Elizabeth Warren has released a remarkable number of remarkably detailed, boldly progressive policy plans since launching her 2020 campaign. The Massachusetts senator has produced blueprints for a wealth tax, universal child care, breaking up Facebook, solving the opioid epidemic, and mass student-debt forgiveness, to name just a few. And she hasn’t shied away from endorsing liberal causes that poll poorly with general public, such as impeachment and reparations.
So, after the comparatively moderate Beto O’Rourke unveiled a climate plan that called for $5 trillion in new green infrastructure investment — and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 — one might have expected Warren to release a climate proposal of similar scope and ambition (if not a five-year plan for achieving growth-neutral eco-anarchism).
Instead, Warren opted for a decidedly more moderate, if also more detailed and concrete, climate policy: greening America’s military bases and adding a variety of climate readiness and technology investments to the Pentagon budget.
In a Medium post outlining her proposal, Warren notes the toll that climate is already taking on America’s globe-spanning military bases, the extraordinary size of the Defense Department’s carbon footprint, and the various strategic challenges that climatic changes pose to American national security (or, in less euphemistic terms, global military dominance). “Nibbling around the edges of the problem is no longer enough — the urgency of the moment demands more,” Warren writes. “That’s why today I am introducing my Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act to harden the U.S. military against the threat posed by climate change, and to leverage its huge energy footprint as part of our climate solution.”
Her policy package includes:
• A mandate for the Pentagon to achieve zero-net emissions by 2030 (the arguably impossibly ambitious target that the Green New Deal sets for the United States as a whole).
• A dedicated source of funding to adapt America’s global military bases to climatic changes, so taxpayers foot fewer bills for flood damage in the future.
• A fee (of possibly one percent) on all military contracts to generate revenue for making defense infrastructure more resilient.
• A multibillion-dollar, “ten-year research and development program at the Defense Department focused on microgrids and advanced energy storage.”
No one in national Democratic politics has called for dismantling America’s global military empire. And this is hardly the entirety of Warren’s climate vision; the senator has endorsed the Green New Deal resolution. But many leftists were (understandably) taken aback to see Warren release a climate plan that prioritizes the maintenance of globe-spanning military bases — and evinces no explicit intention to scale back the Pentagon’s ambitions, which is likely a prerequisite for sustainably financing the social democratic domestic agenda that Warren has put together.
So the plan is an odd fit for a campaign messaging bill. But as far as ambitious climate legislation goes, it’s a pretty solid fit for the U.S. Senate. Whatever one’s views on the Pentagon’s current mission, it is indisputably the case that climate change poses a major challenge to the Defense Department. And it is also true that as soon as spending moves from domestic accounts onto the Pentagon’s tab, Republicans cease to oppose said spending. Thus, if we want to get 60 Senate votes on a massive investment in green technology within the next couple of years, Warren’s “let’s buy ourselves a cleaner, greener war machine” may be the best shot we’ve got.