Warfare and Environmental Redemption
In 1957, the US Army warred on Viet Minh in Vietnam with military cloud-seeding to extend monsoons. This ruined roads and hindered battle supplies. Later, this evolved into herbicidal warfare with Agent Orange, which targeted Vietnam’s plant kingdom to defoliate and intoxicate forests. Children inherited diseases from the chemical after-effects here. (Editors, 2009)
In 1999, NATO’s Kosovo bombing in Yugoslavia possessed 10 tonnes of depleted Uranium whose war aftermath included cancer and organ failure. NATO’s acts here were abusive of their powers granted by a UN Security Council treaty. It permits NATO to attack only with the Council’s approval or for defence’s sake. (Editor, 2010)
A 2009 drought in Iraq followed by fierce winds in 2012 and a brutal blitzkrieg in 2014 incapacitated their farm fields’ crop productivity. Iraqi Farmers, now left in the lurch without promised future harvests naturally succumbed to ISIS’s gifts in cash and kind. ISIS’s strength hence grew with new recruitments resulting from climate change-induced poverty. (SCHWARTZSTEIN, 2017)
Even the drought in various parts of Africa has led to disputes for water and life turning to civil wars within the communities. We witness here an implicit choice to modify, destroy, pollute and stimulate change in our environment that imposes hurtful societal disasters. Such acts of manipulative war and terror in a climate change context reflects on the decisions taken by the world’s top rung.
Our environment at the mercy of military organisations
Such military acts, particularly Agent Orange, hint at underlying intentions in the geopolitical decisions in question here. Why are such intellectuals conspiring? It escorts our curiosity to Mr Dwight Eisenhower’s global warning that unwarranted influences may affect public policy, as armament manufacturers and well-militarized countries would do business together. (Eisenhower warns us of the military industrial complex., n.d.) Implicit military organisations that overshadow the environmental priorities of our earth unfairly exempts such acts of war from being liable to climate change.
Post WW2, warring legacies were carried on by the Cold War. By then, the first fearful waves of a looming climatic catastrophe struck the world during the Cold War’s conclusive phase. That said, we can implicitly understand the war and arms market tops all issues, and the reason is the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC), from Eisenhower’s warning.
The Military-Industrial Complex (MIC), resulting from a twining of armament and public policy bears immense responsibility for post-industrial era temperature rises.
The MIC has its origins in the proliferating arms-supply contracts with the Second World War belligerents. Efforts to shift the power balance towards the allied forces from the abusive axis powers led by Nazi Germany was backed by arms and military vehicular supply strategies. It outran the military might of Germany, and left Russia, Europe and North America with the “merchants of death”.
These arms-dealing merchants were the mastermind behind the wartime arms industry, later a tool to bend global politics to their riches. These merchants are also alleged to have fuelled more wars to keep the arms business active. The world’s military rich countries are also alleged allegiances of the MIC.
WW2 caused the global average temperature peaks of the 20th century but were less than 1°C. An ammo-filled world that needed reconstruction was left behind. Unfortunately, the post-war phase spun out Military Keynesianism too. Politicians who justify the excessive expenditure for militarization with John Maynard Keynes’ theories of stimulating economic growth practice this idea. (Ozsoy & Ipek, 2010) However, it has only contributed to the global carbon equivalent emissions, environmental intoxication through ammo-manufacturing, fossil fuel consumption and, destruction and pollution of conflicted areas. (Kidd, 2012)
Arms developers and the climate-anxious in parallel universes
Collectively measured as the global boot-print, military Keynesianism alongside crowding-out effects on the civilian economic sectors which leads to poor job conditions and impoverishment, indicates a war and arms market hiding in plain sight.
We’re perhaps living with it, and our environment victimized to a militarized world that is seemingly taboo to talk about at the highest levels.
In the meanwhile, of flooding arms sales, in 1975, a Yale economist William Nordhaus guessed the global climate change limit and soon, when growing CO2 levels were assessed it concerned the globe due to aggravating temperature averages. In 1990, the Stockholm Environmental Institute argued 1°C climate change is the safest option and 2°C is the next best. Later, Malcolm Gladwell's book titled “Tipping Points” escalated anxieties by sharing that climate changes beyond the safe limit can be catastrophic and nonlinear. For example, the large ocean circulation system might shut down or a massive permafrost melting might occur. (Buis, 2019)
This intimidated global politics. A policy to stay below a 2°C average climate change was adopted by the European Union’s (EU) Council of Ministers, G8 and the UN between 1996 and 2010. Eventually, 196 parties signed The Paris Agreement in 2015’s COP21, pushing for a 1.5°C limit. The global average temperature, according to NASA’s data, last reached its lowest in the modern era during the early 1900s. Arms manufacturing boomed since then but was implicitly acknowledged. Arms transfers peaked during the WW2 years when global power and ammunition were the need. Parallelly, the average temperature peaked too, however being below 1°C.
