The Impacts of Militarism on Climate Change
July 25, 2018
Florian Polsterer / University of Luxembourg & the Global Campus Open Knowledge Repository
The Military-Industrial-Media and Entertainment Complex, is possibly the world's biggest producer of greenhouse gases and ecological degradation. Regardless of whether it is during war or peacetime, the world's armed forces consume enormous amounts of fossil fuels and produce immense quantities of toxic waste. According to the Treadmill of Destruction Theory, war is waged mainly to secure the natural resources needed to fight wars -- thereby creating a self-perpetuating cycle of destruction.
The Impacts of Militarism on Climate Change: A Sorely Neglected Relationship
The Effects on Human Rights and How a
Civil Society Approach Can Bring About System Change
Mag. Florian Polsterer / Global Campus Open Knowledge Repository
University of Luxembourg European Master's Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation (Academic Year 2014-15)
(2015) -- Militarism, in the form of the Military-Industrial-Media and Entertainment Complex, is possibly the world's biggest producer of GHG emissions and ecological degradation. Regardless of whether it is during war or peacetime, the world's armed forces consume enormous amounts of fossil fuels, produce immense quantities of toxic waste and have exceedingly high demands for all kinds of resources to support their infrastructures, all along being exempted from environmental restrictions and emission measurements.
According to the Treadmill of Destruction Theory, war is waged nowadays mainly for securing natural resources which are themselves being massively consumed in the process, thereby establishing a self-perpetuating cycle of destruction. Moreover, military spending diverts massive funding from climate mitigation and adaption initiatives.
It seems obvious that militarism is closely related to climate change but unfortunately this connection has been hugely neglected, if not willfully ignored.
This paper illuminates this fateful relation and the political, economic and legal setting in which it thrives as well as obstacles to public awareness. The extensive impacts of climate change on human rights are explored, highlighting unequal burdens and particularly vulnerable groups. F
inally, a possible solution for this situation is proposed in the shape of a civil society approach, taking full advantage of the power of nonviolence, bottom-up strategy and the tools of the arts, humour and creativity.
I chose this topic because I am troubled by the current state of our natural and social environment and concerned about future developments in the view of overwhelming obstacles. I wanted to know what can be done to fight climate change and the destruction of our environment. And I wanted to find out what everybody can do, you and I right now, not having to make do with just sitting and waiting for politicians, international organisations, corporate managers or shareholders, environmental lawyers, or anyone else, to act.
I searched for a perspective on how we can work together and create added value for our efforts, not having to resign ourselves to having only a small impact as individuals.
In my research I came across the utterly harmful potential of militarism for the natural environment. Unfortunately I had to realize that the topic is widely neglected in environmental debates and should be taken up. Consequently, the research questions were formulated:
*What impacts does militarism have on climate change?
*How is climate change affecting human rights?
*How can civil society contribute to resisting the effects of militarism on climate change?
These questions are worth answering and can raise awareness for this important but shamefully ignored topic, especially in these times where we are witnessing a growing militarisation with increasing international tensions and a possibly runaway change of our climate.
The main concepts are very comprehensive and complex and would make a complete investigation of all relevant aspects exceeding the scope of this thesis by far. Still, an inquiry leaving out only one of the main concepts would disrupt the context and be incomplete.
Therefore, I am including only their most important aspects, which are still quite a few, creating a high density of information. I will try to transform this potential weakness into an advantage by choosing an expedient line of discussion working my way through the intricacy of the topic arriving at a proposal for a solution.
It might be unconventional to suggest a solution in an academic work, but it is my conviction that just discussing problems is not enough and solutions cannot be left out. In this paper I will explain why it is imperative to promote positive and feasible solutions, because nobody is motivated by pessimism -- particularly in the face of overwhelming obstacles and uncertainty of future developments.
In my opinion, complete objectivity does not exist in the disciplines of social sciences, especially not in an interdisciplinary thesis. While I am upholding the principle of academic objectivity in this paper, I am openly promoting a human rights as well as a nonviolent approach as an axiom for harmonious human coexistence.
My primary aim is to bring the topic closer to the reader, enabling her or him, despite the relative briefness of this thesis, to obtain an understanding of the fundamental aspects of the four immensely complex topics and their manifold interconnections:
Human Rights and
Civil Nonviolent Resistance.
