‘No Warming, No War’: Report Details How US Militarism and Climate Crisis Are Deeply Interwoven

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer at CommonDreams. Originally published at CommonDreams

A new report examining the federal budget illuminates the deep connections between the climate emergency and the U.S. military, arguing that the shift to a green economy requires a just transition away from both fossil fuels and endless war.

The report, entitled No Warming, No War: How Militarism Fuels the Climate Crisis—and Vice Versa (pdf), says that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic “has utterly changed life as we know it” and warns against working toward a return to an old normal which was “defined by unfettered capitalism that thrives on the devastation of our planet, the devaluation of human life, and the use of military force to perpetuate both.”

“On a local and global scale, humanity and community have been co-opted by profit and violence. This ‘normal’ has now brought us to the brink of an existential crisis as climate change continues nearly unabated,” co-authors Lorah Steichen and Lindsay Koshgarian write in the foreword. “In the face of both COVID-19 and the climate crisis, we urgently need to shift from a culture of war to a culture of care.”

The report was published Wednesday, the 50th annual Earth Day, by the National Priorities Project (NPP) at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). A 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, NPP tracks military spending and promotes a federal budget “that represents Americans’ priorities, including funding for people’s issues such as inequality, unemployment, education, health, and the need to build a green economy.”

Along with a summary on the IPS website and a blog post by Steichen, NPP produced infographics highlighting the report’s major findings, including that up to half of all interstate wars since 1973 have been linked to fossil fuel resources, particularly in the oil-rich Middle East. According to NPP, “The U.S. military spends an estimated $81 billion a year to protect the world’s oil supplies—even before accounting for the Iraq war.”

As NPP’s experts explain, the massive U.S. military—with its over two million members and an annual budget exceeding $700 billion—is “among the biggest polluters” on the planet, producing about 59 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, more than countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Portugal, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

Steichen and Koshgarian found that transitioning the nation’s power grid to 100% renewable energy over the next decade would cost an estimated $4.5 trillion, which not only would generate more jobs than the military but is also less costly—in lives and dollars—than the $6.4 trillion that the U.S. has spent on war since 2001.

Echoing demands of climate campaigners, the report calls for ending all direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil, and gas, which would save about $649 billion a year. Coupled with redirecting $350 billion of the Pentagon’s spending, the total savings could amount to nearly $1 trillion that the country could instead put toward renewable energy.

“Enforcing fair taxes on the wealthy, corporations, and Wall Street could yield $866 billion,” the report adds. “When we take back our resources from elites who profit off violent wars, weapons, and walls we can reinvest trillions of dollars back into our communities and begin to repair the harm inflicted on people and the planet by militarization at home and around the world.”

The report also takes aim at the corporations—both military contractors and energy giants—that reap massive profits from the devastation of war and fossil fuel extraction. The analysis specifically calls out Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman as well as BP, Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil.

Decrying violent law enforcement and government responses across the nation to protests against land dispossession and resource extraction, the report highlights how “as policing continues to be militarized, state legislatures around the country increasingly criminalize dissent” and punish people from front-line and Indigenous communities for fighting to ensure a safe and healthy future.

The report also points out mounting evidence that, as communities across the globe continue to endure the impacts of the climate crisis, “these new ecological realities will compound existing conflicts, cause more political instability, and dislocate unprecedented quantities of people.” Thus, the NPP experts declare, “immigrant justice is climate justice, and challenging militarism is critical to achieving both.”

“To achieve climate justice, we must transform the extractive economy we have now that is harming people and ecosystems,” the report says. “Resisting militarization is core to building an economy that works for people and the planet. As such, we must pursue solutions to the climate crisis that challenge the violent and oppressive systems that have fueled war and warming for generations.”

The report’s conclusion features five principles for collective action:

  1. All human life has equal value.
  2. Economies are only as healthy as people and the planet.
  3. All people have a right to self-determination.
  4. There is enough for everybody.
  5. We are all interconnected and so are our movements.

“We hope that this resource will contribute to existing conversations about climate change and militarism by highlighting the ways that the two fuel each other,” Steichen and Koshgarian write of their new report. “We also hope that this resource will spark new questions and help facilitate dialogue—and coordination—across movements. When we come together we can build the just future we deserve.”

