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Elizabeth Warren introduces plan to reduce military's carbon footprint

Elizabeth Warren using policy proposals to stand out

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a plan to prepare the military for climate change and minimize its carbon footprint, too.

The Senate Armed Services Committee member and 2020 presidential candidate didn't give a number on how much the plan would cost to implement, but it's on top of hundreds of billions already allocated for the various other policies she's proposed since she entered the campaign. 

Warren has said her tax on the super-rich would fund those plans and leave plenty for more. A policy aide didn't connect the tax to this proposal, but said that the investments would be offset by "eliminating costs from climate change events that continue to grow for [the Defense Department]."

Like many of Warren's proposals, the military climate policy was pegged to a bill, this one co-sponsored by Texas Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar. The bill calls for the military to reach zero carbon emissions for all non-combat bases and infrastructure by 2030. That's an ambitious goal considering that the U.S. actually increased carbon emissions last year, according to the Rhodium Group.

"In short, climate change is real, it is worsening by the day, and it is undermining our military readiness. And instead of meeting this threat head-on, Washington is ignoring it – and making it worse," Warren wrote in a Wednesday Medium post.

Warren also wants to create a dedicated source of funding to transition to bases and charge a one-percent fee from contractors hired by the Department of Defense that don't meet emission standards.

That could potentially yield a large reserve to help continue to fund the plan. The Defense Department spent $320 billion on federal contracts in 2017 alone, according to a Congressional Research Service study

"Those potential funds could be used to create a healthy fund for [Defense Department] investments in resiliency," the policy aide said. 

The Massachusetts senator also argues that the military is not prepared for the damage climate change can do to its bases. She points to the aircraft hangers torn apart by Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida last year and to the flooded buildings at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska last month.

"Time and time again, senior military leaders have warned Congress of the national security challenge that climate change poses," Warren wrote.

The plan would, "invest billions of dollars into a new, ten-year research and development program at the Defense Department focused on microgrids and advanced energy storage." Microgrids are miniature versions of the electric grids that power our cities and towns. They power a far smaller space, but they can be connected to sustainable power source and can keep the power on in a few buildings when there's a major outage.

To ensure the Pentagon complies, Warren calls for the Secretary of Defense to appoint a senior official to "to ensure that, top to bottom, our military is prioritizing the climate threat" and for the Defense Department to produce an annual report evaluating the climate vulnerability of every base.

"We don't have to choose between a green military and an effective one," Warren wrote.

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