Thursday 27th October 2016                 Change text size:

Crop gun

Crop gun

Photo: U.S. Navy/Paul FarleyThe US Department of Defence recognises the threat of climate change. Rob Steadman looks into how the superpower plans to counter that threat.  

While growth in military spending has slowed in the last year (SIPRI Yearbook, 2010), the world stills spends $1.63 trillion, or 1.3% of global GDP, on the military.

A report published by the US Department of Defence, cited global climate change as a clear and present danger to national and global security.

The report, published in February 2010, has placed climate change along with the global war on terror and WMD proliferation and it lays out measured responses and recommendations to the rising sea levels.

However, without action it may worsen the key problems facing economies in Europe and the Americas, including overpopulation, food shortages and war.

The Defence Review, published every four years, states that, “Climate-related changes are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters.

Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity will increase the spread of disease and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.”

Amongst a wealth of recommendations and safe guards, the US military is also exploring ways to exploit the opportunities for renewable power generation to support operational needs.

In March 2011, the US Air Force successfully tested a F-22 Raptor run on a biofuel, which was based on the flowering plant camelina, after Dutch airline KLM successfully launched a flight run on a 50/50 mix of kerosene and biofuel.

The US Navy also hopes to have a “green fleet” of strike carriers by 2016, whilst the US military announced its intention to experiment with bio-fuel back in 2009, with a feedstock of camelina being chosen.

The Defence Energy Support Centre stated that, “It does not compete with food crops, and has been proven to reduce carbon emissions by more than 80%.

In addition, camelina has naturally high oil content, is drought tolerant and requires less fertilizer and herbicides. It is an excellent rotation crop with wheat, and it can also grow on marginal land.”

An increase in demand could push up crop prices and lead to overlooked environmental impacts and unethical practices in their production.

From an ethical investment standpoint, the contract to produce the camelina based bio-fuel for the US military has been handed to Sustainable Oils, a seemingly green company and subsidiary of Green Earth Fuels.

Other contracts from the aviation industry have gone to Honeywell International, a producer of bombs, land mines and nuclear weapons, amongst others.

As detailed by Blue & Green Tomorrow in the article Biofuel Backgrounder, the fertilization process involved in plant production creates a substantial amount of nitrous oxide emissions, a compound as bad, if not worse than carbon dioxide.

The biofuels market while seemingly ethically sound has inherent pitfalls.

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