I hope the reader will be induced to reflect on her or his own role in the system that governs these topics and their complex relations. And I hope that the topic of this thesis will become more widely known, because climate change and militarism might be the biggest challenge to human rights and humanity as a whole, especially when they are combined.
Militarism's Impact on the Environment
"Militarization [is] the single most ecologically destructive human endeavour."
-- Kenneth Gould
It is obvious that during active combat fighter jets, destroyers, tanks and whole arsenals of other weapon systems are extremely carbon-intensive and often discharge other highly toxic emissions, not to mention the emissions that are released by oil fires. This causes catastrophic devastation at all levels of the biosphere. However, the active hostilities are only responsible for a fraction of the actual damage to the environment.
As if the relation between the natural environment and humanity was not complex enough, the developments that this relationship is going through in times of crisis and conflict are adding further complications in blurring the borders of war and peace.
Environmental harm is not confined only to combat, claims the environmental historian Tait Keller when he analyses this relation and expands his focus beyond actual hostilities. He argues that the environmental damage that was created by the First World War lies not so much in the destruction of actual battlegrounds but rather in the change of human behaviour and drastically increased industrial production.
This new behaviour is essentially different in regards to consumerism and energy consumption with connections to fossil fuels, deforestation, toxic waste and general pollution. What actually destroyed our natural environment -- and is still active in its destruction -- is "the spread of industrial methods and mentalities of production that hindered natural processes, upset local ecological balances, and increased human exploitation the world over."
In fact, the environmental (and human) sufferings created by militarism "are so far-reaching that a full examination of them would produce countless volumes".
The International Peace Bureau lists a number of direct ways in which military activity affects our physical environment:
*Pollution of the air, land and water in peacetime
*Immediate and long-term effects of armed conflict (explosions, landmines, unexploded remnants, chemical weapons, burning oil wells and oil spills, etc.)
*Land use (vast areas of land and water occupied by military bases, target ranges, weapon stores, training grounds; pollution and degradation from storage, deforestation, scorched earth tactics, etc.)
*Weapons development and production (design, development, manufacturing, tests, storage, transport, disposal, etc.)
* Militarisation of outer space (rocket launches, missile systems and satellites, space littering)
Additionally, indirect effects through the diversion of resources have to be taken into account. This list is by no means exhaustive and one could find hundreds of disastrous examples, like reduction of biodiversity from the extinction of 47 plant species and 19 classes of trees in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, or the 91,000-litre oil spill in Micronesia from an US tanker that sunk in 1944, or the 50 nuclear warheads and 11 nuclear reactors littering the ocean floor from naval accidents in the Cold War, or the brain drain and waste of young lives by the military sector, or the depletion of ecosystems for food and energy supply after conflicts, etcetera.
Literally "all aspects of military activity defile our environment in some way." Special attention has to be paid to the huge and permanent costs of maintaining military equipment and personnel, who require housing, infrastructure, heating, air conditioning, transport, nourishment and many other goods and services.
The production of military equipment consumes enormous amounts of materials, like metal, rubber, plastics and rare earths. Also there is massive energy usage involved, mostly from unsustainable resources.
Nuclear weapons are particular heavyweights in production and maintenance, not to speak of their dismantling. When there is no actual combat, 70% of soldiers' activities are military exercises and training, consuming vast amounts of ammunition and fuel, disrupting local ecosystems or killing animals. Also, military material and technology is by no means faultless and accidents occur regularly. Several authors regard MIMEC as the largest polluter on the planet.
When all the facts above are taken into account it seems quite possible that militarism is the biggest contributor to climate change with its massive GHG emissions, destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity, massive waste of energy supplies, huge impacts on social, cultural and economic behaviour, destabilisation of international politics and obstruction of climate policies.
Consequently, there can be no successful overcoming the climate crisis without peace and dismantling MIMEC. There are further complications that are linked to these impacts reflected in the Treadmill of Destruction theory.
The Treadmill of Destruction
"Militarism is an aberration and a system of dysfunction.
Militarism should be outdated and disappear -- like hanging and flogging."
-- Mairead Maguire
The treadmill of destruction is a descendant of the treadmill of production, a theory that argues that environmental degradation is an inherent part of economic development and that the capitalistic growth imperative creates a perpetual conflict between human societies and the environment. An important aspect of the theory is that producers strive for externalisation of environmental costs to increase their profits.
