A recent study conducted by the UK-based think tank Common Wealth and the US-based Climate and Community Project has shed light on the substantial climate debt owed by the US and UK militaries. According to the study, these militaries have generated over 430 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent since the 2015 Paris climate agreement, surpassing the total greenhouse gas emissions produced in the entire UK last year. The study advocates for reparations to be made to communities most affected by their planet-heating pollution. This article explores the study’s findings, the environmental impact of militaries, and proposed solutions for redressing the contributions.
The Social Cost of Carbon
The research utilizes the “social cost of carbon” framework, which estimates the monetary cost associated with the climate damage caused by each additional tonne of carbon in the atmosphere.
According to Patrick Bigger, research director of the Climate and Community Project and co-author of the report, the environmental costs of maintaining the global military reach of the US and UK armed forces are staggering.
The study calculates that these militaries owe a minimum of $111 billion in reparations to compensate for the damage caused by their emissions.
Environmental Impact of Militaries
Militaries are significant contributors to the global climate crisis, accounting for approximately 5.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
The focus of this study on the US and UK militaries stems from their historical roles as “architects of the modern fossil fuel economy” since the Industrial Revolution.
The US, as the world’s largest institutional greenhouse gas emitter and consumer of fossil fuel, plays a crucial role in upholding capitalist fossil fuel extraction globally.
Implications and Recommendations
The environmental impact of militaries extends beyond greenhouse gas emissions. The study highlights the health impacts on communities near military activities, such as those affected by nuclear testing or chemical pollution.
Moreover, the report suggests that the current figures are conservative due to incomplete and opaque data from the US and UK governments. The study recommends that the US military offers $106 billion in international climate financing, while the UK military contributes $5 billion, using an equation developed by a Columbia University researcher.
To address the contributions made by these militaries, the report proposes several actions. Firstly, the countries should allocate a combined $111 billion to an independently governed fund for low-income countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
Regions closest to US and UK military infrastructure would receive the most aid. The study also suggests closing a percentage of military bases and establishing a global military “superfund” program to finance cleanup efforts. Additionally, comprehensive audits of the environmental damage caused by the militaries are recommended. Finally, both countries should transition parts of their military and arms manufacturing sectors to focus on green manufacturing, following successful worker-led conversion projects in the past.
The groundbreaking study emphasizes the significant climate debt owed by the US and UK militaries and calls for reparations to communities most impacted by their carbon emissions. The environmental impact of militaries extends beyond greenhouse gas emissions and includes health consequences for affected communities. The study’s recommendations provide a roadmap for addressing these issues, emphasizing the need for not only financial compensation but also base closures, environmental remediation, and transitioning military sectors toward green manufacturing. By acknowledging and rectifying the contributions of militaries to the climate crisis, we can take significant steps towards a more sustainable future.