TPNS new initiative launched with two new reports and a call to ‘Transform Defence’ on 5th anniversary of Paris Climate Agreement

TPNS new initiative launched with two new reports and a call to ‘Transform Defence’ on 5th anniversary of Paris Climate Agreement

Tipping Point North South has pulled together its various military spending strands under one new banner: Transform Defence for Sustainable Human Safety is a project comprising a number of elements including the Five Percent Proposal and the case that military spending is an urgent international development issue; the global military’s impact on climate change and human insecurity; the absence in UN processes of the global military’s emissions accounting; and its Green New Deal Plus.

Transform Defence for Sustainable Human Safety ​describes the paradigm shift we need for all defence, security​, foreign and international development​ policies​ in a climate changed, post-pandemic world. It challenges NGOs and policy-makers alike to undertake brave discussion about redefining and re-making foreign and defence policy.

The two reports detail the staggering cost of military spending to people and the planet.

The first report, Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security assesses the impact of the global military on climate change, human security and development. The second report Global military spending, sustainable human safety and value for money makes the case for modernising defence and security thinking and spending in order to effectively deal with the biggest threats to our collective safety: climate change and pandemic.[1]

Together, the reports argue that the US$1.9 trillion[2] spent globally each year on the world’s military delivers nothing to defend citizens facing these twin threats. Five years after the Paris Climate Conference, it is time to add the global military’s carbon footprint to the ‘net zero’ debate. The reports call for an assessment of the accountability, efficacy, relevance and value for money of our global military to the threats we face could not be more timely as lives and livelihoods worldwide are destroyed by a foreseen yet completely unaddressed ‘Tier 1’ security threat – pandemic.

For example, Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security estimates that if the world’s militaries were combined together as a single country, they would be the 29th biggest oil consumer in the world, just ahead of Belgium or South Africa. To put it another way, this is half the oil consumption of the world’s 5th biggest economy, the UK. Runaway global military spending enables the world’s militaries to remain the biggest institutional users of fossil fuels in the world and to be major driver for climate change. A carbon-neutral world demands we fully decarbonise our militaries.

“[This report] is an important addition to the growing evidence on the significant role of military emissions in causing climate change. Using a novel methodology, it widens the analysis to all the world’s militaries… it connects the dots between military fuel use, military spending, war, and the burden of climate change on development,” says Neta C. Crawford, Professor and Chair of Political Science Boston University and Co-Director of the Costs of War Project. “… it [also] offers important solutions. It is essential reading for all those concerned with climate change and the path to a sustainable and secure future.”

And as nations update their 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions,[3] the Transform Defence reports call for NGOs and policy-makers alike to undertake a practical, imaginative, brave discussion about redefining and re-making defence policy so it is truly fit-for-purpose and accords the same level of attention, urgency and resources to pandemic and climate change as is granted to conventional security threats.

“[TPNS’s] Global military spending, sustainable human safety and value for money report … demonstrates how deeply inadequate the concept of ‘national security’ is in light of the ongoing pandemic and the rapidly unfolding threats of climate change,” says Jen Maman, Senior Peace Adviser, Greenpeace International. “It asks what we can learn by looking at the policy and spending priorities of governments, and argues that, unquestioned and at our peril, governments are massively outspending on weaponry compared to the climate emergency or global health protection.’’

As we end this very difficult year and look ahead to 2021, we very much hope this new project can add value to the post-Covid recovery debate and in tandem with the discussions leading up to the Glasgow hosted COP in 2021, make the case that the time has come to transform defence for sustainable human security.

Twitter: @TransformDef

Facebook: facebook.com/transformdefence

Notes:

In 2016, total public expenditures on climate change (international and domestic) amounted to US$141 billion while global military expenditures was US$1.7 trillion.[4] On average, the expenditure of national governments on climate change amounted to 8.5% of what they spent on defence, a ratio of 12:1.[5] Since 2016, global military spending has gone up significantly.

Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security also estimates that the global military and defence industry combined accounts for at least 1% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. This is larger than the annual greenhouse gas emissions of the entire country of Italy and not much smaller than the total GHG emissions of the UK and France respectively.

For comparison, international civil aviation is responsible for around 1.3% of global GHG emissions and is a climate change focus of public and political attention. Meanwhile, the global military-industrial complex accounts for a similar  amount of greenhouse gas emissions as civil aviation but it receives no such scrutiny.

