Climate change and the military

Environmental concerns have never been bigger and better than it is today. The growing impact of climate change in the United States has finally reached a tipping point, where the country’s most potent leaders and economic investors have come out to voice their concerns about climate change. In particular, Bill Gates, Group CEO of Microsoft and Starbucks chief executive, Kevin Johnson have publicly addressed the need for corporate leaders to shift their focus from pure profit maximization to more environmentally friendly ways of doing business. These sturdy stands from global American leaders come midst the revelation that the total greenhouse gas (GHC) emission by the United States has significantly increased by 4.7% from 1990-2012 (Seneviratne et al.,. 2017). The impact of climate change is already being felt in the United States and experts project that, if greenhouse gases (GHC) are not reduced below the current levels, the impact will further be felt to level never experienced before by American civilization.

Root Causes

Even though the Earth’s climate naturally varies across different regions, leading scientists predicted more than a century ago that human-induced activities could one day theoretically warm the Earth surface beyond humans tolerance levels. According to Seinfeld and Pandis (2016), the presence of Greenhouse gases (GHG) in the Earth’s atmosphere permits the penetration of short wavelength radiation from the sun to reach the Earth’s surface. The Earth absorbs these radiations and re-emits then as long-wavelength radiations to the atmosphere. The presence of Greenhouse gases (GHG) traps the heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, a natural phenomenon often known as the “greenhouse effect.” Seinfeld and Pandis (2016) note that the natural presence of Greenhouse gases like methane (CH4), water vapour (H2O), nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and ozone (O3) in the atmosphere warms the Earth’s temperature to habitable levels.

Most scientists have concluded that the problem of climate change in the U.S. is primarily caused by the emission of Greenhouse gases from human activities. These toxic gases are produced from the production of electricity (mainly through burning of fossil fuels like coal), clearing of land to create room for agriculture and settlement, and exhaust fumes from transportation systems (ships, airplanes, vehicles, and trains). Additionally, continued dependence of fossil fuel in commercial and industrial activities especially in the manufacturing sector are expected to promote the emission of Greenhouse gases and induced climate change in the U.S. to level never experienced by human civilization (Hoegh-Guldberg & Bruno, 2010). Finally, climate change is caused by residential purposes, like how we handle waste and use certain products in our homes.  Of all the possible root causes of greenhouse gases, Seinfeld and Pandis (2016) argue that CO2 stemming from fossil fuel combustion is by far the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Seneviratneet et al.,.(2017), echoes this argument by noting “Carbon dioxide is responsible for the lion share of U.S. emissions with 82% of total emissions in 2012.”

Impacts

A wide range of uncertainty surrounds projections of impacts of climate change in the United States. There is a growing need for the involvement of the government in creating a sustainable environment in mitigating the environmental risks facing the country. However, if actions are not taken, there will inevitably be a significant climatic impact in the country, one that could potentially push the socio-economic and natural system past critical thresholds of tolerance. First, changes in rainfall patterns and higher temperatures expected as a result of climatic change will significantly reduce the already depleted water resources leading to increasing drought and famine in the country. Climatic change will also significantly impact vital economic drivers of the United States economic growth like the tourism industry. The United States is ranked as one of the global tourist destinations due to its plants’ and animals’ diversity, desertification caused by climatic changes could potentially reduce the region’s biodiversity and ecosystem, thus hampering growth in the tourism industry.

Additionally, an increase in ocean temperatures could potentially change the migratory patterns of marine animals and provide a conducive environment for the growth of harmful algae that kills marine mammals, fish, shellfish, and other animals (Hoegh-Guldberg & Bruno, 2010). The increases mortality rate of these sea creatures could negatively impact the economic well being of Americans who trade on these animals.  Besides, an increase in temperature and changes in rainfall patterns could potentially create a conducive environment for vectors of Chagas and malaria parasites to thrive and multiply. According to Wu et al.,(2016), dengue, Chagas, and malaria are common diseases in the United States, and increases in the number of these vectors could potentially increase the already high prevalence of these diseases in the country. Finally, Brzoska  (2012) argue that the impact of climate change has not spared anybody, including the armed forces. Military installations have been damaged by extreme weather, and many more marine installations and pieces of equipment are at risk from rising sea levels. Besides, the wake of looming droughts around the world will significantly influence the massive population movement, which could lay the groundwork for future conflict (Brzoska, 2012).

Competing Interpretations

Many scientists, corporate leaders, and policymakers have expressed their opinions that the current scientific pieces of evidence on climate change are enough proof to warrant action. Contrarily, a handful of sceptic economists, policy experts, scientists and industry groups have also expressed their opinion arguing that the issue of climate change has been blown out of proportion.  They have furiously offered counter-arguments on the real impact of potential climate change, its primary cause, and proposed policy solutions.  The scientific community have come out and clearly stated that human-induced activities are the primary cause of climate change in the United States. However, some sceptics in several climatic conferences and interviews have questioned the accuracy of the scientific findings.

