U.S. Army’s First Climate Strategy Includes Plans for Microgrids, Electric Fleets

A U.S. Army soldier sets up solar panels
A U.S. Army Green Beret with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) sets up solar panels for operational communications at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. U.S. Army / Pfc. Lisa-Marie Miller

The U.S. Army unveiled its first ever climate strategy on Tuesday. 

The new plan focuses both on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing soldiers and infrastructure to prepare for the impacts of climate change and increasing extreme weather events. 

“The time to address climate change is now,” Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth wrote in a statement published with the new plan. “The effects of climate change have taken a toll on supply chains, damaged our infrastructure, and increased risks to Army Soldiers and families due to natural disasters and extreme weather. The Army must adapt across our entire enterprise and purposefully pursue greenhouse gas mitigation strategies to reduce climate risks.”

The strategy in part works to reduce emissions in line with executive orders from President Joe Biden, Reuters reported. The Army said it would reduce emissions by half of 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. It also pledged to consider the security risks posed by the climate crisis in activities including planning, strategy and acquisitions. 

To further these goals, the Army set two deadlines for 2035: it would both install a microgrid on all installations and acquire a non-tactically fleet of electric vehicles, CNBC reported. The Army will also use hybrid tactical vehicles by 2035 and fully electric tactical vehicles by 2050, according to The Hill. To support the electric vehicles, the service will invest in more than 470 charging stations this year. 

These actions build on the 950 renewable energy projects the Army has already started or completed, along with 25 microgrid projects planned by 2024, according to CNBC.

Further, the Army seeks to protect its soldiers and infrastructure from extreme weather events, which have already caused problems for the U.S. military. In 2018, Hurricane Florence caused around $3.5 billion in damages to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, CNN reported. The next year, flooding caused $500 million in damages to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

“Climate change threatens America’s security and is altering the geostrategic landscape as we know it,” Wormuth said in the statement. “For today’s Soldiers operating in extreme temperature environments, fighting wildfires, and supporting hurricane recovery, climate change isn’t a distant future, it is a reality.”

To prepare soldiers for this reality, the Army will include climate change in its training and publish this information every two years beginning in 2024, according to The Hill. All war drills and simulations will incorporate climate threats by 2028. 

The Army’s actions come a year after the Department of Defense warned that the climate crisis was a major threat to the U.S. military and would lead to conflict around the world, CNBC reported. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has also made climate change a priority since he was chosen by Biden to lead the department, according to CNN. 

However, the U.S. Department of Defense is the largest polluter both in the U.S. and worldwide. It produces more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies put together, and around 900 of nearly 1,200 U.S. superfund sites are former military or military-adjacent installations. 

The U.S. military is also a major climate polluter in particular. A 2019 report found that it would be the world’s 47th largest greenhouse-gas emitter if it were a country, as Lancaster University reported at the time. 

“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,” study co-author Dr. Patrick Bigger of Lancaster University Environment Centre said as he announced his research. “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.”

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