The U.S. military will begin spending the $800 billion Congress has promised it in fiscal year 2023 on October 1. That staggering sum is just the beginning. According to calculations According to William Hartung, a Pentagon expert, funding for intelligence agencies, the Department of Homeland Security and work on nuclear weapons at the Energy Department will add $600 billion to the amount you, the American taxpayer will spend on national security.
That $1.4 trillion for a single year dwarfs Congress’s one-time provision of approximately $300 billion under the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for what’s called “climate mitigation and adaptation.” And mind you, that sum is to be spent over a number of years. Contrary to the IRA which was primarily a climate bill (even if hardly the best version of one), this country’s military spending bills are distinctly anti-human, anti-climate, and anti-Earth. And count on this: Congress’s military appropriations will, in all too many ways, cancel out the benefits of its new climate spending.
These are just three obvious ways our military is a threat to climate mitigation. It emits large amounts of greenhouse gases and causes other environmental havoc. Second, even though the Pentagon takes climate change seriously, it almost never focuses its attention on reducing greenhouse gas emission. Instead, it prepares militarily for a world that is climate-changed. coming crisis of migration and other future climate-related armed conflicts worldwide. Third, our war machine is wasting hundreds of billions of dollar annually that could be used to address climate mitigation and other urgent climate-related issues.
The Pentagon’s Carbon Bootprint
The U.S. military is this globe’s largest Petroleum fuels are used by institutions. It also produces greenhouse gas emissions equaling about 60 million Each year, the Pentagon emits 2.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. If the Pentagon were a nation, these figures would rank it just below Ireland or Finland in terms national carbon emissions. Or, to put it another way, our military exceeds the total national carbon emissions of Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia.
Many of these greenhouse gases result from the construction, maintenance and use of buildings. 800 There are 27 million acres of military bases and other facilities across the United States and around the globe. The burning of jet fuel is the largest source of emissions from actual military operations. A B-2 bomber, for instance, emits almost two tons of carbon dioxide when flying a mere 50 miles, while the Pentagon’s biggest boondoggle, the astronomically costly F-35 combat aircraft, will emit “only” one ton for every 50 miles it flies.
Those figures come from “Military- and Conflict-Related Emissions,” a June 2022 report Germany’s Perspectives Climate Group. It is a regrettable statement by the authors that they were too optimistic about the reduction in global military greenhouse gases emissions and the role played by the military in exploring new forms of energy.
“In the process of us writing this report and looking at our article written 20 years ago, the initial notion of assessing military activities… as potential ‘engines of progress’ for novel renewable technologies was shattered by the Iraq War, followed by the horror of yet another large-scale ground war, this time in Europe… All our attention should be directed towards achieving the 1.5° target [of global temperature rise beyond the preindustrial level set at the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015]. If we fail in this endeavor, the repercussions will be more deadly than all conflicts we have witnessed in the last decades.”
The Defense Department opened its doors in March announced that its proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 would include a measly $3.1 billion for “addressing the climate crisis.” That amounts to less than 0.4% of the department’s total spending and, as it happens, two-thirds of that little sliver of funding will go not to climate mitigation itself but to protecting military facilities and activities against the future impact of climate change. Worse, a small fraction of the rest would go towards reducing greenhouse-gas emissions or other environmental damages that the armed force will cause.
In 2021 Climate Adaptation Plan, the Pentagon claimed, however vaguely, that it was aiming for a future in which it could “operate under changing climate conditions, preserving operational capability, and enhancing the natural and manmade systems essential to the Department’s success.” It projected that “in worst-case scenarios, climate-change-related impacts could stress economic and social conditions that contribute to mass migration events or political crises, civil unrest, shifts in the regional balance of power, or even state failure. This may affect U.S. national interests directly or indirectly, and U.S. allies or partners may request U.S. assistance.”
