In October 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD) released a report stating that the Pentagon acknowledges the risk associated with “rising temperatures” and how intense weather conditions are reshaping the world. What’s ironic is that the report failed to recognize the contribution of the US defense department to climate change.
Let’s go over some of the worst polluted U.S. military bases on earth, the use of “forever chemicals” leading to things like Camp Lejeune groundwater contamination, and the United States’ negligence for Americans and foreign lives with Ehline Law and our toxic exposure injury attorneys.
The US Is One of the Largest Climate Polluters in History, 2019 Report Reveals
A 2019 report by Durham and Lancaster University reveals that the United States military is one of the largest climate polluters in history, emitting more CO2 than most nations. According to the report, if the US military were a country, it would be the world’s 47th largest greenhouse gas emitter, much larger than Morocco, Peru, Sweden, Hungary, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland.
US Military, World’s Biggest Climate Change Enabler, Has Done Very Little
The US military is a large contributor to the carbon footprint on our planet. Although gathering direct statistics from the military is impossible since they are exempt from reporting military emissions after withdrawing from the 1997 Kyoto protocol, data from local news organizations, non-profit organizations, and lobbyists are available.
US Military Air Pollution
A 2019 research study, “Hidden carbon costs of the “everywhere war,” revealed that the US military purchased $8.683 billion worth of fuel in 2017, across the following:
- US Air Force – $4.9 billion
- US Navy – $2.8 billion
- US Army – $947 million
- US Marines – $36 million
The study further revealed that the US military emitted over 25,000-kilo tonnes of carbon dioxide daily. Minden in Louisiana is one such example where the US military would burn ammunition waste and explosives multiple times a day. After a mishap, the locals became infuriated, causing the military to outsource the disposal of explosives and other wastes to their largest contractor in Colfax.
According to Dr. Patrick Bigger from Lancaster University Environment Centre, the US military has a contradictory climate change policy since they are confronting the consequences of climate change while depending on large aircraft and warships to fuel their operations worldwide.
US Military Water Pollution
The US military operations suggest apparent negligence on their behalf and a total disregard for human life. The US Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia dumped 84,000 gallons of jet fuel in the waterway in 2017.
In 2019, independent statistics claimed that the US Air Force contractor dumped Trichloroethylene (TCE), a hazardous substance, into the ground near the Tucson International Airport for about 3 decades. Such negligence resulted in 1,350 Tucson residents contracting cancer and other diseases, leading to claims against the US military.
It is not shocking news. The US military has constantly remained negligent in its operations throughout history. Between 1953 and 1986, at the US base Camp Lejeune, military personnel would dump harmful chemicals that contaminated the groundwater, exceeding significantly more than the safety standards and affecting the health of residents and workers over there.
US Land Pollution
There are many incidents of land pollution caused by the US military. However, the most distressing are the two where they conducted nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands and the Navajo Indian reservation.
Between 1946 and 1958, the US military tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, thousand times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. The nuclear testing caused severe radiation contamination in 4 of the Marshall Islands, Enewetak, Bikini, Rongelap, and Utrok, causing the citizens to evacuate.
Seventy-five years later, reports surfaced suggesting life-threatening consequences experienced by the locals in the four northern atolls, such as cancer, birth defects, radioactive poisoning, and other illnesses.
From 1948 to 1967, the US military at the Navajo Indian Reservation conducted nuclear weapons testing and uranium production, causing a spike in cancer rates among the native residents.
Besides nuclear testing, the US military is responsible for other forms of land pollution, including real estate. The military dumps and burns toxic chemicals on their military bases leading to closures of more than 900 US military sites after being declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for serious contamination problems.
According to John D. Dingell, a retired Michigan congressman and a war veteran, almost every military site in the country face severe contamination.
American Intervention in Global Wars Has Shattered Economies
The United States policies are detrimental to its service members and international economies when the country decides to intervene during global conflicts.
For example, when the United States troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011, their intervention in Iraq on the pretense that the Iraqis held weapons of mass destruction led to desertification across 90% of the Iraqi territory. The invasion of Iraq caused the country to import 80% of its food supply since the lands became barren after the war.
According to political experts, the United States’ dependence on oil is the reason behind the US military presence in different parts of the world. Most wars resulted from the American corporation’s need to protect their access to oil.
