Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Militarism: Declaring a War on Global Warming

With the amount of money spent on war each year, our beloved 'world leaders' could easily meet the Kyoto Protocol's international targets on climate change as well as their Millennium Development Goals for poverty alleviation and development; they could phase in energy efficiency and localised renewable energy technology for all and they could prevent huge destruction of human and animal life and the environment...

But what are budgetary priorities when current power relations need support and reinforcement, especially in times like these of multiple crises? War is big business and a major industry that thrives on crisis. It alone ensures constant crises either by physical force or by political discourses that justify a constant cash flow. For example, from the far Right to more moderate environmental NGOs, a discourse of panic suggests a tsunami of bodies about to hit our countries, that starving waves of climate refugees are expected to wash up on our shores. Population alarmism is linked here with a climate change scenario where the depletion of carrying capacity in overpopulated areas causes increasing wars, disease, starvation and ultimately migration to the North. We find this threat narrative reproduced in the NATO strategy paper discussed at the Strasbourg summit in April 2009, where climate change scenarios were used to justify an increase of budgets for internal and external military border control and to legitimize NATO's personal war on the very group of refugees it helped to create.

If we look further at the role of the military in the climate crisis we see that the military apparatus disproportionately consumes energy supplies: energy for the manufacture of vehicles and weaponry, energy for building and dismantling military bases and facilities, energy for the construction of roads for military access, and energy consumed while rebuilding whatever the military blows up. Let alone the energy required by the military's partners, like NASA and the nuclear industry. In the case of the U.S., the irony is that the military is using vast amounts of oil to fuel a war in Iraq fought at least in part to ensure future American control of oil supplies. The Pentagon is the single largest consumer of oil worldwide.

Up to 10% of total carbon dioxide emissions are a result of military activity. A single KC135 plane uses 44 gallons (167 liters) of fuel per minute – the same amount of carbon dioxide as 2000 cars. The world's military forces are also responsible for the release of more than two-thirds of CFC-113 into the ozone layer. The US military is the world's single largest polluter and generates more toxics annually than the top five chemical companies combined... so much for ecological bootprint. After the direct impact of war, we are left with chemical and sometimes radioactive contamination of air and groundwater, oil spills or burned forests, and of course devastation of homes and local infrastructure, all further endangering the habitats of people and animals for generations to come.

The hunger for resources extends far beyond fossil fuels like oil. The military's use of metals like aluminium, copper, nickel and platinum is greater than the entire demand for these materials in the Global South. Though it is in the Global South that US-trained paramilitary troops wage war against unarmed small farmers and indigenous communities, displaced from land to be privatised in mining projects for bauxite (aluminium), copper or uranium, and it is in the Global South that wars are raging with kalashnikovs, clubs and knives, wars to control and earn the incomes from the raw materials necessary to make more war with tanks, fighter planes and missiles.

Meanwhile, in those regions where the impact of climate change is already apparent, wars over fresh water resources and arable land have already claimed many lives. The profits to be made from green capitalist solutions to the changing climate, like carbon offset plantations and agrofuels, only intensify neo-colonial land grabs. The new endorsement for nuclear power takes for granted the conflict zones and repression necessary around uranium mining sites, the depleted uranium by-product of enrichment being a welcome resource for the armour plating of tanks, bomb making, and in machine-gun bullets.

Capitalism results in the need for continuous war and ever increasing rates of resource extraction, causing environmental degradation, climate change and social injustice and yet more war. The solutions to climate change within this system only feed the war machine and strengthen authoritarian regimes of control, while further degrading the rights of indigenous peoples and animals.

The US military recently launched its 'war on global warming', assigning the 'military to play a key role in tackling climate change'. A new frontier in the fight for freedom and justice...