Unfortunately, the Pentagon sees an overheated world as a potential source of military opportunities. In a classic case of projection, its analysts warn that “malign actors may try to exploit regional instability exacerbated by the impacts of climate change to gain influence or for political or military advantage.” (Of course, Americans would never act in such a manner since, by definition, the Pentagon is a benign actor, but will have to respond accordingly.)
The CIA and other intelligence agencies seem to share the Pentagon’s vision of our hotter future as a growth opportunity. A 2021 climate risk assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) paid special attention to the globe’s fastest-warming regionThe Arctic. Did it draw the intelligence community’s interest because of the need to prevent a meltdown of the planet’s ice caps if the Earth is to remain a livable place for humanity? What do YOU think?
The authors of the book speak out about the potential military benefits that such a scenario could offer as the Arctic melts.
“Arctic and non-Arctic states almost certainly will increase their competitive activities as the region becomes more accessible because of warming temperatures and reduced ice. … Military activity is likely to increase as Arctic and non-Arctic states seek to protect their investments, exploit new maritime routes, and gain strategic advantages over rivals. The increased presence of China and other non-Arctic states very likely will amplify concerns among Arctic states as they perceive a challenge to their respective security and economic interests.”
In other words, in an overheated future, a new “cold” war will no longer be restricted to what were once the more temperate parts of the planet.
If, in climate change terms, the military worries about anything globally, it’s increased human migration from devastated areas like today’s flood-ridden PakistanConflicts that could arise from it. The DNI report, in cold bureaucratic terms, predicted that there would be an increase in the number of us (or, in national security terms, of) These are them) begin fleeing heat, droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones, “Displaced populations will increasingly demand changes to international refugee law to consider their claims and provide protection as climate migrants or refugees, and affected populations will fight for legal payouts for loss and damages resulting from climate effects.” Translation: We won’t pay climate reparations and we won’t pay to help keep other peoples’ home climates livable, but we’re more than willing to spend as much as it takes to block them from coming here, no matter the resulting humanitarian nightmares.
Is it finally the right time to defund war?
Along with the damage caused by its enormous greenhouse gas emissions and its use of climate chaos to justify imperialism, the Pentagon also causes terrible damage by absorbing trillions of dollar in government funds that should be used to meet all of humanity’s needs, mitigate climate changes, and repair the ecological damage it has caused in this century’s wars.
Months before Russia invaded Ukraine, ensuring that yet more greenhouse gases would be pumped into our atmosphere, a group of British scholars lamented the Biden administration’s enthusiasm for military funding. They wrote that, “rather than scaling back military spending to pay for urgent climate-related spending, initial budget requests for military appropriations are actually Intensifying even as some U.S. foreign adventures are supposedly coming to a close.” It’s pointless, they suggested, “to tinker around the edges of the U.S. war machine’s environmental impact.” The funds spent “procuring and distributing fuel across the U.S. empire could instead be spent as a peace dividend [that] includes significant technology transfer and no-strings-attached funding for adaptation and clean energy to those countries most vulnerable to climate change.”
Washington could still easily afford that “peace dividend,” were it to begin cutting back on its military spending. And don’t forget that, at past climate summits, the rich nations of this planet pledged to send $100 billion Each year, the poorest countries are given money to help them increase their renewable energy capacity and prepare for and adapting for climate change. It is not surprising that the rich, including the U.S., have refused to honor this pledge. And of course, as the recent unprecedented monsoon flooding of one-third of Pakistan — a country responsible for less than 1% of historic global greenhouse gases — suggests, it’s already remarkably late for that skimpy promise of a single hundred billion dollars; hundreds of billions Each year are now required. Mind you, Congress could easily divert enough from the Pentagon’s annual budget alone to cover its part of the global climate-reparations tab. This should not be considered a complete shift to peacetime spending. There is no such luck.
As the National Priorities Project, (NPP). has pointed out, increases in national security funding alone in 2022 could have gone a long way toward supporting Joe Biden’s expansive Build Back BetterThis bill failed to pass Congress that year. That illustrates yet again how, as William Hartung put it, “almost anything the government wants to do other than preparing for or waging war involves a scramble for funding, while the Department of Defense gets virtually unlimited financial support,” often, in fact, more than it even asks for.
