Military and the Climate Change

Sara Flounders’ remarkable 2009 article on the Copenhagen climate meeting tied together the military and climate change, but delinking of the two persists. She wrote that “with more than 15,000 participants from 192 countries, including more than 100 heads of state, as well as 100,000 demonstrators in the streets – it is important to ask: How is it possible that the worst polluter of carbon dioxide and other toxic emissions on the planet is not a focus of any conference discussion or proposed restrictions? …the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.”

Overall, environmentalists pay little attention to the military, and the anti-war movement does not address the climate. Both squander precious time.   At a slow pace, industrialized countries have been “transitioning” to clean energy since the 1960s, without any specified and enforceable time frame.   Renewables remain a very small part of the energy mix and will not remedy the carbon-intensive military or industrial agriculture. Transition fuels like natural gas and biofuels have proven to be disastrous to human communities and to the climate. By contrast is the fast pace rapidly rising temperature, accelerating greenhouse gas concentration (due to amplifying feedbacks), increased military spending including nuclear weapons, and new weapons/surveillance/pacification technology.[1]   At some point recently, the climate goal shifted from elimination of greenhouse gases to mitigation.

The assumption that destitute, traumatized masses become violent is a-historical and does not distinguish between violence from above and from below.   The expectation of inevitable violence “offers an excellent platform for states to exploit authoritarian populism in the name of scarcity.”[2]   It is often posited that climate-related impacts like water depletion will be the new casus belli. “However, a closer analysis of history suggests that water issues have more often than not been grounds for cooperation, rather than conflict,” and in the 20thcentury 145 water-related treaties were signed. [3]   Drought and famine in themselves do not cause violence from below.

The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change