Global military spending, sustainable human safety and value for money report uses the F35 fighter jet as a case study to illustrate this imbalance. Had the US$2 trillion estimated global total lifetime cost of F-35 programme been applied to the activities/areas/agencies below this is what the global community would be receiving instead:

  • Climate finance for 20 years
  • UN disaster response for the next 400 years
  • UN disaster risk reduction for the next 4,000 years
  • Global biodiversity conservation at US$100bn per annum for the next 20 years
  • WHO at US$2bn per annum for the next 1,000 years
  • WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for 2,963 years
  • Global pandemic surveillance and control at US$8bn per annum for the next 250 years
  • UN peacekeeping operations at current US$5bn per annum for the next 444 years
  • UN peacekeeping at US$15bn per annum for the next 133 years

References

[1] Both reports build on major work published earlier: the USA Pentagon emissions report “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War,” by Professor Neta Crawford of the Costs of War Project; UK military emissions “The Environmental Impacts of the UK Military Sector,” by Dr. Stuart Parkinson, Scientists for Global Responsibility; and “Hidden Carbon Costs of the ‘everywhere war’: Logistics, Geopolitical Ecology, and the Carbon Boot-print of the US Military,” by Oliver Belcher, Patrick Bigger, Ben Neimark, and Cara Kennelly.

[2] Trends In World Military Expenditure, 2019, SIPRI. https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2020-04/fs_2020_04_milex_0.pdf

[3] See https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs

[4] https://climatepolicyinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2017-Global-Landscape-of-Climate-Finance.pdf

[5] https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/a-tale-of-two-puzzles-accounting-for-military-and-climate-change-expenditures

Dr Strangelove warned the oil industry about global warming 60 years ago

Four others joined Dunlop at the podium that day, one of whom had made the journey from California – and Hungary before that. The nuclear weapons physicist Edward Teller had, by 1959, become ostracized by the scientific community for betraying his colleague J. Robert Oppenheimer, but he retained the embrace of industry and government. Teller’s task that November fourth was to address the crowd on “energy patterns of the future,” and his words carried an unexpected warning:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am to talk to you about energy in the future. I will start by telling you why I believe that the energy resources of the past must be supplemented. First of all, these energy resources will run short as we use more and more of the fossil fuels. But I would […] like to mention another reason why we probably have to look for additional fuel supplies. And this, strangely, is the question of contaminating the atmosphere. [….] Whenever you burn conventional fuel, you create carbon dioxide. [….] The carbon dioxide is invisible, it is transparent, you can’t smell it, it is not dangerous to health, so why should one worry about it?

Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [….] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.

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Look back, not forward, to connect with conservatives

The scientists theorize that “future framing” may contribute to conservative cynicism, especially “when year after year, we don’t seem to get that close to death,” Baldwin said. “Conservatives might become rather skeptical of the science that led us to the conclusion that we are in trouble. Perhaps focusing on the possible negative future doesn’t drive home the fact that our Earth really has changed a lot.”

This strategy might also counter the argument often invoked by conservatives that today’s global warming is just another example of natural climate variations that have occurred historically. …

In one of the study’s experiments, “We show people pictures of environmental change — for example, an image of a lake full of water, right next to an image of that same lake totally dried up,” he said. “Conservatives really respond to these images of drastic change from the more ‘perfect’ past. I can imagine doing something similar with extreme weather events as the focus. Following a large hurricane, for example, we could focus on how the planet in the past did not experience such events, and then create a contrast by saying something like, ‘Shouldn’t we work hard to return to a state of the planet where we don’t have to experience them anymore?’

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In 2011, solar power reached a tipping point.

The scientists found that, from 1975 up to 2011, solar panels were actually a source of greenhouse gases globally. The emissions avoided by existing solar panels were insufficient to offset the amount of emissions being produced by the rapid production of new solar panels.

But in 2011, this flipped. Instead of being a net source of emissions, the solar industry started avoiding more emissions than it emitted, providing a net climate benefit. Continue reading

Don’t Trump Climate Change

In a paper in the journal Science Advances, they said the actual range could be between 4.78C to 7.36C by 2100, based on one set of calculations.

Some have dismissed the idea that the world would continue to burn fossil fuels despite obvious global warming, but emissions are still increasing despite a 1C rise in average thermometer readings since the 1880s.

And US President-elect Donald Trump has said he will rip up America’s commitments to the fight against climate change.
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UN: 3C of warming under current global climate pledges

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement, which comes into force on Friday.

At least a quarter must be cut from emissions by the end of the next decade, compared with current trends, the UN said.
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Boiling the Humanity

This, on current trends, will be the hottest year ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014. Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the global monthly temperature record. But you can still hear people repeating the old claim, first proposed by fossil fuel lobbyists, that global warming stopped in 1998.
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Important Lessons from Studying the Planet

Lesson One. Physics Trumps Politics and Economics. Every Time.

The first lesson I learned from the planet is about the absurdity of our “real world” politics and economics.

Despite what many people claim, politics and economics are arbitrary systems of belief that people in power have invented over the years. And regardless of what we have been brought up to believe, the planet does not actually obey the rules of politics and economics. It never has.

Lesson Two. Thermodynamics and Systems Thinking are Powerful Tools.

The next lesson I’ve learned over the years is that thermodynamics and systems thinking are very powerful tools for understanding and describing the workings of our planet.