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  1. Susan the other

    Just my sense of things. The transition away from the easy, very-high-energy oil world is a precarious one for the US Military. And its allies. But climate change is calling the shots. It might be to the advantage of military preparedness if the world were in crisis during their time of transition to renewables and a cleaner environment. So from that standpoint Covid-19 is a good thing. And it is not going away. It will be a prolonged adjustment. I thought it was strangely reactionary and paranoid of Gen. Milley to spout off about how we were locked and loaded so don’t anybody think you can take advantage of us because of the pandemic. But it could be entirely logical, from his point of view. For the military, transitioning away from petroleum is synonymous with far less fire-power. But still far more than anybody else. It doesn’t mean that they will become extinct – they will become very useful imo. So the whole move to control oil has a surprise ending possibly – to control its use and replace it with cleaner sources. I’m not against that. But the extreme paranoia of the military is making me nervous. If they are really the good guys, they don’t have to be quite that freaked out.

    1. shinola

      ” I thought it was strangely reactionary and paranoid of Gen. Milley to spout off about how we were locked and loaded so don’t anybody think you can take advantage of us because of the pandemic. But it could be entirely logical, from his point of view.”

      What is the definition of “us”? Does it mean “us” as a country or does “us” mean the MIC? Is the general paranoid or is he trying to generate paranoia? Either way, there is a certain logic to it.

    2. jef

      We need to stop talking about it as a “transition” because it makes it sound like a logical, reasonable, rational, necessary, and inevitable.

      There has never been a “transition” from something that provides cheap almost free universal benefits to all civilization to something that is not. It is possible to transition but it will be absolutely the most dificult transition ever and the end result will be a fraction of what we once had.

      As long as we keep couching it as just a “transition” we will always be waiting for it to happen and it never will.

      1. Rod

        I also think “Transition” is vague and passive for my use any more and prefer to use:

        ‘Decommission and Realign our Energy Resources”

        because, imo, it is an active and intentional description of what needs to be done.

  2. JTMcPhee

    General Milley is concerned about “readiness,” Which the military defines as “ readiness — The ability of military forces to fight and meet the demands of assigned missions. See also national military strategy. (JP 1)” https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

    And the military-centric publications are larded with articles full of warnings about the sorry state of the Imperial military’s readiness just to do its day-to-day work, let alone conduct wars (you don’t “fight” wars, you “conduct” them, and the “conductors” call themselves “Battlespace Managers). Some, like this one, https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2016/07/military-readiness-definition-threat/129844/ push the conclusion that there really are infinite scenarios where the Imperium in its machinations ends up in “conflict,” a fundamental military term which nonetheless, like “war” and “victory” are not defined except by inference the the military’s own Dictionary. So of course the Imperium needs infinite money to prep for each and every one of the constantly shifting “threats” that “innovators” among the “adversaries” are always coming up with.

    The meme “self-licking ice cream cone” has kind of faded around here. But it’s pretty obvious to anyone whose rice bowl is not “mil spec” that the whole Game of Risk ™ as played by the Great Gamers who rule us (because, unlike the progressives, they are willing to pursue and use power) is just a giant tub of the Gelato that was just featured in Nancy Pelosi’s $24,000 freezer…

    Memo to General Milley: The Enemy is getting infected by coronavirus too, impacting readiness on the other side. Rather than gathering intelligence on the degradation of The Enemy’s ability to fight and pick the optimum time to attack, it might be time to stand down, as the post suggests, and if it’s the only way you can think about things, consider your own behavior, and that of the war lovers around the world, as a common enemy of the nation (and its “Constitution”) that you took that oath to protect…

  3. AdamK

    No objection of limiting military expenses here. I just watched “Planet of the Humans” movie few days ago and renewal energy is a fraud. Not only it won’t satisfy our thirst for energy, it will pollute and destroy the environment by cutting trees, burning waste and plastics and so forth. So using the argument that we are better off spending on renewal energy is a weak argument at best. In any case we are better off doing whatever than spending our energy and resources on a destructive armaments.

    1. JTMcPhee

      From the Youtube intro to “Planet of the Humans:

      Removed from the debate is the only thing that MIGHT save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not THE issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business. Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, “green” illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end—and we’ve pinned all our hopes on biomass, wind turbines, and electric cars?

      No amount of batteries are going to save us, warns director Jeff Gibbs (lifelong environmentalist and co-producer of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine”). This urgent, must-see movie, a full-frontal assault on our sacred cows, is guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way—before it’s too late.

