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Global Warring is Warming: How Militarism Contributes to Climate Destabilization

September 19, 2017
Kim Carlyle / The War Crimes Times @ Veterans for Peace

Carbon-based fuels power the planet's more than one billion automobiles and other modes of transportation and provide for the manufacture of consumer goods and heating and air conditioning -- all for the world's affluent. And this polluting fuel is also used for the machines of war. This profligate consumption of oil and coal releases more than 30 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. Today, a new and clearly recognized cause for war has emerged: climate change.


The war machine, both in its active engagements and in its now-rare "peaceful" mode of training and preparation only, is a significant emitter of heat-trapping gases. In fact, the US Department of "Defense" is the biggest single user of fossil fuels in the world.

Global Warring Global Warming
Warring is Warming: How Militarism Contributes to Climate Destabilization

Kim Carlyle / The War Crimes Times @ Veterans for Peace

A system with an unchecked positive loop ultimately will destroy itself.
–Donella Meadows

(Spring 2013) -- The greatest threat to US security is not terrorism; it is nothing that requires a military solution. In fact, we'd make significant progress toward US -- and global -- security if we had a military dissolution.

Human security is compromised and civilization itself is imperiled due to the disruption of the biosphere that is well underway as the average temperature of the planet rises because of human activity. War and militarism are human activities that significantly contribute to the problem. Three links between warring and warming are described below. The first two interact in a loop of self-reinforcing cause-and-effect, but the third has the most adverse effects.

Climate Change Amplifiers Positive feedback loops, climate scientists say, accelerate the rate of global warming. For example, rising temperatures melt the arctic permafrost releasing methane that has been trapped in the polar ice for millennia.

Methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, joins carbon dioxide and other atmospheric greenhouse gases to further warm the planet, thus melting more arctic ice and releasing more methane. Other change amplifiers such as increasing atmospheric moisture, decreasing albedo effect (the reduced reflectivity of sunlight due to diminishing polar ice and glaciers), desertification, upsurge in forest fires, and ocean-warming are recognized. But we'll make no progress in forestalling global warming unless and until we check the cause and effect cycle involving war and militarism.

Link 1: War Begets Global Warming Fossil Fuels
The war machine, both in its active engagements and in its now-rare "peaceful" mode of training and preparation only, is a significant emitter of heat-trapping gases. In fact, the US Department of "Defense" is the biggest single user of fossil fuels in the world; it consumed 355,000 barrels of oil per day in 2011.

Not only does the military burn carbon at a prolific rate, it puts a low priority on fuel efficiency and environmental impact. The US Air Force accounts for most of the fuel consumption and its planes often emit their greenhouse gases at high altitudes where their adverse effects are most potent.

Consider also the "collateral pollution" of war. Recall the images of more than 600 oil wells that burned 6 million gallons a day for nearly 10 months during the Gulf War in 1991 -- black billowing clouds of carbon smoke. That's certainly one of the more conspicuous examples, but any fire caused by war is a needless fire, and all fires are chemical processes that release carbon dioxide. Try to imagine war without fire.

Then there's the -- often massive -- post-conflict cleanup and reconstruction work. In countries ravaged by war, wreckage must be hauled away, and destroyed buildings and infrastructure must be restored or rebuilt. This requires heavy construction equipment, which spews more greenhouse gases. Add to that the fossil fuels burned in the building supply chain from material extraction to on-site delivery. These emissions are not trivial, and they are totally avoidable.

Also, consider that the primary function of the war machine is to secure access to petroleum supplies for the global economy. The oil industry profits handsomely as they extract this fossil carbon from the ground to provide fuel for the world; the expense is borne by the impoverished -- the first to suffer from global warming -- and by those poor unfortunates collaterally damaged as the access is secured.

The fuel powers the planet's more than one billion automobiles and other modes of convenient conveyance and it provides for the manufacture of consumer goods and heating and air conditioning -- indoor climate control (good grief!) -- all for the world's affluent. Oh yes, the fuel is also used for the machines of war.

This profligate consumption of oil, along with the profligate consumption of coal, releases more than 30 gigatons (30,000,000,000 tons) of carbon into the atmosphere each year.