The Democrats’ bill, which would have provided solid funding for renewable energy development, child care, health care, and help for economically stressed families was voted down in the Senate by all 50 Republicans and one Democrat (yes, that guy) who claimed that the country couldn’t afford the bill’s $170 billion-per-year price tag. However, in the six months that followed, as the NPP notes, Congress pushed through increases in military funding that added up to $143 billion — almost as much as Build Back Better would have cost per year!
As Pentagon experts Hartung and Julia Gledhill Recent comments suggest that Congress is always pulling these stunts, sending More The Defense Department received more money than it requested. Imagine how important federal action on all sorts of issues could have been funded if Congress stopped inflating the cash it uses for war and imperialism.
Needed: A merger of movements
Various versions of America’s antiwar movement have been trying to confront this country’s militarism since the days of the Vietnam War with minimal success. The Pentagon budgets, adjusted to inflation, remain as high as ever. Not coincidentally, both the military and society’s combined greenhouse gas emissions are still enormous. All these years later, the question remains: Can anything be done to impede this country’s money-devouring, carbon-spewing military juggernaut?
CODEPINK, a grassroots organization run by women, has been deeply involved in climate and antiwar movements for twenty years. Jodie Evans, one of its cofounders, told me recently that she sees a need for “a whole new movement intersecting the antiwar movement with the climate movement.” In pursuit of that very goal, she said, CODEPINK has organized a project called Cut the Pentagon. Here’s how she describes it: “It’s a coalition of groups serving issues of people’s needs and the planet’s needs and the anti-war movement, because all of us have an interest in cutting the war machine. We launched it on September 12th last year, after 20 years of a ‘War on Terror’ that took $21 trillion of our tax money, to destroy the planet, to destroy the Middle East, to destroy our communities, to turn peacekeeping police into warmongering police.” Cut the Pentagon, says Evans, has “been doing actions in [Washington] D.C. pretty much nonstop since we launched it.”
Sadly, in 2022, both the climate and antiwar struggles face the longest of odds, going up against this country’s most formidable strongholds of wealth and power. CODEPINK is a legendary organization that finds creative ways to confront the powerful interests it opposes, and nonviolently disrupting business-as usual. “As an activist for the last 50 some-odd years,” Evans says, “I always felt my job was to make power uncomfortable, and to disrupt it.” But since the start of the Covid pandemic, she adds, “Power is making us more uncomfortable than we are making it. It’s stronger and more weaponized than it has been before in my lifetime.”
Among the hazards of this situation, she adds, social movements that manage to grow and become effective often find themselves coopted and, she adds, over the past two decades, “Too many of us got lazy… We thought ‘clicktivism’ creates change, but it doesn’t.” Regarding an education bill early in the Trump administration, “We had 200 million We lost messages sent to Congress by a large coalition. A month later, we had only 2000 people, but we were right there in Congress halls and saved Obamacare. Members of Congress don’t like being uncomfortable.”
Evans and CODEPINK are continuing to push for action in Washington, as the military-industrial complex (and Earth-killing capitalism) seem to only grow stronger. She believes that a window has opened recently.
“For the first time since the sixties and early seventies, it feels like a lot of people are seeing through the propaganda, really being willing to create new structures and new forms. We need to vote where our voices and votes matter. Creating local change — that’s our work. All of our divest from war campaigns are local. Folks who care about the planet need to figure out how do we make power uncomfortable… It’s not a fight of words. It’s a fight of being.”
Perhaps grassroots efforts to address the major crises that we are currently facing are so intertwined that they might eventually coalesce. The question is: Could movements for climate mitigation, justice, Indigenous sovereignty and Black lives, economic democracy and, most importantly, an end to American militarism, merge into a single collective wave from the neighborhood? It could be the key to our future.