’re not including a big bulk of the emissions that are coming right now from the military. It’s not just the U.S. military. It’s–all countries’ militaries have these exemptions. And so the kind of reductions that we need to see for the future are even deeper than what the IPCC is saying. We need to–the military needs to be a sector that the IPCC is considering and is considering as it’s part of its decarbonization pathways. And right now it’s not. And it must be, because we will not be on track to stabilize the climate, to limit the increase in global mean temperatures by two degrees if we don’t include the military. The military emissions, if they continue to be exempt, will keep us off track, and we will not be able to stabilize the climate.

WORONCZUK: Yeah, and this is an important point to make, because from the climate scientists that we’ve interviewed on The Real News, they’ve all–have basically said that the IPCC reports are conservative in nature; but the point being, do you think that this issue of military emissions being left off of the national tallies, do you think it will be brought up at COP 21 summit in Paris?

LORINCZ: For the last ten years there’s evidence that nongovernmental organizations, that civil society organizations, they have tried to push the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat, they have tried to push the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists to [include] military emissions in the work that they’re doing in the analysis in these conference of the party negotiations. There has been effort by civil society to get the international community to confront military emissions, but they have not been successful. And we do not expect that this year at the COP 20 meeting in Peru or next year at the COP 21 meeting in France, we do not expect that the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change will put on their official agenda the issue of military emissions. It is going to be up to global civil society to mobilize, to unify together, and to force the Secretariat and to force the IPCC to confront this issue. And state governments must confront this issue. We can no longer allow military emissions to be exempted anymore, because we will never be able to get the stabilization of the climate if we continue with these exemptions.

WORONCZUK: Okay. And, Tamara, let’s say you could advise Chuck Hagel; you know, in an imaginary world, let’s say you could advise Chuck Hagel on this matter of the military’s carbon emissions. What policy recommendations would you make to him?

LORINCZ: It was Chuck Hagel as senator in the mid 1990s that led the Senate campaign to prevent Congress from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. He was working at the time with the defense community, with the foreign affairs community, to kill the Kyoto Protocol for the U.S., in the U.S. has never ratified it. And, actually, even 16 years ago, Hagel in many speeches and in many documents, denied the veracity of the science of climate change. So he has prevented progress from being made on the climate crisis and he has been the one that has undermined efforts to have collaborate internationally on dealing with the climate crisis.

But today, this week in Peru, he’s telling the other ministers of defense in the region, oh, well, we would like to collaborate with you on the issue of climate change. But he’s been the one that’s been most obstructive and has prevented United States from being a collaborative party on dealing with the climate crisis. So I would actually called Chuck Hagel to account for his record on climate change.

And in terms of policy recommendations now, the U.S. government, the international community, has to face the fact that if we are going to be serious about climate change mitigation and adaptation, we must at the same time be serious about peace and disarmament. We must demilitarize foreign policy, because we will not be able to stay within the carbon budget that has been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We simply are not going to be able to maintain a military, this huge military of the United States, and all of these wars, and still protect the climate. It’s just not going to be possible.

So the U.S. government and the secretary of defense, if they really are concerned about the climate crisis or if they’re concerned about future generations, they’re going to have to get serious about demilitarization.

WORONCZUK: Okay. Tamara Lorincz, senior researcher at the International Peace Bureau.

Thank you so much for joining us.

LORINCZ: Thank you very much.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Tamara Lorincz is a Rotary Peace Fellow 2013-2014 and pursuing an MA in International Politics and Security Studies at the University of Bradford. She is currently doing research for the International Peace Bureau. Tamara is on the national board of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and on the international advisory committee of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. She is also a member of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom. Tamara has organized many peace campaigns and events in Canada. She also writes frequently on Canadian foreign and defence policy issues. In 2003, Tamara graduated with a combined Masters of Business and Law degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 2005, she was the co-recipient of the International Keep Space for Peace award in New York. In 2012 and 2013, Tamara was invited to speak on military spending and military sexual violence on NGO panels at the UN Commission on the Status of Women Conferences. Tamara was most recently employed as the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Environmental Network. She co-founded the East Coast Environmental Law Association and served on the national board of Ecojustice Canada from 2006-2012. She is very active in the community working on peace, environmental, social justice, women and children's initiatives. She is married and has two little boys.