Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

WITH the US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan heading the news, it is time to look again at another effect of the world’s most powerful military force. (Note, most powerful, not largest, for the US is the world’s third largest force but with the highest military spending of any country.) 

We already know that these wars have left hundreds of thousands dead and millions upon millions of people displaced, but how many are aware that the US military is the largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world? This is just the military, not the US itself. And its operations throughout the world, many of which are deemed unnecessary and unjustified, such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to name but two, account for 70% of its energy consumption. Just these two wars emitted more than one billion metric tons of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere.

These emissions are caused by the military’s reliance upon a global network of ships, trucks and cargo planes to supply its forces with everything from weapons, power for more than 800 military installations worldwide, to humanitarian aid. Of course it could be argued, and should, that many countries would not need this humanitarian aid if the US and its allies simply stayed out of other countries’ affairs. However, as that is as unlikely as Jeff Bezos waking up one day and deciding to end world hunger, we need to ask if the US military can reduce its huge carbon footprint. Much was made of this in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan to reduce the military’s carbon emissions, but, whilst a goal of net-zero emissions for all non-combat bases and committing billions to Pentagon energy efficiency research is admirable, it would have little effect on the environmental impact of this huge military force.

While solar energy and electric vehicles may sound nice and “green”, and they are, war is big business and the US military has deep ties with the fossil fuel industry. The most heavily used fuel is jet fuel with each air mission producing hundreds of tons of C02 pollution. Each air mission! And we know that the US fights many of its wars for oil so it’s just going around in circles: the military needs oil to fuel its ships, planes etc and uses those ships and planes to unnecessarily invade other countries on many different pretexts, but the main aim is to control oil, its production and prices.

So, as we are already deep into a climate emergency, can anything be done to prevent this powerful military force from remaining the biggest polluter in the world?

Of course there are remedies. The US could simply choose not to engage in these wars, which would in turn cut weapons manufacturing, and close many of its overseas bases. I mean, is there any justification at all for the US military to have bases in Australia, Germany, Belgium, Italy and so on without mentioning its hundreds of domestic bases?

The whole US military machine which rumbles on regardless is a madness which many of us have seen for decades. Others are just waking up to it, while many have been brainwashed into thinking they are somehow the peacekeepers of the world, which we know is simply not true.

Ending these wars and closing many bases would not only significantly reduce fossil fuel emissions but would save billions of dollars and save millions of lives. Yes millions. Since WWII more than 12 million people have been killed by US troops, and has anything good come out of these wars? Anything?

So, we know we could save enough money to give more humanitarian aid, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we could save lives. But the US chooses not to do this. Why?There are two reasons which are inextricably tied: power and money. And in this largely capitalist world nothing is going to change in the near future.

Greedy humans are ruining lives and our planet.

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