David Collins was invited by XR and CND to deliver a speech on “The link between climate change and militarism” outside the MOD in London at 10am on 10th October followed by an hour’s public discussion. However, due to police action outside the MOD, denying access to XR with its stage and public address systems, the speech could not be given publicly at the time. It is planned that the speech will be delivered on another occasion shortly.
I served for 9 years in the Royal Marines, leaving in 1979, and for the past 20 years have worked to promote renewable energy, helping to initiate the Feed-In Tariff and Renewable Heat subsidies which kick-started the industry in the UK from virtually zero to the current national energy share of 33% of electrical energy, together with liquid biofuels, biomass and renewable green gas from anaerobic digestion, replacing fossil gas.
I would first like to recall the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations signed in June 1945 which states a determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war……and to re-affirm faith in fundamental human rights”. Surely the most basic of which is the right to live in peace in a healthy habitable world.
There is, of course, a massive direct military carbon footprint generated by domestic and foreign military bases, deployment in wars, manufacture of weapons, munitions, missiles, production of military equipment, use of aircraft, ships and land vehicles, for which efficient fuel use is the very least consideration. To name but a few, further vast emissions come from post-war reconstruction, healthcare for military and civilians, and restoration of war devastation such as oil-fires and de-forestation. As an example, where central electricity generating stations are destroyed they are replaced by thousands of polluting domestic diesel engines.
Independent analysis by Professor Neta Crawford on the carbon emissions for the “War on Terror” from 2001-2017, based on both military operations and the US arms industry, estimated emissions of 3,000 million tonnes CO2e which is about equivalent to the total expected USA emissions over a given 6 month period.
These astronomical totals are hardly surprising when you recall that according to the 2006 Amnesty International report “Dead on Time”, the 2003 transport for the invasion of Iraq, for the US alone, involved 210 ships carrying 4.8 million m3 of cargo and 5.2 Bn gallons of fuel.
We should be outraged of course at the immense direct carbon footprint of the military-industrial complex, which is deeply embedded in many nations and which probably amounts to 5% of the total anthropogenic emissions in the world. However, it is the grotesque disparity between resource allocation for the military compared with that for the environment that I’d like to take on as my theme.
Here we are, in the shadow of the MOD, whose primary role is the security of the nation. Inside this building, the military is engaged in assessing perceived security risks and making contingency plans to cope with them in advance.
A report by The Oxford Research Group has established that MOD advice to policymakers is governed by the principle that even a 1% chance of a security risk materialising is unacceptable. This goes a long way to explain the need for such immense sums spent by the military. Whether large or small, fictitious or true, a tiny security threat means more ships for the Navy, more tanks, more aircraft and weaponry to “make us safe”. It also creates an anxiety amongst the population that is necessary to create public support for military expenditure and wars.
One irony noted by Dr Leila Urekenova, while at the 2018 Munich Security Conference, is that this “1% doctrine” is for all practical purposes identical to the “precautionary principle” invoked by environmentalists. Yet the certainty of impending climate catastrophe is ignored in favour of the possibility of security threats.
Yet the unfolding climate catastrophe is not a 1% or a 20% or even a 90% risk. At a time in the near future, it is plainly 100%. We are past the moment when doubt gives an excuse for inaction; it has been in plain view for over a century with the work of Tyndall in 1859 and Arrhenius’s first calculation of global warming from human emissions of CO2 in 1896. A question was recently posed to science students; “How many significant scientific breakthroughs in the science of global warming have made been since 1979.” The surprising answer – none. The basic facts of the science have been indisputable for over 40 years, and the children and youth of the entire world this year have rightly demanded that from this moment all resources should now be concentrated towards averting the extinction of human and animal life on earth. That resource is readily available now from existing military budgets.
A holistic assessment would view the potential impact of climate change in individual countries, as being of a similar order of magnitude to a major nuclear war, both of course likely to lead to the eventual extinction of life on earth. But whilst the major polluters and aggressive military powers are not individually faced with catastrophic damage, it will not be their priority.
