A Stealth Climate Bill
There’s more money for climate action tucked away in a must-pass bill.
Surprise! The lame-duck Congress is about to consider another bill with billions of dollars of spending for climate adaptation and emission reductions. Another surprise: the bill is named for Senator James Inhofe. In case you’ve forgotten, he’s the climate change denier who once took a snowball to the Senate floor to disprove climate change.
You might not guess that the bill is climate-related at all from the rest of the title either: the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023.” No, Biden isn’t pulling a fast one on this. Even under Trump, the military requested and obtained billions of dollars in climate spending.
The military is a major source of CO2 emissions, and is looking for ways to cut down. It’s not easy to find complete figures, but the best estimate is that the military is responsible for about 60 million tons of emissions a year, about the same as the state of Massachusetts. Military emissions were 85 million tons in 2004, so the trend is in the right direction.
As the 2023 funding bill shows, the military is committed to further emissions cuts. The bill contains about a billion dollars intended to reduce emissions. This includes $247 million to improve energy efficiency of its equipment, like using new technologies to reduce drag on aircraft. Another $807 million is for research and development relating to clean energy and energy efficiency, including hybrid military vehicles and new plane designs. There is also money for research spending on advanced energy storage, fuel cells, and energy management systems. This does not count the $2 billion for general basic research, or the $14 billion for applied R&D, some of which may be climate-relevant.
The military is also exposed to climate risks. Naval bases are located – no surprise — at sea level, and thus directly exposed to the risks of sea level rise. Army bases are located in just about any climate you can imagine, exposing them to a correspondingly wide range of climate risks. With this in mind, the spending bill contains $2 billion for climate resilience. That includes spending to adapt military facilities and improve their ability to recover quickly from “climate-induced severe weather;” leveraging private sector investment to improve energy resilience; and modernizing operations “to keep pace with industry, including the auto sector’s rapid shift to electric transportation.”
What’s behind these climate efforts? It’s not that the Pentagon is a hotbed of latte-sipping liberals. The reason is more basic. When your line of work involves people shooting at you and sending missiles in your direction, you can’t afford the luxury of taking your facts from cable news and your science from social media.