The US intervention has not only resulted in the loss of lives but also has dramatically impacted the environment. The Cost of Wars Project estimates about 400 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide from war-related activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria.
The Use of Chemical Warfare Agents by the US Military in Vietnam
The 2015 World’s worst pollution problems fact sheet report that approximately 7 million people worldwide are suffering from the use of toxic warfare agents by the United States military.
In 1948, the US started experimenting with herbicides after seeing how the United Kingdom used these deadly substances, including Agent Orange, on the communist pro-independence fighters in British Malaya. After mixing two herbicides, the US made a highly toxic substance that would contaminate Vietnam’s food, forests, water, and air in 1965.
After the end of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese government studied the damage caused by Agent Orange and other deadly herbicides used in Vietnam. The report revealed approximately 3 million casualties, including civilians and armed forces. Today, millions of Americans and Vietnamese people are still suffering from the use of toxic herbicides during the Vietnam War.
Although the US military claims to bring a positive change in their policies, very little is being done, raising questions on whether they’re committed to solving this pollution problem. Even the US Navy task force, the military set up to prepare military sites for climate change, got shut down quietly.
Top 10 US Military Bases with Worse PFAS Contamination
PFAS or Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances are manufactured chemicals used in everyday products. In the military, firefighting foam is the main product that contains PFAS chemicals.
PFAS are also known as “forever chemicals” as they do not break down in the environment. The Environmental Working Group endorses many independent studies that recommend 1 part per trillion (ppt) PFAS as a safe limit for drinking water.
In the United States, virtually everyone has PFAS in their body through consuming contaminated drinking water or food. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PFAS-contaminated drinking water can cause cancer, liver failure, kidney cancer, heart conditions, and other health problems.
According to the Environmental Working Group, the top 10 US military sites with the highest detections of PFAS pollution are:
- England Air Force Base: 20,700,000 ppt
- Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake: 8,000,000 ppt
- Patrick Air Force Base: 2,640,000 ppt
- Myrtle Beach Air Force Base: 2,225,000 ppt
- Langley AirForce Base: 1,397,120 ppt
- Naval Air Station Jacksonville: 1,310,000 ppt
- Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station: 1,247,000 ppt
- Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Complex: 1,150,000 ppt
- Altus AirForce Base: 1,150,000 ppt
- Charleston AirForce Base: 1,100,000 ppt.
The top 100 US military sites have more PFAS contamination than the recommended safe limit. These sites have become a source of groundwater contamination and air pollution for the local communities.
Roy Heald, general manager of Security’s water district, believes that many counties are not standing up for their rights to safe drinking water and clean air because the US military installations employ tens of thousands of residents.
Could Reforms Help the US Play a Positive Role in Climate Change?
Wars have benefited large corporations in billions of dollars of profit, but it comes at the expense of the environment, a silent casualty of armed conflict.
To play a positive role in climate change, the US could introduce the following reforms:
- Lowering the budget: One of the major solutions to climate change is finishing off armed conflicts or completely removing military existence worldwide. However, that is not possible, especially after the White House announced an increase in the US military spending budget. The international community playing its part in climate change must pressure the US to curb its military spending.
- Accountability: From the use of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese people in the Vietnam War to the recent bombings in Afghanistan, Human rights violation by the US remains unchecked. Taking responsibility for their actions is the first step in playing a positive role in climate change.
- Redirect funding: Rather than purchasing fuel to participate in wars, the US would be better off if they redirected this funding towards the UN sustainability goals, such as cleaner energy production.
- Regulation: PFAS remains unregulated to this day. A bill to restrict the use of firefighting foam is still under consideration in Colorado. As many people are becoming aware of the health risks associated with these “forever chemicals,” more activists are pushing for regulations or a downright ban on PFAS chemicals. However, these actions should not affect life-saving products that use PFAS compounds.
Suffering from Toxic Exposure Illness? Schedule Free Consultation with Ehline Law
Under the PACT Act, Ehline Law and our toxic exposure attorneys are helping veterans receive justice and compensation for their injuries from exposure to PFAS chemicals and other deadly substances during their service.
If you’re suffering from service-related illnesses or have lost a loved one to toxic chemical exposure, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation with our legal experts on your case.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of the largest motorcycle accident settlements in U.S. History. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves in being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride, and a a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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