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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. Continue reading

Climate change is not just about carbon dioxide – the dangerously high level of methane leak to the atmosphere

In February, Harvard researchers published an explosive paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Using satellite data and ground observations, they concluded that the nation as a whole is leaking methane in massive quantities. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere.
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Green investment bank loses its green purpose

What a joke!

The bank set up by the government to to fund green infrastructure and cited frequently by David Cameron as evidence of the UK’s leadership on climate change will no longer be required by law to invest in green schemes, under moves put forward by ministers.

Campaigners said that changes proposed on Tuesday by small business minister Anna Soubry effectively delete the clause enshrined in legislation that gives the green investment bank its green purpose.

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Security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies

Dystopian preparations by the state are reflected in the corporate arena. Where we see a future climate crisis, many companies see only opportunity: oil firms looking forward to melting ice caps delivering new accessible fossil fuels; security firms touting the latest technologies to secure borders from ‘climate refugees’; or investment fund managers speculating on weather-related food prices – to name but a few. In 2012, Raytheon, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, announced “expanded business opportunities” arising from “security concerns and their possible consequences,” due to the “effects of climate change” in the form of “storms, droughts, and floods”. The rest of the defence sector has been quick to follow. Continue reading

5% Digest (Week 23/03/15)

Gregory D. Johnsen wrote a detailed account of the rise of Huthis in Yemen. Adam Baron argued that the power struggle is primarily local and foreign intervention will be a very bad idea.

But what is abundantly clear at the moment is that this remains, by and large, an internal Yemeni political conflict—one that, despite frequent sectarian mischaracterizations and potential regional implications, remains deeply rooted in local Yemeni issues.

And if history is a guide, foreign intervention will only stand to exacerbate the situation. Ironically, talk now centers on a potential Saudi Arabian and Egyptian military intervention in Yemen, a scenario that immediately brought to mind the memory of North Yemen’s 1960s Civil War which saw both sides intervene—albeit on different sides—in a matter which only appeared to draw the conflict out further. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for foreign powers to aid Yemeni factions in negotiating some new political settlement. But any nation that aims to make Yemen’s fight their own is more than likely to come out on the losing side.

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November Reading List

  1. Fracking could carry unforeseen risks as thalidomide and asbestos did, says report 
  2. This headline will subtly mislead you and science says that probably matters
  3. 5 Key Takeaways From the Latest Climate Change Report
  4. Why Ebola hit West Africa hard
  5. Nuclear Arms Control in China Today
  6. Texas oil town makes history as residents say no to fracking 
  7. The secular stagnation hoax
  8. The Pentagon’s Arguments for Runaway Arms Trading Are Indefensible
  9. World’s first solar cycle lane opening in the Netherlands
  10. Raytheon acquires cyber firm for $420 million
  11. America’s New Mercenaries
  12. What’s the environmental impact of modern war?
  13. Petraeus joins pro-fracking choir at Harvard’s Belfer Center
  14. Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia
  15. Foundation of US nuclear system showing cracks
  16. Midterms 2014: The Red Wedding for Democrats
  17. Can (green) energy policy create jobs?
  18. Death Wears Bunny Slippers
  19. It is the 0.01% who are really getting ahead in America
  20. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and UK healthcare
  21. Is neoliberalism at last unravelling in Britain?
  22. For Whom the Wall Fell? A balance-sheet of transition to capitalism 
  23. Ministers’ shale gas ‘hype’ attacked
  24. Some Very Initial Thoughts on the US-China Deal
  25. The social, political and ecological pathologies of the Ebola Crisis cannot be ignored
  26. F’d: How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World’s Worst New Warplane
  27. Spied on by BP
  28. How did the first world war actually end?
  29. Don’t Throw Billions at an Obsolete Nuclear Arsenal
  30. Hard Evidence: are we facing another financial crisis? 
  31. Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased
  32. Cameron is right to warn of another recession, but wrong to blame the world
  33. The Top 5 Foreign Policy Lessons of the Past 20 Years
  34. The .01 Percent Blow Their Fortunes on Yachts, Personal Jets and America’s Politicians
  35. How much is owed to Gaza? Does anyone know? This is not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking!
  36. International arms firm Lockheed Martin in the frame for £1bn NHS contract 
  37. We Love the Pentagon’s ‘Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure’
  38. Massive Rail Deal Gives China’s Push Into Africa a Major Win
  39. Exaggeration Nation
  40. Barclays boycotted over Israel arms trade shares
  41. Firms invested £17bn in companies making cluster bombs, report says
  42. There is Nothing Natural about Gentrification
  43. 41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground 
  44. The ‘crass insensitivity’ of Tower’s luxury dinner for arms dealers, days after poppy display 
  45. Fracking firm’s plans to look for gas in North Yorkshire criticised by environmental groups
  46. House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research
  47. Justifying War: “Just” Wars  

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