International climate finance dedicated to mitigating and adapting to climate change is lower than military spending, by a ratio of nearly 12 to 1. Yet there are huge variations in the amounts spent by each country.
The worst case is the USA where total climate finance amounts to 0.2% of military spending. YES 0.2%. Italy is only 0.9% with at UK 3.1% , yet Germany manages over 22%, Japan 18% and China 13.6%. This is of course directly related to the foreign policies of each country; Germany and Japan being bound by their constitutions not to engage in aggressive wars, the USA and UK the very opposite. But the ratios of even the best examples are still grotesque. A tiny gleam of light is Costa Rica – no army for 40 years, therefore adequate funding for social justice, education, health and common goods.
You might think that this waste of resources would cripple those economies but the revenue from arms sales and the opportunistic looting of resources in the aftermath of these wars is compensation enough for the failed diplomacy that causes these wars. For the military-industrial complex, the misery of war is a very profitable business.
Imagine the reversal of these ratios; imagine basic defence spending at less than 10% of that spent on addressing the actual needs of the world. The repatriation from the destructive military industries of talent, human energy and peaceful research to where it is really needed. People engaged in productive positive work, instead of killing other peoples while often harming their own sanity and health. War can and often does destroy both the aggressor and the victim.
And of course even the existing modest outlays on preventative action to slow and reverse climate change represent overwhelmingly better value for money than a securitised military approach that seeks to address only the symptoms of a changing climate in the form of increasing conflict across the Global South.
This doctrine has kept the UK at war, somewhere in the world, every year since WW2. No other country, including the USA, has this record. Who is threatening us? Anyone out there? Yet Britain has soldiers deployed in over 80 countries and has bases in 14. In truth we ARE the threat – in Afghanistan, the recent conflict is known as the “British war”. And how much carbon will be emitted and for how long, while each country rebuilds and recovers?
Vietnam lost a generation of progress following what they call the “American War” from 1965 to 1975. In the aftermath, the country remained closed and in shock, losing in total 24 years, until tentatively opening up to the world in 1989.
Yet no regret for any wars has been shown by our government. To the contrary, Gavin Williamson, the former Defence Secretary stated in December 2018: “The UK could build new military bases around the world after Brexit – this is our moment to be that true global player once more – looking into new opportunities for the armed forces – our biggest moment as a nation since the second world war”
I love that word “OUR” – what he really means is “YOU”, because it is you, the youth of our country who will be sent to fight his wars, kill his enemies and return home with missing limbs and damaged minds.
It is clear that the current “season ticket” for continuous war which commenced following 9/11, has to expire following 18 years of failure and mayhem. Decisions on war should be removed from the hands of politicians, who are plainly unfit for this task, to an impartial non-political body.
I’d like to quote part of a speech given by MEP Molly Scott-Cato from a MAW conference this year
“Climate change, social justice, displacement and war – all of these are in a nexus together, they are inter-related, and when you address one, I believe you address them all, because we will not solve the problem of conflict without having global justice. We will not solve the problem of conflict without addressing climate change, and my view is that we will not solve any of these problems unless we have properly functioning flourishing democracies, not just in this country but right across the world.”
Every year more young people become voters, core public support for dissent continues to build, and I hope that the demographic tide continues to run in favour of replacing war expenditure with the radical conservation policies that are needed.
I’d like end on a quote from Al Gore’s, acceptance speech for his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded for his work on the Climate Emergency – “I call on all nations to mobilize with a sense of urgency and shared resolve that has previously been seen only when nations have mobilized for war.”
David is a member of the Committee of the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW), which was founded in 2001 by Bruce Kent following the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace. Run by volunteers, MAW challenges popular thinking about the acceptability of war and promotes the vision of a world in which conflicts are resolved without resort to violence; a world in which war is not considered inevitable.
David is also a member of Veterans for Peace which was founded in the USA in 1985 and in the UK in 2011. VFP UK is a voluntary and politically independent ex-services organisation of men and women who have served in conflicts from WW2 through to Afghanistan. As a result of their collective experiences, they firmly believe that “War is not the solution to the problems we face in the 21st century”.