      Featuring: Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Richard Branson, Robert F Kennedy Jr., Michael Bloomberg, Van Jones, Vinod Khosla, Koch Brothers, Vandana Shiva, General Motors, 350.org, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, Elon Musk, Tesla.

      Quite the cast of characters.

      I guess maybe it’s too bad that the CFR for Covid-19, at least in its first pass through the population and our physiologists, is not a larger number? But who knows what behaviors it’s going to display as time goes by?

      And the Imperial military does not share that jaded view of “green energy:”

      U.S. military marches forward on green energy, despite Trump”
      The armed forces nearly doubled renewable power generation between 2011 and 2015, to 10,534 billion British thermal units, or enough to power about 286,000 average U.S. homes, according to a Department of Defense report.

      The number of military renewable energy projects nearly tripled to 1,390 between 2011 and 2015, department data showed, with a number of utilities and solar companies benefiting. Many of those projects are at U.S. bases, where renewable energy allows the military to maintain its own independent source of power in case of a natural disaster or an attack – or cyber attack – that disables the public grid.

      The White House did not respond to Reuters requests for comment on the military’s use of green energy. Although Trump has blasted solar subsidies, vowed to boost fossil fuel development and questioned the science behind climate change, military leaders remain confident that the president won’t halt their march toward renewable power.

      “We expect that it’s going to continue during the Trump administration,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Kinsel, head of the infrastructure unit of the Air Force Asset Management Division for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection. “It’s really not political.”

      Other senior officials in the Navy, Air Force and Army also told Reuters that they expected their renewable energy programs to continue.

      Lt. Col. J.B. Brindle, a Defense Department spokesman, said the agency “spends very little appropriated funding” on renewable energy projects, but declined to give any figures or to answer additional questions about such efforts.

      Trump’s Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, has long supported efforts to reduce troop dependence on petroleum. He saw first-hand the vulnerability of diesel convoys to attacks by militants while serving as Commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s. As far back as 2003, he urged Navy researchers to find innovative ways to unleash the military from the “tether of fuel.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-military-green-energy-insight-idUSKBN1683BL

      So much for civilian control of the military and Trump’s power as commander-in-chief.


  4. Adam Eran

    I’d like to add that sprawl contributes an enormous amount to global warming and the militarization of the Middle East. The additional miles of roads, water and sewer pipes, the longer emergency vehicle runs… all of that costs roughly twice to maintain as much as compact, pedestrian-friendly development. It also consumes farmland for all those suburban lawns, and fuels the demand for gasoline with the longer commutes. Sprawl forecloses the possibility of viable (non-subsidized) transit, too.

    I’ve heard some objectors say that developers build what people demand. Not even that is true (with some significant exceptions). Pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use (stores and offices among the residences) development commands premiums wherever it is sold. The premiums typically range from 40% (Kentlands MD, Orenco Station, OR) to 600% (Seaside Fl. lots).

    What is the countervailing economic motive? Land speculators can purchase agricultural land for a few thousand dollars an acre, and sell the upzoned land to builders for 50 – 100 times what they paid for it.

    It’s a pretty old custom–Washington and Jefferson did it–but that doesn’t make it right.

    The Germans require developers to sell local government the land at the ag land price, then repurchase it at the development land price. All that “unearned increment” (the 5,000% – 10,000% gross profit) goes into improving the public realm, not the speculators’ pockets. And Germans have very nice infrastructure, terrific schools (university tuition is free even for foreigners) and the arts budget for the City of Berlin exceeds the National Endowment for the Arts.

    If you’re looking for a way that the political establishment shovels money to the plutocrats, this is one very obvious, very local way to do it.

  5. Charles

    Where to even start with this sh*t?? It makes one wonder about the sanity of the publishers of this blog that they would entertain such rubbish on here.

  6. everydayjoe

    Those of us living in wealthy Nations need to first see our poor country peers as equals. That sensitivity is not collective and after war on terror ,questioning any war was seen as unpatriotic. When we dont discuss deaths of these civilians at all in any of the mass media then how can we achieve end to endless wars? Even this article is more worried about global warming than the basic human right of right to live.!!! Stop killing people. Period. Both at home and abroad. These mass shootings have a correlation to escalation in wars and glorification of militant nationalism. And when a candidate like Bernie( lone wolf in this regard) comes forward who do we nominate,? a war mongerer like Biden.!! At least Trump has not started any wars . Killing civilians is wrong. All of us should be asked to write 100 times on a piece of paper daily- Thou shall not cheer war.

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