Defoliation and Deforestation.
In the last century, the ravages of war have destroyed millions of acres of forests from Reims-Verdon to Vietnam.

This "scorched earth" strategy is not new. Since ancient times, armies -- the Scythians in Persia, the Romans in Carthage, and Sherman's Union troops in Georgia -- have trashed the land. But modern technologies of warfare, including massive aerial bombardment, napalm, Agent Orange, and huge earth-moving equipment, have exponentially increased the military's destructive capability.

Such large-scale environmental destruction releases vast amounts of sequestered carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Compounding the problem, residual contaminants often prevent the ecosystems from recovering and re-sequestering the CO2. This is clearly ecocide, a crime against nature.

Link 2: Global Warming Begets War
Warfare, like weather, arises from a complex of causes, none of which can be absolutely proven since a control group cannot be set up to isolate and test any single factor. A queen is kidnapped; an archduke assassinated; a domino is expected to fall; religion, racism, and economic conditions are often blamed. We can never know for sure.

But today, a new and clearly recognized cause for war has emerged: climate change. A number of studies strongly suggest that recent conflicts in sub- Saharan Africa are, at least in part, the result of global warming. This does not bode well for the future.

As the Earth heats up, regional weather patterns are changing. Some areas experience more rainfall -- and flooding; some less rainfall -- and drought. The climate disruption creates shortages of food and water, which create climate refugees.

The consequent disruption of the social order creates political instability which leads to war. This is not a new concept. In 1998, in The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, The Cover-up, The Prescription, Russ Gelbspan wrote:
Long before the systems of the planet buckle, democracy will disintegrate under the stress of ecological disasters and their social consequences . . . it is the poor, precarious, nations of the developing world that would face the threat of totalitarianism first.

In many of these countries, where democratic conditions are as fragile as the ecosystem, a reversion to dictatorship will require only a few ecological states of emergency. Their governments will quickly find democracy to be too cumbersome for responding to disruption in food supplies, water sources, and human health -- as well as to a floodtide of environmental refugees from homelands that have become incapable of feeding and supporting them.

That such social disintegration can lead to conflict is also known to our Masters of War in the Department of Defense.

In a 2004 Pentagon report, "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security," authors Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall wrote:
Violence and disruption stemming from the stresses created by abrupt changes in the climate pose a different type of threat to national security than we are accustomed to today. Military confrontation may be triggered by a desperate need for natural resources such as energy, food, and water rather than by conflicts over ideology, religion, or national honor.

While the report describes some extreme, but plausible, scenarios resulting in a "world of warring states" where "nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable," it also soberly states, "Regardless, it seems undeniable that severe environmental problems are likely to escalate the degree of global conflict."

But this causal link is not merely conjecture about the future. We can already see its effects, as expected, in "the poor, precarious nations of the developing world."

In their research report, "Drought and Civil War in Sub- Saharan Africa" (revised October 2012), Mathieu Couttenier and Raphael Soubeyran write: According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007), changes in the global climate will generate an increase in the number of abnormal climatic events across the world, such as droughts and floods.

These climatic anomalies might have disastrous consequences for countries with a scarce fresh water supply and economies that depend on the local agriculture. Given that agricultural activities account for between 60% and 100% of the income of the poorest African households and that these households often have no access to safe water, sub- Saharan Africa is one of the regions most adversely affected by climate change in the world.

One of the possible consequences of climate change is an increase in conflicts. For instance, there is now a consensus that drought has been a contributory cause of the civil war in Darfur because it increased disputes over arable land and water, even if the conflict also had an ethnic component since it opposed Arabs and Black Africans.

Link 3: Misplaced Priorities
The greatest obstacle to dealing with global warming is the notion that other threats have higher priorities. They do not. But a complex of powerful institutions that inform our culture by misinforming it have successfully led Americans to believe that terrorists, the "evil empires" of Iran and North Korea, and even China pose the greatest threats to our security, and that the only way to overcome such "bad actors" is with excessive military might.

