MPG of an aircraft carrier?
The military may not be the first port of call in the fight against climate change but, as the security implications become clearer, the armed forces on both sides of the Atlantic are responding.In part this is simply a pragmatic response to the growing scarcity - and increasing price - of natural resources. Aircraft carriers, according to the Royal Navy's Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, can only manage 12 inches on a gallon of fuel. Not surprising then that for every $1 increase in the cost of oil, $30 million gets added to the US Navy's energy costs.
The response has been a major focus on renewable energy to replace the US navy's dependence on oil. In June this year, the US Department of Defense - the largest consumer of energy in the US - pledged to get 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. The Navy and Marine Corps have commited to go even further and cut fossil fuel use by 50% over the same time period. These moves are intended both to save money - and to save lives. The Marine corps have calculated that they lose the life of one Marine for every 50 convoys of fuel brought into Afghanistan.
But the issue of climate change stretches well beyond tactical approaches to cutting energy use. This strategic agenda was the focus of a conference held at the British Medical Association in London in mid-October that heard from senior figures in the medical and military communities. The clear message is that the 21st Century will see a growing proportion of conflicts taking place over access to natural resources, particularly water, and that this in turn will be exacerbated by climate change. A recent study entitled 'Civil conflicts are associated with the global climate' published in the journal Nature found for example that 200 conflicts in the period from 1950-2004 were correlated with the El Nino oscillation - providing compelling evidence of the link between weather and conflict. As one Rear Admiral at the conference put it, "competition for resources drives conflict, and climate change is making this competition worse."
The conference was accompanied by an editorial in the British Medical Journal from two Rear Admirals and two professors of public health. They write "It might be considered unusual for the medical and military professions to concur. But on this subject we do. Climate change poses an immediate and grave threat, driving ill health and increasing the risk of conflict, such that each feeds on the other."
So what has all this got to do with investment? We think the growing involvement of the military and medical communities helps to underpin the already compelling rationale for action on climate change. This is particuarly true in the US, given the Department of Defense's strong links with the Republican right. It also presages a growing role for the military in driving the development and deployment of low carbon technologies particularly in non-weapons related applications. Nobody is predicting that the military will be riding to the rescue of the clean-tech sector, but it will certainly help to have the Pentagon on your side.