How militarism is killing the planet
The scale of death and destruction that could be unleashed today by global military forces goes far beyond what happened in the most catastrophic wars of the twentieth century. And the damage caused by militarism is not limited to the direct human toll of wars. In addition to having the potential to destroy human lives on an unprecedented scale, militarism today is extremely destructive to the environment.
While a little over a century ago the cavalry (soldiers who fought on horseback) were still a mainstay in warfare, today horses have been replaced by heavily fortified trucks and mechanized tanks. Falcon fighter jets and B-52 bombers, with the power to annihilate entire cities from above, replaced the fragile wooden biplanes of World War I. Today, the arms industry is among the largest in the world, with world military spending totaling US $ 1,981 billion in 2020.
Military production depends on the consumption of large amounts of fossil fuels and involves countless other environmentally destructive processes. The extraction, refining and production of some of the key resources used in military production, such as aluminum, steel and nickel, are very energy intensive and produce massive emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases. greenhouse effect.
More than half of the energy required for smelting aluminum is currently produced by the combustion of coal, and the perfluorocarbons released during the smelting process are between 6,500 and 9,200 times more potent as factors in global warming. planet as carbon dioxide. Nickel mining emits millions of tonnes of toxic sulfur dioxide per year and has a history of serious pollution of the land, air and water surrounding mines, such as when a major plant spill nickel from Norilsk in Russia transformed the Daldykan River. bright red in 2016.
Steel production contributes 3.3 billion tonnes per year global carbon emissions. According to estimates by the International Energy Agency, the iron and steel industries are responsible for around 6.7% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Then there are nuclear weapons. Even if we rule out the possibility that the thousands of nuclear warheads currently armed and ready for deployment around the world will one day lead to the destruction of all human civilization, we must take into account the toxic industry that produces them. Whatever industry supporters may say, the risks associated with uranium mining, power generation in nuclear reactors, and radioactive waste management are all too obvious from here on out. history of highly destructive accidents – from the 2013 Ranger uranium mine spill, to catastrophic collapses in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
The U.S. military is both the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels and its largest producer of carbon emissions. The five largest US chemical companies combined produce only a fifth of the military’s emissions.
Many studies show a correlation between increased state military spending and high emissions. Armies around the world are also responsible for two-thirds of global emissions of chlorofluorocarbons – a volatile derivative of methane that, in addition to contributing to global warming, destroys the ozone layer which protects the Earth from damage caused by ultraviolet rays ( a major cause of skin cancer). These substances were banned under the Montreal Protocol 1987, but their military use continues.
And all of this concerns only the daily “peacetime” operations of the military. The war itself, while killing, maiming and destroying human lives, is catastrophic for the environment, flattening landscapes and poisoning the air.
Environmental destruction can be a conscious tool of war. During the Vietnam War, the United States sprayed a of Agent Orange chemical defoliant across the country to clear forest covers providing shelter to North Vietnamese and Vietnamese troops and cripple agriculture. The toxic effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam’s environment, agriculture and human life continue to this day.
Even if it does not deliberately destroy nature, war causes irreparable damage to the environment. The American bombing campaigns in Iraq in the 1990s and 2000s caused considerable pollution and environmental degradation. The use of munitions containing depleted uranium contaminated perhaps tens of thousands of hectares of Iraqi land and led to high levels of birth defects in communities where the shelling was most intense.
And the initial destruction caused by wars has massive effects. After the Gulf War of 1991 and the US invasion of 2003, typhoid cases increased tenfold among the Iraqi population due to water pollution due to the destruction of sewage systems and other basic infrastructure .
Similar damage has occurred in Afghanistan. Already in 2003, just two years after the start of a war that has now lasted two decades, a United Nations Environment Program report found that the war, combined with a prolonged drought, had “caused severe and widespread land and resource degradation, including lowering of water tables, drying up of wetlands, deforestation and widespread loss of land cover. vegetation, erosion and loss of wild animal populations ”.
As the world continues to heat up and the destructive effects of climate change become more immediately apparent, the trend towards militarization only intensifies. The key factor in the new global arms race is rising tensions between the United States and China. Here in Australia, these tensions explain the Morrison government’s commitment in 2020 to spend $ 270 billion over the next decade on “new and improved defense capabilities”.
However, the Australian military – among others – has also factored in the so-called ‘security risks’ associated with climate change (such as conflicts over resources, more refugees and social instability) in their approach. decision to strengthen military capabilities. the Defense White Paper 2016 highlighted the role of the Australian military in responding to instability in the region and said “climate change means we will be called upon to do it more often”.
This focus of governments diverts essential research from resolving the climate crisis to further contribute to it. At least 32 Australian universities are currently participating in the Defense Science Partnerships Program, which partners with the Australian Defense Force and various weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems to develop new military technologies. Intellectual power that could be directed towards creative solutions to climate change is being forced by the capitalist system to invent instruments of death instead.
Fighting for the planet means resisting the competitive imperatives of capitalism, which throws the system into war repeatedly and forces states to devote resources to defending their position on the imperial ladder in ever more brutal ways. The drive to militarize does not only threaten millions of lives. It also threatens the future of our planet.
Demonstrate the Brisbane Weapons Expo, 7:00 a.m. June 1, in front of the Brisbane Convention Center. Follow Shut Down Land Forces Expo on Facebook and Instagram to find out morere.