WAR COSTS THE EARTH
Peace is the key enabler of the global, cooperative action required to address our climate emergency.
Investing in diplomacy and aid, redirecting military spending, and eliminating weapons of mass destruction can reduce militarism, threats, instability and competition, free up resources, and enable the solidarity we need to work effectively together.
Using a peace framework to think about climate action can also mitigate securitised and competitive responses to our crisis.
armed conflict distracts and divides
A habitable planet is our prime source of security. However achieving it is much harder, if not impossible, in a world at war where nations and peoples are pitched against each other.
Notions of “security” have become distorted to mean simply our capacity to fight others. The goal of working together in our common interests is marginalised, in funding and government priorities. A false sense of security that military force can protect us from climate impacts (for example from climate refugees) will reduce the chances of real climate action.
Armed conflict exacerbates climate change
Military activity consumes vast quantities of fossil fuels. The US Department of Defence alone operates and maintains hundreds of energy-intensive military installations around the world, in addition to the destruction wrought by its ongoing wars. It is estimated that it is the single largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world.
Armed conflict wastes scientific research opportunities
The weapons industry in Australia is currently receiving significant government assistance to expand and increase exports. The industry is explicitly attempting to attract our “best and brightest” young scientific minds. Many weapons companies are engaging in partnerships on STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) education, at all educational levels including primary school.
Our scientists are needed to create a sustainable future, not a more violent one.
Climate action and peace promote justice
Justice - between different regions of the globe and between generations – is central to both peace and climate advocacy. War primarily affects innocent civilians. Similarly the severe impacts of climate change have thus far affected disproportionately people who have contributed very little to the problem. The militarisation of borders in preparation for climate refugees perpetuates the injustices by treating climate victims as a threat.
The UN Office for South-South Cooperation draws attention to the need to tackle climate change and sustainable development as “two mutually reinforcing sides of the same coin”. The agency states: “The global nature of these challenges calls for the widest possible cooperation aimed at accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.”
Climate Change Exacerbates armed conflict
Climate change contributes to food insecurity, disputes over water access, flooding of coastal communities, droughts, mass displacements of people and other disastrous impacts, thereby increasing tensions between peoples. It is widely recognised a s a “threat multiplier” that heightens the risk of wars erupting.
Powerful weapons corporations, while paying lip service to the serious impacts of climate change, are at the same time seeking to profit from the increased prospects of conflicts. These vested interests will also undermine climate action.
Armed conflict wastes funds that are needed for climate action
SIPRI (the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) estimates that global military spending in 2019 was $1,917 billion. This vast sum could make huge gains in climate action. UNODA estimates that “reinvesting 5 per cent of global military spending would exceed the initial annual costs of adapting to climate change in developing countries (Sustainable Development Goal 13)”.
In Australia, military spending is skyrocketing, with over $200 billion for military hardware planned over the decade to 2028-29, over and above the annual defence budget, while our climate action languishes.
As “natural” disasters caused by climate change increase, there is a risk that this will be used to justify an expanded role for the Australian Defence Force in disaster response, even though this is generally the most costly, and sometimes inappropriate, form of relief.
Climate action and peace mean jobs
Military spending is one of the least effective ways to create jobs. Brown University in the US reports that clean energy and healthcare spending create 50 percent more jobs than the equivalent amount of spending on the military, and education spending creates more than twice as many jobs.
A final caution: Nuclear? No Solution
Nuclear power is no solution to climate change, nor even part of it. It is slow, prohibitively expensive, creates carbon emissions in most parts of its operation, produces long-lived waste which no-one wants, and has inextricable links with nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons and climate change are the twin existential dangers to humanity. Nuclear weapons have brought us to the brink of calamity on multiple occasions. Even a “small” nuclear war would have devastating climate impacts causing global famine. These weapons must be eliminated. This goal will be very difficult to achieve in a nuclear-powered world.