Air Force, Army release climate action plans

Greg Nash

The Air Force and Space Force, as well as the Army, released climate action plans on Wednesday, with the former seeking to operate bases at net-zero emissions by 2046, an ambitious goal that would beat by four years the Biden administration’s own targets. 

The Air Force plan is the first to be released from the military services after the Pentagon last year began its biggest effort ever to prepare for the effects of climate change. The document is meant to be a road map to help the branch better consider and prepare for what effects climate change will have on its operations, training, installations, planning and business processes when making decisions. 

“Our mission remains unchanged, but we recognize that the world is facing ongoing and accelerating climate change and we must be prepared to respond, fight, and win in this constantly changing world,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in a statement alongside the plan’s release.  

In the plan, Kendall allowed that extreme weather and environmental conditions “are already imposing high costs” on Air Force installations and missions, “while simultaneously posing new risks to our ability to train and operate effectively.”  

He also acknowledged that of all the military services, the Air Force is the largest producer of greenhouse gases, the main cause of global warming and subsequent extreme weather conditions.  

Later on Wednesday, the Army separately released its own climate action plan that includes upping the number of microgrids at bases over the next five years.  

Microgrids are local electrical systems that can reduce energy costs and, if needed, can disconnect from the larger power grid and operate independently during outages.  

“As extreme weather becomes commonplace, the Army must adapt its installations, acquisition programs, and training so that the Army can operate in this changing environment and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement alongside the plan. “This climate implementation plan will improve our resiliency and readiness in the face of these changes.” 

The Pentagon has offered stark examples of how climate change is already affecting its forces, and threats expected in the near future, including flooding in the Midwest, wildfires that have forced evacuations at bases in the Western United States and hurricanes that have prompted the same on the East Coast. 

With the recent Hurricane Ian, for example, the Air Force and Navy were forced to move ships and aircraft out of the state ahead of the storm’s landfall. 

Such natural disasters have inflicted billions of dollars of damage on facilities that are home to key war fighting abilities, according to Defense Department officials. 

Climate issues can also affect the safety of troops. Extreme heat has killed least 17 troops during training exercises at U.S. military bases since 2008. 

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