The elite of these political, industrial, financial, and military institutions have much to gain by maintaining a state of perpetual war, and nothing to lose (at least in the short term) since the underclass always carries the burden of war. The lackeys of the elite -- in the media, entertainment, public relations sectors, and (sadly) much of the religious community -- obediently promote their agenda.

But, in reality, we face a much greater threat to our security in global warming, which puts our very survival as a species at risk. And there is no military solution for global warming; in fact, the military is a major part of the problem, not the solution. (Actually "military solution" is an oxymoron; war makes any problem worse except, of course, overpopulation.)

Global warming is the most critical danger. Its effects are already being felt. The climate will continue to destabilize over time. Indeed, climate change has momentum; even if the whole world immediately and completely quit emitting greenhouse gases today, the warming would continue for decades.

But before we can direct our attention toward mitigating this imminent cataclysm of climate, we must direct our attention -- and resources -- away from futile, destructive, climate-altering war.

Peace on Earth, Peace with Earth
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it is tied to everything else in the universe."
-- John Muir

"Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone."
-- Margaret J. Wheatley

The links and the feedback loops between warring and warming are examples of a reality that we ignore at great peril: everything is interconnected and interdependent. Everything. Every cause has an effect; every action has a reaction; and these consequences radiate through the web of interrelated physical, biological, meteorological, and human social systems.

During the last century, this has been the founding principle of the ecological sciences and the predominant theme of quantum physics. For millennia, this has been the central truth of Eastern philosophies and the underlying basis of most religions.

Until we recognize, accept, and live by this lesson from science and spirituality and reject the ruinous, arrogant ideology of the dominator culture, we won't be able to solve any of the major problems we face.

The inseparable and mutually reinforcing goals of peace on Earth and peace with Earth require a cultural transformation. Selfless cooperation, humility, and a sense of solidarity -- not just with all of humanity, but with the entire natural world -- are essential for our survival. The truth is: We are one.

Kim Carlyle, WCT editor-in-chief, began his activism as an environmentalist. His entertaining, informative PowerPoint presentation on global warming and energy conservation predated Al Gore's. He switched his emphasis to peace work when he realized that no serious problem could be solved until money, resources, and political will could be directed away from the military and toward solving real problems.

A Letter to the President
Obama's Greatest Crime Against Humanity

Dear Mr. President,

Congress allocated $50 billion in disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy. About the same amount was handed out after Katrina.

That's more than $100 billion for devastation from natural disasters. However, these are not really natural disasters, they're man-made from the burning of fossil fuel, a topic some politicians deny outright and others, including you, refuse to address. Impending doom is not a subject anyone wants to talk about, but still, it will not go away in spite our ignoring it.

For 30 years the US has subverted any meaningful progress on reducing global emissions and when you came along in 2008 and promised to address the issue, you were like a breath of fresh air and people backed you.

You could have done something significant but you were in Big Oil's pocket and adopted their mantra of Drill Baby Drill; after all, global warming doesn't give campaign contributions. The Solyndra debacle killed the last hope for change and at the Doha conference last year, you sent the same old hit men to sabotage the talks and they were effective; no progress was made.

But still, global warming will not go away and the climate scientists have gone from warnings to hard facts that it's happening faster and with more deadly results than any of them had imagined a few years ago. Now some speculate that it may be too late to prevent catastrophic climate change, that we have already passed the tipping point but still, nothing from the political class in Washington.

You pore over Kill Lists but ignore the real enemy -- pollution of the planet. You open Arctic waters to Big Oil and do nothing to regulate fracking while you de-fund solar and wind research. How is this any different than the Bushes?

Mr. President, you were not hired to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity but to identify the real threats to the country and address them and those threats are not some sandal-clad Kalashnikov-toting militant in the mountains of Waziristan or the deserts of Yemen or Somalia but the rape of our planet and impending ecological disaster.

Why do we spend trillions on war against a phantom enemy and almost nothing to fight the heating of planet, the pollution of our air, and the poisoning of our water? This is beyond irresponsible, Mr. President. You are dooming future generations to misery, to unnecessary suffering and want, to a life filled with chaos and uncertainty. It is your greatest crime yet against humanity.
-- Robert Yoder

Robert writes a letter each day at dearmrpresident letters.blogspot.com

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.




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