By RADM Tim Gallaudet, US Navy, ret
Last week Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro released his updated strategic guidance on the long-term transformation and modernization of the service branch.
Del Toro rightly addresses the Department of the Navy’s mission to recruit, train, equip, and organize to deliver combat-ready naval forces. A
dditionally, the top priority in the guidance is well placed – to strengthen our maritime dominance to deter potential adversaries, and if called upon, fight and decisively win our Nation’s wars.
Under that top priority, the document includes combatting climate change as one of four actions required to strengthen the Navy’s maritime dominance.
Citing climate change as “one of the most destabilizing forces of our time,” Del Toro curiously claims that achieving the Biden Administration’s commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will enable the Navy to become a more agile, capable, and lethal fighting force.
Including the questionable connection between emissions reductions and combat capability is enough to undermine his guidance, but there is an even greater deficiency – nowhere in the guidance is there a direct mention of China and our urgent need to outcompete that country in the race for maritime superiority.
I have written elsewhere about the Navy’s misguided emphasis on climate mitigation rather than adaptation. Even if all human emissions of heat-trapping gases were to stop today, the Earth’s temperature would continue to rise for a few decades.
I do not dispute that increasing the use of renewables while maintaining energy independence is necessary for America’s national, natural, and economic security.
The Navy’s climate approach should focus on adaption to the impacts of climate change in ways that make it more effective in modern warfighting.
The failure to directly name China in the Navy’s strategic guidance is even more difficult to defend. . . .
. . . .Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the Navy’s prioritizing climate mitigation over competition with China is the astonishing inconsistency of such a misplacement.
While the Navy’s net zero push will do nothing to curb the planet’s current warming, China is determined to reinforce its role as the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gasses, setting a record peak this year, falsely reporting its actual emissions, and building six times as many coal plants last year as the rest of the world combined.
Likewise, the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia last December sent a clear signal that Beijing’s appetite for fossil fuels is insatiable.
Navy Announces Latest Shore Energy Goals during Energy Action Month (US Navy, 31 Oct 23)
. . . .Energy plays a reminder of the pivotal role in the Department of the Navy’s mission and underscores the Department’s unwavering commitment to energy efficiency, resilience, and sustainability.
Aligned with the Department of Navy’s Climate Action 2030 strategy and the objectives of Executive Order 14057, the Navy continues its commitment to drive energy innovation and prioritize environmental responsibility.
National Clean Energy Action Month provides a valuable opportunity to focus on the Department of Navy’s steadfast dedication to energy as a strategic asset and catalyst for mission success:
Achieving Net Zero Carbon for Shore Installations: The Navy is resolutely committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions from its shore installations by 2045. This target includes investing in clean energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency, and minimizing energy consumption.
Enhancing Energy Efficiency: Prioritizing energy efficiency is fundamental to the Navy’s strategy. By adopting innovative technologies and sustainable practices, the Navy will significantly reduce energy usage across its installations and operations.
Prioritizing Renewable Energy: The Department of Navy is accelerating its transition to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and advanced biofuels. By diversifying its energy portfolio, the Navy is bolstering energy resilience and reducing its contributions to emissions and other environmental impacts.
Building Resilience: The Navy is proactively bolstering the resilience of its infrastructure to address the challenges posed by climate change, including extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Energy resilience ensures mission readiness.
Fostering Clean Energy Innovation: The Navy remains committed to advancing clean energy technologies through research and development efforts. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with its operations, the Navy is playing its part in the global effort to combat climate change. . . . .
Department of the Navy Chief Sustainability Officer Serial Five: Shore Energy Goals (pdf) – US Navy 31 Oct 23