U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter. Or U.S need to get its house in order before lecturing other countries on climate.
By Mohammed Khaku
World leaders will gather in Glasgow for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to draw up treaties to address global warming and reduce emissions.
Previous years’ conferences on climate change have been toothless agreement that has resulted in the lip-service Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Paris Agreement (2016). This year’s conference, known as COP26, is scheduled to take place on November 1-12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
However, U.S. military
related activities and wars around the globe are exempted or overlooked.
Who is the world’s greatest polluter?
When I asked my friends and family members, I get the answers: coal plants, airlines, mining, manufacturing plants, agriculture? They’re all good answers, but the correct answer is the U.S. military is the single biggest polluter on the planet.
U.S. military’s carbon footprint must be addressed in domestic policy and international climate treaties to save our planet.
All previous climate change treaties have exempted the Pentagon from publishing any data on emissions. Moreover, it’s challenging to get consistent data from the Pentagon and across U.S. government departments.
The United States insisted on an exemption for reporting military emissions in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Still, this loophole was not entirely closed by the Paris Accord but left at the discretion of the Pentagon. The Trump administration withdrew from the accord in 2020.
Why was this special privilege and exemption available to the Department of Defense?
It is because there is a link between Militarism and climate change. At COP26, there should be no exemption for any military pollution of the environment. The climate crisis is justice as well as human rights issue.
These international treaties have not set legally binding limits nor there is accountability or enforcement on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or the role militarism has played in contributing to the climate crisis.
The Climate crisis cannot be solved without addressing Militarism and Military Industrial Complex (MIC). The two have intertwined to negatively affect the emission and Green House Gases (GHG).
In his book, Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, Professor Barry Sanders writes:
“Here’s the awful truth: even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the earth would still be headed, headfirst and at full speed, towards total disaster for one major reason.”
The U.S. military produces enough GHG to put entire humanity and inhabitant in the most imminent danger of extinction unless the carbon footprint of our military Industrial Complex is drastically reduced.
A recent study from Brown University’s Costs of War project concluded that U.S. Military is the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world.
The U.S. unlimited military expansion and environmental contempt will destroy the planet. The U.S. Military has poisoned and caused ecological catastrophes.
The Role played by U.S. Military with $703 billion dollar budget.
Imperialism with capitalist ideology encompasses every corner of militarism and climate issues, Militarism has always been at the service of capitalism.
Professor Neta Crawford of Boston University research: U.S. Military with 400 bases in U.S. and 800 bases in over seventy countries has emitted 1.2 billion metric tons of GHG equivalent to 257 million passenger cars.
Pentagon is the largest institutional greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter on the planet. It produces 59 million metric tons of GHGs annually, which is more than 170 countries.
As the world’s biggest polluter, our armed forces create 750,000 tons of toxic waste every year in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuels, pesticides, defoliants, lead, and other chemicals.
The U.S. military has the single largest carbon footprint. In 2017, the U.S. military bought about 269,230 barrels of oil a day and emitted more than 25,000 kilotons of carbon dioxide by burning those fuels.
Wars are a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe as well as causing immeasurable suffering. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was quoted as saying, “The environment has long been a silent casualty of war…”
We need to reduce the Pentagon’s budget to reduce fossil fuels usage and GHG emissions to protect the environment.
The U.S. has conducted more nuclear weapons tests than all other nations combined, and the U.S. dropped more than sixty nuclear weapons between 1946 and 1958. The Nuclear tests should end.
Iraq & Afghanistan War:
U.S. military has a horrendous environmental record in Iraq and Afghanistan. Studies have shown that climate change and contamination happen due to war, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The environmental havoc wreaked by the war in Iraq/Afghanistan is inconceivable. Not only did the war led to a spike in carbon dioxide emissions through U.S. military activity, but it has also resulted in the widespread contaminating of the environment throughout Afghanistan and Iraq.
The environment has become so toxic in some places that it has led to elevated rates of cancer and crippling congenital disabilities — terrible individual punishments inflicted on innocent future generations.
A British doctor co-authored two studies on the environmental impact of U.S. military operations in Fallujah said that the city’s population suffers “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”
The massive environmental damage caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) was due to depleted uranium ammunition used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The solution to GHG emission – Green New Deal (GND).
Significant reductions to the Pentagon’s budget and shrinking its capacity to wage war will keep Americans and humanity safe.
The money spent procuring and distributing fuel across the U.S. empire could instead be spent as a peace dividend, helping to fund a Green New Deal.
A “green military” is a myth and false solution. U.S. Military bases cause ecological destruction, political instability, and draw funds away from a sustainable economy.
We need to re-direct the Pentagon budget towards solutions to the climate crises by funding GND.
Four things that can be done are:
- Not to start any new proxy wars: The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have emitted more than 1.2 billion metric tons of GHG. Ending the wars would save lives, reduce emissions, and free up billions of dollars for GND.
- Dismantle Military-Industrial Complex of manufacturing fighter jets, submarines, aircraft carriers, and needless weapons manufacturing.
- The United States should not trump the climate change protocols at COP26 and embrace collective action to reduce GHG and be more transparent and accountable when it comes to the Military.
- Fight back with a small group of anti-climate organizations and media who are complacent and have launched a campaign of spreading misinformation and propaganda about the climate change policies with education!
We Must Stand Strong:
We must stand firm in our belief, according to the Holy Quran that we are the guardian and stewards of the environment and take all necessary steps to ensure that the entrusted property is passed on to the next generation in as pure form as possible.
We must stand firm to fight propaganda and rhetoric against climate change. The media and those in power have shown their ineptitude time and again to close military bases around the globe or cut the U.S. military budget.