They offer several possible causes for climate change in place of human-induced activities, including the Earth’s natural variability, the end of a “Little Ice age”,  increased period of solar activity, and possible some yet-to-be-identified reason. The skeptics’ argue that there are no scientific technologies that can accurately provide evidence to conclude that human activities are responsible for the current and projected climate change. Syun-Ichi Akasofu notes, “The world has no supercomputer that can accurately represent such a large system like the Earth with all its unknown processes. Therefore, scientists cannot accurately provide evidence to prove their hypothesis that human activity is the primary cause of climate change” (Aykut, Comby & Guillemot, 2012).

Other sceptics also say that the current climate change is not as bad as the media and environmentalist portray it. They argue that the media are fear-mongering alarmists who lack objectivity and hinder free speech on climate change. Some sceptics also argue that environmentalists are not genuine in their fight against climate change. Roper, Ganesh and Zorn (2016) believe that most environmentalists are using the impact of climate change to pursue their own agenda, one that places nature over human needs and means of survival. Furthermore, some sceptics’ degree with the scientific findings that global warming will lead to increased deaths in the United States. Hulme (2009) argues that global warming will instead increase agricultural productivity and reduce cold weather which in turn will significantly reduce mortality rates in the U.S. However, 2007 IPCC report discredited these arguments noting that the negative health impact of climate change outweighs these benefits.

Finally, some sceptics argue that the efforts of the United States government to reverse the impact of climate change are not economically feasible. Hulme (2009) notes that “climate change is like any other natural hazards, and its impact can only be mitigated by adaptation.”  That is, attempting to address climate change like cutting greenhouse gas emission is an expensive exercise that could cause more economic harm than environmental benefits. Despite these counter-arguments, journalists and environmentalist have maintained their position claiming that most of the vocal sceptics are on the payrolls of industrialists whose businesses are primarily responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases. They believe that sceptics argument are deliberately meant to overshadow the actual truth about climate change in the United States.

Policy Alternatives

Environmental policies in the United States are government actions at federal, state, and local level aimed at conserving the natural resources and protecting the environment.  Environmental policy at all national levels should include laws and policies addressing land conservation, waste management, air quality, water quality, wildlife conservation as well as chemical and oil spill. Additionally, an effective environmental policy should be in balance with the current public policy concerns like right for individuals to do business, economic growth and affordable energy. The United States has been at the forefront on the fight against climate change through numerous policies including Clean Air Act (CAA) passed in 1963, The Clean Water Act (CWA) passed in 1972,  Resource Conservation and Recovery Act passed in 1976, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) passed in 1980.

Legislation Option 1

According to Briggs (2010), the U.S. military is the single most significant institution in the world emitting more greenhouse gases to the environment. The U.S. military has a significant carbon footprint from its military bases spread globally in more than 69 nations. These military bases uses significant amount of electricity and fuel to manufacture and transport military equipments as well as personnel. Scott and Khan, (2016) argue that in 2007 the U.S. military ships, power generators, ammunition, aircraft and tanks together emitted more than 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. If it were a country, the U.S. military would be ranked 55th in greenhouse gas emissions.

To address these concerns, I would propose a Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act in the legislature. This proposal is meant to hold military contractors accountable to the objective of the 2015 Paris Agreement that stipulates emission of zero carbon emission from non-combat military bases and infrastructure by 2030. This proposal also calls for the use of clean energy in military research and infrastructure upgrades. This Actions will also be per the 2015 Paris Agreement of keeping the global temperature below a 2°C increase above pre-industrial temperatures. Finally, this proposal also allows the military to prioritize threats from climate change.

Legislation 2  

According to ( ) fossil fuel is the most significant contributor of greenhouse gases in the United States. Many industries in the U.S. rely on fossil fuel for the production of energy used in the manufacturing processes of goods. To address this problem I would propose a policy known as the Green Energy Act. This proposal will make it mandatory for factories to produce 70% of their energy from renewable sources of energy like the sun and the wind. The proposal will not only require the government to cushion the blow of fossil workers who lose their jobs but also create a massive search in demand for clean energy jobs. For this proposal to be realized, the government will be required to invest more than $400 billion in renewable energy research and development. This investment will help zero down the emission of greenhouse gases not only in the U.S. but also around the world.

Can

Legislation1

Political feasibility

Mitigating the impact of climate change has already cost the U.S. government more than enough. This proposal is meant to reduce the impact of climate change and therefore, has a high possibility of being supported by the current political structures in the country. This proposal is most likely to be endorsed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Veronica Escobar.

