Climate Watch #2: US military report on climate change

A recent report on climate change from the US military – commissioned by General Mark Milley, Trump’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking military officer in the country – argues that the impact of climate change could, within the next three decades:

  •  overwhelm the US energy grid; 
  •  spread epidemic diseases, water shortages and crises in food production;
  •  mean a third of the world living in “water stressed” regions within ten years which would lead to societal collapse in more vulnerable countries,  such as Bangladesh, overwhelmed by sea level rises.

All of which, it is argued, would require military interventions at home in the US and abroad that would be too great for the US military to cope with. The report argues this this poses the very serious possibility that the military itself could collapse under the strain. 

This report is an example of suicidal inertia, as it takes climate breakdown as a given – something to be responded to, not stopped.  This is particularly stark in the section on the melting of Arctic sea ice. The imperative here is for the US military to be prepared to project US power into the area to fight off competitors and help itself to the fossil fuel reserves uncovered as the ice melts. That burning these resources leads directly to the societal collapse outlined in the rest of the report does not seem to have occurred to the authors.

The US military itself is a significant contributor to climate change. A report published earlier this year, in June 2019, by the Brown University estimates that since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the US military has emitted 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. In 2017 the US military’s carbon emission exceeded those of the industrialised countries of Sweden and Switzerland as well as producing more greenhouse gases than Morocco, Peru, Hungary, Finland, New Zealand and Norway. According to the research, the Pentagon would be the world’s 55th largest carbon emitter if it was a country.

A dramatic reduction of US military expenditure would have great benefits for humanity Firstly, it would reduce the US’ capacity to invade and intervene in other countries across the world which has caused immense death, destruction and suffering. In addition a drastic cut in military expenditure would reduce the US’ gigantic carbon footprint as well as release billions of dollars that could be used productively to tackle climate change. Cut the US military budget – fund a Global Green New Deal to build the green infrastructure that is urgently needed to save the planet.

Climate Watch is a new e-bulletin for the left published by Socialist Action. Sharing regular news, analysis and opinion on the global struggles to stop climate change.