Now, we’re having a mere 5% chance to accomplish Paris Agreement limits and the war and arms market is left out of this discussion. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) marks a steep fall of global arms transfers with the Cold War’s end, in the context of shooting temperature averages. But, as the 21st century turned, it arose. (Wezeman, et al., n.d.)
Climate change under the MIC’s shadow
The Environmental Modification Convention was passed in 1976, as a result of the US-Vietnam war. Article 1 of the convention prohibits countries from altering the environment during conflicts. But, weather modification practices are prevalent in many countries despite the convention, with China as the epitome. China’s modifications became a tool to manipulate Tibetan weather and strongarm neighbouring armies. (Watts, 2020)
Even in the Paris Agreement, military loads on the climate are implicitly exempted from binding agreements, as discussions have left them out. Paris agreement doesn’t openly talk about the global bootprint levels. The USA’s military has been the single largest carbon equivalent emitter, with 59 million tonnes of CO2 releases in 2017. (McCarthy, 2019) The UK followed with 13 million tonnes.
The Montreal Protocol is a standalone document with no exemptions for the military. However, it’s a facewash since the protocol lets governments allow Ozone Layer Depletion Substance (ODS) emissions by the military in emergency cases. This is an example of uncompromisable situations unfurling from a militarized shadow cast on the world.
Secondly, harming the environment deliberately or by ignorance is considered a criminal act termed ecocide. Mr Olof Palme of Sweden raised the US-Vietnam war as ecocidal in his UN Stockholm Conference address. The case went back and forth between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN to eventually be elevated as a “crime against humanity”. However, the ICC’s following call for different courts to widen their jurisdiction for ecocide backed by global activism fails to pass this provision. (Kuznets, et al., 2021)
Additionally, we see such law enforcement overstepped monetarily, while spending should reduce for the condemned. The global expenditure records for militarization juxtaposed against those for climate change adaptation shows the world’s race for armed power vividly. The ancient kingships-run warring economies for surplus arms and personnel to uphold their might are perhaps rendered in the contemporary world as the MIC.
The Global Militarization Index data from 1990-2019 shows over 60 countries, consistently from the Middle East, Africa, South Asia alongside the USA, China, Russia and Israel, are highly militarized. Out of these, over 30 have the highest expenditure. (Anon., n.d.) Since 2000, the fallen arms sales grew worth US$ 480 billion, nuclear included. (Wezeman, et al., n.d.) Despite the COVID-19 recession in 2020, the military expenditure share in the global GDP was a significant 2.4%, amounting to a whopping US$ 1,980 billion. (da Silva, et al., 2021) By 2025 the parallel small arms trade, legal and illicit, may grow worth US$ 9.6 Billion.
Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International, asked in 2014 if any investment tries to prevent wars and Climate Change. We’re past the chances of prevention and need a cure, which is harsh on the global pockets.
The Global Climate Fund required only 10% of 2014’s global military expenditure which struggled to fill in. In 2017-18, we invested an average of US$ 30 billion for climate action, which had to be grown ten-fold a year. (Lorincz, 2014) The current adaptation trends show the need for US$1.8 trillion to build resilience against predicted climatic disasters. However, it promises a US$ 7.1 trillion return globally, which transcends military riches. This busy military and arms industry math is scanty against this. (Temple, n.d.)
War-proofing our environment
Ammunition and offensive vehicular production, besides military infrastructure, make up a military’s bootprint. The world’s militaries are the largest fossil fuel consumers and are conveniently left out of the climate change debates. Military and arms manufacturing chains release carbon equivalent emissions, intoxicate with chemical discharges and pollute local ecosystems. The number of conflicts and climate disasters in today’s times helps us imagine the strength of these influences.
The coincidence of the NATO summit and COP25 in 2017 did not intersperse in discussions. Frustratingly so, global military decisions slip away under the sun from being questioned about climate change.
As a positive side note, with hopes of transformation in the military, bootprint mitigation training for efficient use of land, water, oil and personnel usage in military operations have been embedded into the warfare lifestyle. Armies of India, Pakistan, Venezuela, Brazil, Austria and Nepal have featured as eco-restorative with tree plantation drives, forest redemption, river cleaning and waste repurposing efforts. (D'Souza, n.d.) Can we then repurpose our militaries as ecological guardians and not just war heroes?
Furthermore, the EU’s paper on Green Military enlists principles of military-based climate change action. It’s inclusive of garnering ministerial political support to foster cooperation between member countries for cost-effective and low carbon equivalent bootprint on the world while raising their offensive capacities. At its core, it makes military production chains eco-friendly and by such acts, inspire civilian sectors for more environmental care. As Canada advocated too, converting excessive military infrastructure into civilian ones generates more green jobs and climate-proof economies.
Painting the world’s military “green” seems the available option, if not for defusing the MIC mysteries to prevent our environment’s victimisation.
About the authors:
Aditi: Aditi is an architect and writer, who has worked in design communication and is currently pursuing journalism.
Writing Portfolio: aditibhadoria
Varun Kumar: Varun is an architect and writer, who has featured articles on public affairs, the built and natural environments.
Writing Portfolio: varunmadekumar
LinkedIn: Varun Kumar
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