Furthermore, the Trumps administration has been keen on creating peaceful agreements with countries such as Vietnam, China, and Iran that had engaged the U.S. on political and economic wars. The government has already put measures to cut its cost on the substantial militarization projects aimed at protecting the interest of the United States both locally and international. As a result, there is a likelihood of President Trump signing this bill to become law. Finally, the public will support this proposal because it tries to mitigate some of the climate impacts that they face in their daily lives in the country.

 

Financial feasibility

This proposal is economically viable and only requires the Defense Department to include its budget proposal to the congress in order to provide the necessary funds to develop and implement the bill. The cost of implementing this policy will economically benefit the country than when no action is made. Furthermore, the implementation of this proposal will save the U.S. government a lot of public funds that they continuously use to mitigate problems resulting from climate change.

Practical feasibility

The implementation of this proposal will need the 2/3rd approval of the congress and the presidential assent to make it law. The practical challenge that might face this policy is the lack of inadequate funds for its full development and implementation. Furthermore, it could be logistically impossible to implement this proposal because the country is currently on an election mode.

Legislation 2

Politically

This policy proposal is aimed at reducing the carbon footprint that industries in the United States produce during their manufacturing process. An environmentally conscious leader like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Veronica Escobar will most likely support the proposal. However, the public support for this proposal will be controversial because some will support the bill while others will reject the bill. Those in support will more likely look at the bill in terms of its ability to mitigate the environmental issue affecting the country while those opposing the bill will likely base their argument on the high possibility of fossil fuel workers layoffs.  Also, President Trump has been keen on promoting the development of new sources of energy and would most likely approve this bill.

 

Financial feasibility

Since the adaptation planning and implementation of this proposal must be done across sectors at the national and local level, its implementation may attract increased budget allocation. Besides, the government needs to spend more than 400 billion dollars to carry out extensive research on the development of green energy. However, with the growing impact of climate change, the government will be willing to invest in this project for its actual realization. Additionally, it would be economically viable to implement this policy because it will save the government lots of funds used every year to medicate the impact of climate change.

Practical feasibility

The implementation of this proposal will need the 2/3rd approval of the congress and the presidential assent to make it law. The practical challenge that might face this policy is the lack of inadequate funds for its full development and implementation. Furthermore, it could be logistically impossible to implement this proposal because the country is currently on an election mode.

Should

Legislation Option 1

Owing to the current impact of climate change in the United States it would be beneficial for the country to adopt this policy because of its abilities to significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from military installations and pieces of equipment. Furthermore, this policy will discourage massive militarization which in turn could promote peace between the U.S. and its neighbouring countries. Finally, the implementation of this program does not require a substantial investment of public funds and is economically viable if implemented.

Legislation 2

Several kinds of research have demonstrated that industries are the leading producer of carbon dioxide, a gas dubbed as the primary component of greenhouse gases in the environment. This proposal aims at reducing the current carbon footprint from industries by at least 70% and deserves support from all political affiliations.  With the looming elections, it would best for political contestants to have second thoughts on this proposal based on the benefits it will bring to the United States.

 

 

References

Aykut, S. C., Comby, J. B., & Guillemot, H. (2012). Climate change controversies in French mass media 1990–2010. Journalism Studies13(2), 157-174.

Briggs, C. M. (2010). Environmental change, strategic foresight, and impacts on military power. ARMY WAR COLL CARLISLE BARRACKS PA.

Brzoska, M. (2012). Climate change and the military in China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Bulletin of the atomic scientists68(2), 43-54.

Hoegh-Guldberg, O., & Bruno, J. F. (2010). The impact of climate change on the world’s marine ecosystems. Science328(5985), 1523-1528.

Hulme, M. (2009). Why we disagree about climate change: Understanding controversy, inaction and opportunity. Cambridge University Press.

Roper, J., Ganesh, S., & Zorn, T. E. (2016). Doubt, delay, and discourse: Skeptics’ strategies to politicize climate change. Science Communication38(6), 776-799.

Scott, S. V., & Khan, S. (2016). The implications of climate change for the military and for conflict prevention, including through peace missions. Air & Space Power Journal Africa & Francophonie7(3), 82-94.

Seinfeld, J. H., & Pandis, S. N. (2016). Atmospheric chemistry and physics: from air pollution to climate change. John Wiley & Sons.

Seneviratne, S. I., Nicholls, N., Easterling, D., Goodess, C. M., Kanae, S., Kossin, J., … & Reichstein, M. (2017). Changes in climate extremes and their impacts on the natural physical environment.

Wu, X., Lu, Y., Zhou, S., Chen, L., & Xu, B. (2016). Impact of climate change on human infectious diseases: Empirical evidence and human adaptation. Environment international86, 14-23.


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