The treadmill of destruction (military) is closely intertwined with the treadmill of production (economy) but generates distinct tendencies of growth, requiring humongous amounts of capital, energy and raw materials,186 thus creating a path dependency.
In recent times, militarism's aspect of defence has been increasingly invoked in relation to neocolonialism and acquiring resources like oil. Nations with larger and advanced militaries regularly use their coercive power to obtain disproportionate access to natural resources, predominantly in the global South. Geopolitical competition between states often drives arms races, which in turn boost technological developments, which in consequence enhance the damaging capabilities of military forces.
Since the Second World War, the military was promoted into the political and economic elites, rooting the treadmill of destruction in national and international politics. This is particularly true for the situation of the USA where military production averted economic stagnation and supported the entire economic structure.
Military spending is perfectly suited for the capitalist growth system, pumping capital into private production, distributing income upward and always finding a market, if not producing its own. Militarism influences the willingness and timing of states to ratify environmental treaties193, as was obvious from the USA's behaviour in the Kyoto negotiations.
Access to oil has become a fundamental motive for wars, in which massive amounts of oil are burned, aggravating climate change. The huge reliance of militaries on fossil fuels and their enormous contributions to burn it quickly conclude "a self-perpetuating cycle of destruction."
Security Risks exacerbate Climate Change
It looks like a new type of political adaptation to the climate crisis is already under way: 'the armed lifeboat'. "This adaptation responds to climate change by arming, excluding, forgetting, repressing, policing and killing."
There is an ever-growing debate on how climate change will have dangerous effects for the national security of states. This is reflected for example in a common publication of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Environmental Agency (EEA) stating a "need to address environment and security".
The report raises concerns about conflict over scarce resources and migration pressures and argues that environmental issues play a major role in security policy. The upcoming hope, when it is pointed out that the issues of climate change and security policy are "inextricably linked", is soon belied because unfortunately, this statement goes only one way in the view of the OSCE and EEA. Their conclusion is that national security has to be upgraded and intensified.
The potential harm to the environment from so called "security action" is totally neglected. It seems at the moment as if the EU was considering sinking smuggling boats and carrying out military operations in Libya to tackle human trafficking.
This approach is doing nothing to help refugees, much rather it is aggravating the terrible human rights violations that are already happening for years. Libya was not officially informed of these plans and is condemning them, speaking of "colonial mentality" and calling the behaviour of the EU "completely unacceptable in the modern world".
Also there is talk of defence, in the case of foreign forces entering Libya. Evidence for the US Department of Defense possibly sharing this misguided 'bunker' perspective came in the form of a Pentagon report forecasting the creation of 'defensive fortresses' around the USA and Australia.
The lack of concern for human rights and the suffering victims of climate change impacts was expressed in the consideration of the proposed effects of the world's decreased carrying capacity, which lead to conflicts over food, water and energy:
"Deaths from war as well as starvation and disease will decrease population size, which overtime, will re-balance with carrying capacity."
The report concludes with the recommendation to establish new forms of security agreements and draws a picture of the future with large numbers of refugees washing up on shores while the world has to fight serious crises over food and water. "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life." Another example of this apocalyptic defence mentality are the preparations by India to keep out Bangladeshi refugees. (See Chapter 4.1.2)
These extremely cold-blooded approaches are dangerous and lead to the militarist view of human death as 'collateral damage'. The Brundtland Report (1987) already held: "There are, of course, no military solutions to 'environmental insecurity'."
The perspective of armament for climate change impacts is perpetuating the treadmill of destruction making militarism both the cause and consequence of climate change. This 'bunker mentality' can be no answer to refugee flows and will only continue to benefit MIMEC and aggravate the climate crisis.
When the ugliest side of militarism, war, comes out it does not seldom happen in areas that are negatively affected by environmental change. The prime example for this 'catastrophic convergence' is the situation in Syria. A terrible drought coupled with austerity measures by the Assad regime and a lack of support to deal with the accelerating environmental issues was oil in the fire, which was lighted by the violent spark of a flood of weapons in the region.
Friedman calls the drought "one of the key drivers of the Syrian war". UNICEF reported that since the Syrian war started, safe water supply has fallen by two-thirds and that the ongoing drought also threatens neighbouring states, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, continuing the vicious circle.
