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Our next big battle: global warming

Our next big battle: global warming


07 Feb, 2022

Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, who devised the UK military’s strategy on climate change and sustainability, has visited Antarctica to see for himself the growing effects of global warming …

To produce a new short film, Climate Warriors: The Military’s Fight Against Global Warming, Forces News travelled with Lt Gen Richard Nugee on a 9,000-mile trip to Antarctica, along with a support team of veterans, as they embarked on an expedition to carry out climate change research. Lt Gen Nugee also visited numerous spots along the Antarctic Peninsula to hear first hand from scientists how rising sea temperatures are affecting the ice and the continent’s rich wildlife.

Speaking exclusively to Forces News, the General said that the preservation of places like Antarctica is a matter of national security.

‘Those who say the MoD are big emitters, yes we are. Those who say the MoD shouldn’t be getting involved in climate security, I would fundamentally disagree,’ he said. ‘Seeing Antarctica like this, you realise that if this disappears it will have an enormous impact on the rest of the world.’

Nearly all the glaciers in Antarctica are melting, threatening the availability of krill, small crustaceans that provide a vital food source for whales, seals and penguins. Temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula have increased by three degrees since the 1950s – a rise five times faster than the global average. The ozone layer that covers the continent is also thinning, the result of greenhouse gases, raising the level of UV.

The UK military is the second biggest emitter within the public sector, generating 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2019/20, the latest figures available. However, campaign groups claim the real figure is significantly higher as this does not include emissions from operations or the military’s huge supply chain.

In his report, General Nugee argues that defence will find itself involved in an increasing number of missions whose root cause is climate change. As examples, he points to how ISIS recruited farmers who had been displaced by drought, and the UK military’s increasing role in the Caribbean, helping communities affected by hurricanes. 

He believes that, in the long run, going green will increase the military’s capability and make the battlefield safer. ‘The US military estimates it lost between 2,000 and 3,000 troops on logistic resupply in Iraq and Afghanistan. We lost our most senior officer, a Lieutenant Colonel,’ he said. ‘If you can find a way of reducing the amount of logistic support you need by thinking about sustainability, thinking about producing your own energy and water, then you’re saving lives at the same time.’

Climate Warriors: The Military’s Fight Against Global Warming is available to view now on the Forces News YouTube channel