The only hope to possibly avoid environmental collapse is to immediately stop burning fossil fuels and continue to build up the infrastructure for renewable energy. The principles of a Green New Deal provide the framework to make this happen. The largest obstacles to doing this now are:
- find the money for the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy
- convince the public to take funds from the massive military budget
- build up the industry to produce renewable energy infrastructure
- train millions of people to build, install and maintain renewable energy systems
- build up the social systems to support a just transition, including universal healthcare and a guaranteed income
Our evolving climate catastrophe, which has dominated the news for weeks, could finally be an opportunity to rein in military power and spending. Any serious reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will have to include a significant reduction in fossil fuel use by the United States military. As the following explains, the US military is the single largest user of petroleum in the world. And the military has consistently been used to secure oil and energy supplies.
The US military alone is the single largest user of petroleum in the world and has been the main enforcer of the global oil economy for decades.
The history of how the military disappeared from any carbon accounting ledgers goes back to the UN climate talks in 1997 in Kyoto. Under pressure from military generals and foreign policy hawks opposed to any potential restrictions on US military power, the US negotiating team succeeded in securing exemptions for the military from any required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Even though the US then proceeded not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the exemptions for the military stuck for every other signatory nation. Even today, the reporting each country is required to make to the UN on their emissions excludes any fuels purchased and used overseas by the military.
But the responsibility of the military for the climate crisis goes much further than their own use of fossil fuels. As we witnessed in Iraq, the military, the arms corporations and their many powerful political supporters have consistently relied on (and aggressively pushed for) armed intervention to secure oil and energy supplies. The military is not just a prolific user of oil, it is one of the central pillars of the global fossil-fuel economy. Today whether it is in the Middle East, the Gulf, or the Pacific, modern-day military deployment is about controlling oil-rich regions and defending the key shipping supply routes that carry half the world’s oil and sustain our consumer economy.The Elephant in Paris – the Military and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, by Nick Buxton, originally published by New Internationalist, November 19, 2015
Use military budget for this transition
Conservative estimates of outlays for defense in the Federal budget is 21% or $868 billion. The bulk of that money would need to be shifted to what is needed for a just transition to renewable energy sources. That includes investment in job training, guaranteed income and universal health care.
Use fossil fuel subsidies for this transition
Another obvious source of funds to help transition away from fossil fuels would be to use the over $26 billion a year in fossil fuel subsidies to help fund a Green New Deal instead.
A new study, the G7 Fossil Fuel Subsidy Scorecard, measured the US against other G7 countries on each country’s progress in eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. The US ranked the worst out of the G7 countries, spending over $26 billion a year propping up fossil fuels. (The G7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and the US.)Time for the US to End Fossil Fuel Subsidies, NRDC, June 03, 2018 Han Chen Danielle Droitsch
We simply cannot do what needs to be done for a just transition away from fossil fuels without slashing the military budget and dramatically reducing global military operations. We cannot have both.