Other current examples are the conflicts in Yemen and Nigeria where fluctuating precipitation patterns, likely linked to global warming, created water crises joined by corrupt neoliberalism, capitalism and brutality. It has to be noted here that the widespread notion of climate change leading to conflict is built on little evidence as well as questionable sources and tends to breed needless anxiety and fear.
There are serious cases of catastrophic convergence but the links between the causes of conflicts have often been simplified. The just discussed notions and misconceptions (further misconceptions of militarism are discussed in Chapter 5.2.1) are unfortunately largely neglected or ignored. Awareness of them will be vital for finding a genuine response to climate change.
The Lack of Awareness for Militarism's Impacts on the Climate
There is lots of political discussion and concern about armed conflicts' repercussions on human society and economy, but quite little about the burdens on our natural environment. The same goes for civil society. Even though there are some exceptions, neither environmental, nor peace movements have made the case that the climate crisis and warfare are siblings.
The issue is similarly neglected in human rights advocacy and scholarship. Also, in the natural and social sciences the impacts of militarism are mostly overlooked.
This might be due to the secretiveness and concealment of military operations, bases and other facilities which are often exempt from environmental laws as well as from the accountability and transparency that are used for other governmental actors, in the name of national security. Concerning the mass media, the huge influence of MIMEC might partly explain its neglect of the impacts of militarism on climate change.
How High Are the Impacts of Militarism on the International Agenda?
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in 1972 was the first major international event with a focus on environmental degradation and 'transboundary pollution'. The only mention of military impacts can be found in principle 18 of its Declaration that called for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. Building on this conference the United Nations World Charter for Nature was adopted 10 years later, without any mention of militarism or connected issues.
The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD, 1976) prohibits using the environment as a weapon in conflicts. The Brundtland report from 1987 acknowledged that vast resources are diverted into arms production that could rather be used for sustainable development.
The Rio Declaration (1992) contained two very general principles that are linked to militarism: Warfare is inherently destructive to sustainable development and peace; development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible. After that, the Commission on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit +5) was established for follow-up on the Rio Declaration.
A coalition of more than one hundred international organisations (Peace Caucus) criticised the exclusion of military pollution and back then, the president of the General Assembly promised to promote the topic in UN negotiations. Nothing significant happened in this regard, until today.
In 2012, the UN established the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) with the aim to find practical solutions to sustainability challenges and particularly climate change. The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) was launched in partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) to support states in finding zero CO2 emission pathways by the year 2050.
Unfortunately, the developed decarbonisation strategies, do not mention peace and peace-building, do not include any restrictions on the military sector and do not take in consideration the highly militarised nature of economies like in the USA, Russia, China or UK.
All of this is missing even though the proclaimed goal of a profound transformation of energy systems through steep declines in carbon intensity in all sectors of the economy is inherently comprising the military industry. As mentioned before, military emissions were decidedly excluded from calculations and reporting in the Kyoto Protocol, mostly because of the intense lobbying by the United States.
Since then, the world's armed forces carbon 'bootprint' has been ignored by the international community. Consequently, there is no mention of the military sector's pollution in the latest IPCC report (5th, 2014), let alone of all the other destructive effects of militarism.
According to the UNFCCC reporting guidelines, the biggest part of the military's fuel consumption and emissions are not included in national greenhouse gas inventories. "Without complete and transparent information about the emissions and impacts in the military sector, it will not be possible to develop and implement the mitigation and adaptation strategies needed to stabilize the climate."
The UN has not yet connected the dots. It is most disappointing that, like in all the climate summits before, the enormous role of militarism is not on the agenda of the Paris Climate Conference (COP21). This poses a dire outlook, as without the demilitarisation of the world's economies, deep decarbonisation will be impossible to achieve. "The contribution of military activities to the unprecedented series of environmental crises facing the world today has been largely overlooked and, to an extent, wilfully ignored."
Civil Society Declarations
Just like the Peace Caucus, several coalitions of NGOs were more active than the international community. After the Stockholm Conference (1972) NGOs began drafting an Earth Charter which contained a section ('promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace') that addresses military, environment, and development issues.
It was finalised in 2000 and adopted by UNESCO, but not the General Assembly. In 1991, the World's Women Congress particularly addressed military impacts on the natural environment and concluded that the world's armed forces are the single largest polluters on Earth, constituting the first noticeable, comprehensive declaration addressing militarism's impact on climate change.
