The US Army is aiming to adopt a fully electric tactical fleet by 2050 to address its role in climate change and protect soldiers from its worsening effects. 

The US Army has unveiled for the first time, a comprehensive climate strategy that aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect soldiers from worsening effects of climate change and extreme weather events including floods and heat waves. 

“Climate change threatens America’s security and is altering the geostrategic landscape as we know it,” US Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a 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.”

Prompted by US President Joe Biden’s executive orders, which called on government agencies to adapt to climate change, the US army announced a plan on February 8 setting out a roadmap to help reach the military branch’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This includes halving emissions (against 2005 levels) by 2032, transitioning towards an fully electric non-tactical vehicle fleet by 2035 and tactical fleet by 2050. Additionally, it will implement a microgrid on all its installations to improve energy efficiency, improve logistics and supply systems to be more climate resilient, as well as train soldiers “to operate in a climate-altered world.”

The US military has long been known to be a major environmental polluter. A 2019 report found that the US military consumes “more liquid fuels and [emits] more CO2e (carbon-dioxide equivalent) than most countries” and that if it were a nation state, it would be the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. 

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Aside from its role in climate change, worsening effects pose increased threats to US military operations. As droughts and water shortages become more pervasive, it will likely become a main source of conflict between military units overseas and the countries where troops are based. Increasingly more severe heat waves will also put soldiers’ health at higher risk. 

The Department of Defense has previously acknowledged the danger of climate change and the importance of addressing it. “We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them truly deserve to be called existential,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wrote in a Climate Risk Analysis published in October 2021. “Climate change is making the world more unsafe and we need to act.” 

The US Army says that some climate strategies have already started; they have reduced the fleet by 18,000 vehicles and added 3,000 hybrid vehicles, which reportedly has cut fuel consumption by 13 million gallons a year and slashed greenhouse gas emissions per mile by 12%. Not to mention, it already has saved the military branch USD$50 million so far.