How military industries poison our planet

The U.S. military is the single greatest institutional contributor to growing natural disasters. We must bring an overall reduction in military spending onto the political agenda.

Media coverage of massive heatwaves and forest fires in the heart of the Amazonia and Subsaharan Africa has somehow overshadowed the awful truth that military industries are significant contributors to climate change.

It is easy to fathom that with CO2 emissions, coming mostly from coal and petrol, newspaper stories about multinationals exploiting Third World countries, we tend to forget about the military. After all, in most of the Western world, the military is professional and soldiers are not a large part of population, hence the assumption that their role in ecological disasters is not significant.


In fact, the US Army alone pollutes at a rate greater than 140 countries combined. Indeed, the United States insisted on an exemption to the reporting of military emissions in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This is no surprise since the USA has one of the largest military industries in the history of the world and the US Air Force (USAF) is the largest single consumer of jet fuel in the world. In 2006, the USAF spent more on fuel than during the Second World War.

Climate & Capitalism sums it up: “The U.S. military is the single greatest institutional contributor to the growing natural disasters intensified by global climate change.“

The Munich Institut für sozial-ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung reports the scale of these emissions: the modern Eurofighter consumes about 70 to 100 litres of kerosene per minute and at Ramstein Base (Germany) alone, 1.35 billion m³ of climate-damaging gases are released each year.

Furthermore, the US Army has a long history of chemical weapons use dating back to the Vietnam War, including the herbicide Agent Orange that killed Vietnamese and US soldiers alike. Today, the US Army is doing the same by emitting toxic waste from their military bases in the Philippines and Okinawa, not to mention shooting depleted uranium shells in the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia in 1999 and war in Iraq in 2003.

While the public outcry against climate change continues, military industries are booming, and not only in the USA.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), military expenditure is rising in China (by 5%) as well as in the whole of Europe (Ukraine is leading with an increase of 21%), most of Asia and Oceania and of course the USA with 716 billion dollars in 2019. The US Army is not only the world leader in the accumulation of arms but also damaging the planet with 5429 military bases worldwide, 1000 of which are located in 80 different countries outside of the US.

The conclusion is obvious: We must bring an immediate reduction in military spending onto the political agenda.

There is no room for mistakes such as the recent support by progressives in the US House of Representatives for Trump’s colossal military budget giving the Pentagon carte blanche for the next two years. While Europeans can’t influence the American legislature they can decrease their own military budgets, stop exporting weapons abroad, ban storage and use of nuclear warheads in Europe, withdraw from military campaigns around the globe.

I hope that our choice will not be poisoning ourselves with military industries while, at the same time, trying to protect our lives with those very industries.

Aleksandar Novaković is a historian and dramatist, and member of the Thematic DSC Military and International Policy 1

Photo: Todd Diemer (no joke)

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