Increased military spending risks people and planet


“Scientists for Global Responsibility estimate the military carbon footprint is approximately 5.5% of global emissions, meaning the military industry accounts for the fourth highest carbon emissions in the world.”

By Sophie Bolt, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

Just last month scientists again moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock even closer to midnight, citing the escalating crisis in Ukraine. This followed its stark warning last year that the world faces an existential threat from both climate catastrophe and nuclear war.

These warnings make the TUC’s decision to overturn its defence diversification policy and advocate a strategy to rebuild Britain’s manufacturing industry based on increased defence spending even more shocking. Such a strategy undermines the cause of public sector workers striking to secure decent wages and working conditions.

Predicated on an aggressive foreign policy, it results in an acceleration of the arms race, in which British-made weapons are killing hundreds of thousands of civilians – including children – across the globe. And it’s led to the dangerous expansion of nuclear weapons, including the upgrading of Trident, Britain’s fleet of nuclear submarines, and increasing the number of deadly nuclear warheads.

It also undermines the urgent fight to cut carbon emissions, by redirecting government spending away from climate action and into the military – the most carbon-emitting ‘industry’ in the world.

The Tories have consistently failed to meet any of their emissions reduction targets and the Lords’ Industry and Regulators Committee has cited funding as a key problem. Yet last year, the government found £2.3bn for military aid to Ukraine, has committed the same level this year, and plans to ‘inflation-proof’ defence spending, increasing it to £50bn.

Trying to capture the scale of the military bootprint is very difficult. Many governments oppose monitoring military emissions because of concerns it will hamper foreign policy. After lobbying by governments like the US and Britain, military emissions reporting was made voluntary in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Scientists for Global Responsibility estimate the military carbon footprint is approximately 5.5% of global emissions, meaning the military industry accounts for the fourth highest carbon emissions in the world. The US military is the substantial part of this, with research it to be the ‘largest single institutional consumer of hydrocarbons in the world’. And as weaponry becomes more powerful, it more intensively consumes fossil fuels.

The US’s latest F35a fighter jets, designed to launch a new satellite-guided nuclear bomb, the B61-12, uses 60 percent more fuel than its predecessor, creating greater carbon emissions. These jets are taking part in military exercises right now, awaiting delivery of the new nuclear bombs to NATO bases across the world, including here in Britain at Lakenheath. And on top of this growing, and unaccountable carbon bootprint, nuclear weapons present the ultimate climate catastrophe.

Experts say even a limited nuclear attack would kill millions, and create a nuclear winter in which cloudstorms would block out the sun for decades, causing crops to fail and creating a global famine. And even without a single nuclear bomb being dropped, the nuclear industry is poisoning people and the planet. Uranium used as fuel in both nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons, causes cancers in those forced to mine this toxic metal and contaminates whole aquatic ecosystems. Nuclear accidents like the explosion of Fukishima, the Japanese nuclear power station in 2011, released toxic radiation into the atmosphere and radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

Channeling investment into renewables and away from defence is in the interests of working people across the world. Britain needs to create jobs that tackle the urgent threats we face from the climate crisis instead of dragging us closer to nuclear annihilation.

Source: HM Treasury (2021) Prepared by Dr Stuart Parkinson, co-chair UK branch of Global Campaign on Military Spending & Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility.

Featured image: Wages not weapons placards. Photo credit: CND/twitter

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