Climate Change and Peace Issues

By Jim Clune

A recent post by Medea Benjamin of Codepink connects numerous ways the climate crisis and militarism are intertwined. In this post, I’m paraphrasing her piece, as well as including other relevant facts.

Ms. Benjamin states that our military protects Big Oil around the world, and that the Pentagon is the largest consumer of fossil fuel in the world. Indeed, more than 147 other nations combined! Kate Yoder of Grist reports that the US military has pumped 1.2 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, just since 2001. Medea laments that the money that could be used to address the climate crisis is, instead, monopolized by our military that accounts for over 50% of the national budget, as it has for decades.

Moreover, the Defense Department has created a toxic legacy of PCBs, asbestos, and dioxin exposures, nationally and globally. The pollution that is most horrible is the depleted uranium (DU) used in anti-tank shells. The exploding shells produce a carcinogenic and radioactive aerosol that remains active in the environment for thousands of years. The ghastly results of DU poisoning on newborn children in Iraq is currently evident. (See “War on the World”, a dispatch by Murtaza Hussainon of 9-15-19.)

While the US military poisons the planet with pollution, it sabotages international climate agreements signed in Kyoto and Paris. The U.S. government also refuses to join the International Criminal Court, which would bring some accountability to resource acquisition. Furthermore, our military is increasingly being used to quell resistance to environmental destruction.

Climate change itself aggravates social and political crises, e.g. the drought in Syria since 2011. Mass migration is fueled by regional or national conflicts, but also by weather changes. The xenophobic and tragic backlash in countries receiving refugees has become all too common, particularly in the US.

Climate change and nuclear weapons’ use are the two main sources of potential biosphere destruction. The former requires a major shift in America’s first world lifestyle in order to avoid its catastrophic result. The latter is more easily preventable, but the failure to ban WMD’s is in log jam within our political system. So, as we continue to pollute the world with utter distain, we simultaneously hold the world’s people hostage with planet fracturing firepower. No wonder we are seen, by so many, as the greatest threat to peace and justice in the world today.

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