Note that in this hot, never-ebbing, electoral season, global warming is not among the issues given much attention. This is the case despite the fact that the trend in rising temperatures and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise at crisis levels, and that 97% of all climate scientists have been persuaded by the best scientific evidence that global warming is having increasingly deleterious and disruptive effects on the climate. Recent polls find that an increasing percentage of respondents agree that global warming is occurring, that it is caused by human activities, most notably by the burning of fossil fuels for energy, and that the government should take actions that would reduce the problem.

If we lived in a more politically responsive time, government would pass and enforce a carbon tax and undertake massive support for renewable energy, conservation, and efficiency policies. As the matter stands, the Republicans in the U.S. Congress oppose and would surely stop any such legislative initiatives and the Democrats with other priorities have not pressed the issue.

However, in the shadows of media coverage and political malaise and gridlock, there is a glimmer of positive activity. The U.S. military, not known for its environmental stewardship, has come to accept the reality of human-generated global warming. In doing so, the military has perhaps unintentionally helped to advance the credibility of the larger environmental movement, which is aimed at curbing global warming and implementing energy projects based on renewable energy and conservation.

In an online article for The Journal Star on January 21, 2012, Tim Rinne reports that on February 2010 for the first time, “climate change was formally designated in the highly regarded Quadrennial Defense Review as a ‘National Security Threat.’” Quoting directly from the QDR, Rinne writes: “Climate-related changes, from increases in heavy downpours and rises in temperature and sea levels, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost and earlier snowmelt, ‘are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters,’ the QDR notes.” The review expresses concern that “climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration. While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability and conflict…”

There are other official reports along the same lines. Rinne reports, for example, that the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board released a study in November of 2011 entitled “Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security.” The study contends that “climate impacts are observable, measurable, real, and having near and long-term consequences,” its impact “is destined only to grow as a security concern for the United States, and delays in actions to mitigate it will only make it worse for all of us, “everywhere.”

One can find a host of reasons for why the military brass has accepted the realities of global warming. They see a need to reduce attacks on supply convoys of fuel affecting US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq by reducing dependence on the transportation of oil by convoys to battlefields (Browning,, May 10, 2012). Thomas Hicks, the Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy is quoted: “Increased oil prices will add $1 billion to the Navy’s projected fuel budget for the coming year, he said. By developing and using new energy-innovations, the Armed Forces can minimize such overruns and direct funds elsewhere.” (Zaffos, Scientific American, April 2, 2012). Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta emphasizes that “drilling alone will never solve our national security concerns over foreign oil” (Browning).

As a consequence of the military’s acknowledgement that human-caused global warming exists and is an increasing danger, branches of the U.S. military have taken some concrete steps to implement relevant changes, as the following two examples suggest. The Navy has made a commitment to get 50% of its energy from renewable sources, like biofuels, solar and wind, by 2025. That’s the most ambitious goal for renewable energy in the country—higher even than California’s! (Browning). Further: “The US air force…has built up America’s biggest solar battery array in Nevada” (Goldenberg, The Guardian, Jan. 31, 2010).

The evidence touched on in this article should be interpreted narrowly. It indicates that many top military leaders recognize the growing harms generated by global warming and view them as threats or challenges that the military must deal with. At the same time, our criticisms against the military must continue – the military is overall too big and wasteful; its budget is not independently audited; military spending is a major cause of the national debt; it is too eager to pay contractors to develop more and more lethal weapons (e.g., drones); too many politicians are tied to the military economically through bases and contractors in their states and districts, even though there are better ways to create jobs; the military’s enormous political influence is an ongoing danger to our democracy.