The NGO Treaty on Militarism, Environment and Development was drafted during the 1992 Rio Conference, which calls for a new definition of security, boycotts of producers of environmentally damaging military equipment and the dissemination of information on the environmental impacts of military activity.
In 2010, the People's Agreement was concluded by 30.000 civil society representatives and government officials from 100 states at the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth which builds on human rights, harmony, collective well-being as well as peace and highlights the combined problems of capitalism, imperialism and militarism.
Another major and comprehensive declaration also came in 2010 from a coalition of over 70 environmental, peace and social justice organisations manifested at the 62nd International Human Rights Day in Cancun. Calling for the recognition of 'the elephant in the living room', the declaration opposes militarism as the prime obstacle to the realisation of human rights and efforts to address climate change. It was delivered to delegates at the UN Climate Conference in Cancun in 2010 (COP16), as well as to the media and the White House.
Climate Space is a civil society coalition mobilising in its declaration to Stop and Prevent Planet Fever taking into account the war industry and infrastructure with respect to climate change. It counts more than 300 initiating organisations and started at the World Social Forum 2013 in Tunisia.
Probably the most recent example of a civil society declaration connecting militarism and climate change is the Stop the Wars, Stop the Warming Appeal. It was released in preparation for the People's Climate March and aims at bringing peace and environmental movements together by emphasising the dangerous feedback loop of the exorbitant use of oil for fighting wars and the purpose of wars to secure oil resources.
To sum up this chapter, it is neither equitable, nor just or fair for the militaries of the world to consume fuel without scrutiny, discharge tremendous amounts of greenhouse and highly toxic emissions without regulation, divert financial resources needed for climate mitigation as well as adaption and to continue unchecked on a path toward catastrophic climate change. In the next section, the consequences of climate change for human rights will be explored.
To read the full document, go online to https://globalcampus.eiuc.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11825/325/Polsterer.pdf
Table of Contents
RESEARCH QUESTIONS & STRUCTURE
SOURCES & METHODOLOGY
THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE
THE EARTH SYSTEM
A DEFINITION OF CLIMATE CHANGE
THE EARTH SYSTEM'S COMPLEXITY
THE LINK TO EXTREME CLIMATE EVENTS
THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC)
CRITICISM OF THE IPCC
Underestimating the Dangers?
IPCC ASSESSMENT REPORTS
THE CURRENT TRAJECTORY OF GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS
STAYING BELOW 2°C
BETTING ON PARIS
THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX
THE US MILITARY'S ADDICTION TO OIL
EUROPE IN THE GRASP OF MILITARISATION
MILITARISM'S IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT
THE TREADMILL OF DESTRUCTION
SECURITY RISKS EXACERBATE CLIMATE CHANGE
THE LACK OF AWARENESS FOR MILITARISM'S IMPACTS ON THE CLIMATE
HOW HIGH ARE THE IMPACTS OF MILITARISM ON THE INTERNATIONAL AGENDA?
CIVIL SOCIETY DECLARATIONS
IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
THE MOST VULNERABLE GROUPS
OTHER PARTICULARLY AFFECTED GROUPS
OVERARCHING CLIMATE IMPACTS
UNEQUAL BURDENS ..... 58 4.3
THE HUMAN RIGHT TO THE ENVIRONMENT
THE IMPORTANCE OF CIVIL SOCIETY APPROACHES
DIFFERENT PERFORMANCES OF HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES
IMPEDIMENTS FOR SUSTAINABLE CHANGE: FAILING POLITICS, LAW AND ECONOMY
Difficulties in long-term Politics
Disappointment by International Climate Conferences
The Setting of our (Post-)Political and Economic System
OBSTACLES FOR PUBLIC AWARENESS
Giddens Paradox and Cognitive Pitfalls.
Lack of Sustainable Education
A NONVIOLENT CIVIL SOCIETY APPROACH AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO MILITARISM
POPULAR MISCONCEPTIONS OF MILITARISM
Misconceptions of Nonviolence
WHY CIVIL RESISTANCE WORKS
THE ADVANTAGES OF NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE
THE POTENTIAL OF BOTTOM-UP APPROACHES
THE NECESSITY FOR CIVIL SOCIETY APPROACHES
THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING POSITIVE
THE POWER OF ARTS, HUMOUR AND CREATIVITY
LIST OF ACRONYMS
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