We Must Not Forget That Wars and the Military Industrial Complex Destroy the Climate – As Well as People

Angelo Baracca and Marinella Correggiahttps://www.counterfire.org/images/stories/mar2019/US-military-pollution.jpgSome spoke of “the second world superpower”. On February 15, 2003, millions of people simultaneously took to the streets in almost every country on the planet to say no to the wars of Bush, Blair and their lackeys against Iraq, “no to the war for oil and profit”. That experience of peaceful planetary revolt, which was epic but unsuccessful (not even a single bomb was interrupted), was not repeated during successive wars of direct aggression or by those in power, nor because of other environmental and social emergencies.

Now it is the movement of young people for the climate and for future existence that dialogue like a tsunami – not a coincidental metaphor – throughout the planet.

Fighting climate chaos while opposing wars and the military industrial complex should be obvious. Achieving the primary goal of zero emissions is impossible without including the military industrial complex, its territorial bases, its armies and its most tragic result: wars of aggression, humanitarian interventions by air and land are responsible for environmental devastation, human casualties and the displacement of incalculable numbers of civilians. Tanks and fighter-bombers also wage war on the climate.

Nevertheless, not only the governments present at the United Nations Climate Action Summit addressed the war issue (hidden under the table of the annual negotiations), but also mass movements for the climate, and the opposition to military activities at all levels. Antimilitarism should be imposed among eco-militants along with the concept of carbon footprint: the impact of intensive energy consumption that alters the climate, caused by the system of weapons, bases and military apparatus, airplanes, ships, tanks, armies, especially during military interventions.

According to the report, “A Climate of War, the War in Iraq and Global Warming“, the first four years of the intensive military operations in Iraq since 2003, caused more than 140 million tons of greenhouse gas (CO2 equivalent) emissions, more than the annual emissions of 139 countries. The study, “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change and the Costs of War“, by Neta Crawford, from Boston University, in the context of the Cost of War project, analyzes fuel consumption in the US “anti-terrorism” wars after September 11 (let’s not forget that Italy is also responsible for having participated). From 2011 to 2017: a conservative estimate of fuel consumption alone reveals the emission of 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas (CO2 equivalent), but this estimate does not include the production of weapons and their ecological and climate impact, nor the effect on climate and the environment of the massive destruction of infrastructure, houses, services, all to be reconstructed.

Millions of tons of cement (among the most energy-intensive industrial productions), fuel for machinery, etc. A rope around the neck of the planet, as summarized in the appeal “Stop the Wars, Stop the Warming”, launched by the World Beyond War (WBW) movement on the eve of the Climate Conference in Paris (2015): “The exorbitant use of oil by the military sector serves to wage wars for oil and for the control of resources, wars that produce gas that alters the climate and causes global warming. It is time to break this circle, to end wars over fossil fuels and the use of fossil fuels to wage war.

In the same tone is in the report,”Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization” by Tamara Lorincz, for the International Peace Bureau (Ipb): “Reducing the military industrial complex and repudiating war is a necessary condition for saving the climate, allocating the resources saved to the post-extractive economy and the creation of resilient communities”. It is also estimated – says Lorincz – that in order to have hope “80-90% of fossil fuels should remain underground, so that “everything that is extracted would be used for the transition to a zero-emission system, not for the military”.

The most studied is the US military-industrial complex, which is certainly the principal culprit (only 35 countries in the world consume more fossil energy than that entity, but the other countries are accomplices).

Last July WBW presented a new report, “The US Military and Climate Change“, in which the comparison between the climate impact of consumption for civilian uses and that of a military means of transport is depicted using an emissions meter. In the book The Green Zone. The Environmental Costs of Militarism (2009), former History of Ideas professor Barry Sanders presents an impressive calculation: the United States Army, and the instruments linked to it, would by itself emit at least 5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to the armies, weapons and operations of other countries. World military expenditures reached 1.74 trillion dollars in 2017, according to Stockholm’s Sipri. Trillions translatable into huge amounts of greenhouse gas. Trillions to destroy.

The military is concerned with the climate, but not with producing fewer weapons or waging fewer wars. The book, The Secure and the Dispossessed: How the Military and Corporations are Shaping a Climate-Changed World” (Pluto Press), by Nick Buxton and Ben Hayes, explains the strategies of the military sector and the multinationals to manage the risks (including geoengineering), which would attempt to mitigate the effects of global warming without the necessary drastic reduction in emissions. The objective is to protect the few in the name of security, excluding the unprivileged, and circumventing climate justice. On the other hand, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed by Donald Trump, is concerned about “the vulnerability of military installations to upcoming climate events” and the US Navy published a manual on military resilience techniques. They are prepared.

NATO, also in the “Wales Summit Declaration“, which concluded a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (the Alliance’s decision-making body) in 2014, regards climate change as one of the factors that have and will continue to have “an impact on environmental security” and that may “be of significant interest to NATO’s planning and operations”, which is determined not to become extinct, or at least not to wage more wars, but to improve its energy efficiency. But how will the military sector cope with a real post-fossil transition? The wars of the future are unlikely to be waged with solar-paneled fighter-bombers, hydrogen tanks and the successive reconstruction of buildings with bales of straw and hemp.

But it doesn’t end here. “The military sector not only pollutes, but also corrupts, transfigures, annihilates. The fate of the Earth and the world is in the hands of weapons” (Barry Sanders). Military activities are responsible for numerous forms of pollution and damage to the health of populations: from heavy metals to depleted uranium and also thorium for testing rockets in firing ranges.

No less serious is the occupation of territories that should be used for crops or other useful human activities. but which nevertheless remain severely and permanently contaminated by military activities. As an example, the damage to human and animal health, and obviously to the environment, caused on the firing ranges of Sardinia, a region which has a record number of military servicemen in Italy. In many cases water sources are also contaminated, as the German pacifists fighting for the closure of the Ramstein base emphasized (they also presented a plan for its eco-reconversion).

Obviously little is known about the increase in tumors and diseases that harm populations that are victims of indiscriminate military attacks and that obviously have no channels through which to seek justice or obtain redress (the tribunal of the former Yugoslavia filed complaints against NATO).

It must be added that military spending (more than 1.7 billion dollars worldwide, in Italy 80 million euros a day) is a diversion of resources from social investment and conversion to a fair and ecological economy.

And then there is military nuclear energy. The end of human civilization due to the threat of climate change could happen as a result of a “shortcut”: a nuclear war with the use of a reduced number of existing (almost 15 000) and operational (almost 5 000), would cause a drastic darkening and consequent cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere, the so-called “nuclear winter”, with drastic damage to agriculture and dramatic shortages, simply by emitting dust and debris (not counting direct destruction and radioactive fall-out and health consequences).

Simulations indicate that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan (constantly on the verge of conflict) that detonates half of their nuclear arsenals, about 260 warheads in total, could cause up to 2 billion victims. The Peace and Planet network and the International Peace Bureau will organize in New York next April the world conference “Abolish nuclear weapons, face the climate crisis, for economic and social justice”.

The mobilizations in Italy must ask the government to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, approved by the United Nations on July 7, 2017.

Translation from Italian to Spanish by Yenia SIlvia Correa.

Translation to English, Editing, by Internationalist 360°