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Report: Stop Ignoring Wars, Militarization Impact On Climate Change

Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization:

Reducing Militarism and Military Expenditures to Invest in the UN Green Climate Fund and to Create Low-Carbon Economies and Resilient Communities

By Tamara Lorincz, Senior Researcher
International Peace Bureau
September 2014

Read the full report here.

Excerpts from Executive Summary

Not only have carbon emissions increased for the past ten years, so too have military expenditures to a record high. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that global military spending was $839 billion in 2001 and rose to $1.6 trillion in 2011 – a 92% increase.

The United States and its allies have spent trillions of dollars financing their deadly and destructive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These
wars have had terrible social, economic and environmental costs and have made global warming much worse. Expensive weapons systems such as fighter jets, destroyers, and tanks are extremely energy inefficient and emit highly toxic, carbon-intense emissions. Oil Change International estimated that the U.S.military emitted 100 million metric tonnes of CO2 in fuelling its war in Iraq in five years.

The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest industrial consumer of fossil fuels in the world. It is also the top arms exporter and military spender at $640 billion, which accounts for 37% of the total. Other western countries that are top military spenders like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, have high carbon emissions per capita.

Military expenditures are depriving the international community of the funds desperately needed to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. Over the past two decades, the developed countries have provided a paltry $12.5 billion for the Global Environmental Facility, one of the first funding mechanisms under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCCC). In ten years, the Adaptation Fund has only
disbursed $150 million to help developing countries, which are the most vulnerable and least responsible for climate change. In 2009 at the UNFCCC 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Copenhagen, developed countries made a commitment to raise $100 billion annually by 2020 for the Green Climate Fund to finance the national adaptation plans for developing countries. This is less than 1% of global annual military expenditures. Yet, wealthy, industrialized countries have failed to make adequate pledges to pay their climate debt.

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The report shows the different pathways that countries can take to reach net zero emissions with a mixed renewable energy system. However, the IPCC and the DDPP failed to include the fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the military in their calculations and analysis. According to the UNFCCC reporting guidelines, most of the military sector’s fuel consumption and emissions are excluded from national greenhouse gas inventories. While the military’s domestic fuel use is reported, international marine and aviation bunker fuels used on naval vessels and fighter aircraft outside national borders are not included in a country’s fuel and GHG total. The exemption of the military sector in calculations and reporting is because of the intense lobbying by the United States during the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in the mid-1990s. Since then, the military’s carbon “bootprint” has been ignored. There is no mention of the military sector’s emissions in the fifth and latest IPCC assessment report. Without complete and transparent information about the emissions and impacts in the military sector, it will not be possible to develop and implement the mitigation and adaptation strategies needed to stabilize the climate. Though, the IPCC and DDPP have argued for decarbonization that supports sustainable development, they overlook one of the most carbon-intensive and environmentally-destructive sectors.

The problem of military expenditures and emissions must be confronted not only by the IPCC and the DDPP, but the entire international community. We need to answer some basic questions: Why is spending for the military prioritized over spending on the climate and the environment? How much of the global carbon budget, if any amount, should be allocated to the military? And should the limited supply of fossil fuels be burned to build new weapons, drop bigger bombs, and fight more wars? In our new report, Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization, the International Peace Bureau argues that war must stop for global warming to slow down. Military expenditures must be reduced and re-directed for climate finance to create low carbon economies and climate-resilient communities. Disarmament must take place alongside mitigation and adaptation. The military is the problem, not the solution to the climate crisis.

This report provides an environmental perspective to the IPB’s dedicated work on disarmament for development. It also builds on the analysis in our previous publications including Warfare or Welfare? Disarmament for Development in the 21st Century released in 2005 and Opportunity Costs: Military Spending and the UN’s Development Agenda published in 2012. The IPB argued that military spending should be decreased for human security and meeting the Millennium Development Goals.


1. Disarm and demilitarize for climate justice and sustainable development. In 2004, a UN Group of Governmental Experts released a report, The Relationship between Disarmament and Development in the Current International Context, and advocated for the mainstreaming of the disarmament-development relationship. Thus, an integrated parallel process of disarmament and demilitarization must be pursued alongside climate mitigation and adaptation and the post-2015 development agenda.\

2. Reduce and re-direct military spending to climate finance and research, development, demonstration and deployment (RDD&D). The International Energy Agency (IEA) calculated that the total additional investment needs for mitigation for the period 2010-2050 are US $45 trillion. The IEA also estimated that funding for climate RDD&D requires a two to five fold increase to $40-90 billion annually. Combined, this is approximately $1 trillion a year for mitigation and research for the next forty years and roughly equivalent to annual military expenditures.

3. Mitigate and adapt to prevent the drastic impacts of climate change in the Arctic, stop its industrialization and militarization.  Countries, such as Russia, the United States, and Canada have plans for increased natural resource development and shipping in the Arctic. These countries are also modernizing their navies for the Arctic environment. Yet to protect this fragile ecosystem and stay within the carbon budget, oil and gas should stay under the ice. their navies for the Arctic environment. The region should be demilitarized, declared a nuclear-weapons free zone and a zone of peace.

4. Convert defence industries into civilian, green industries to create a low-carbon economy. The UN Group of Governmental Experts’ 2004 report, recommended that conversion should be encouraged for disarmament and development. To tackle the climate crisis, a conversion plan would help lay the foundation for building a green economy. A University of Massachusetts report found that more jobs could be created with $1 billion in government expenditures in health care, education, and construction than in the military.

5. Abolish nuclear weapons and avoid nuclear energy. Due to the inherent link with nuclear weapons, nuclear power as a pathway to a low-carbon future should be avoided by the DDPP. Nuclear power risks cost-overruns and accidents. In its report, Nuclear Weapons Cost Study, Global Zero estimated that world spending to date on nuclear weapons exceeded one trillion dollars per decade and predicted that another trillion dollars will be spent over the next decade as countries modernize their arsenals.

6. Integrate cooperation, peacebuilding and nonviolence for climate-resilient communities. Cooperation is necessary to stay within the carbon budget in an equitable and just way. The UNFCCC has established the cooperative architecture of diplomacy and the rule of law to peacefully resolve climate conflict. At the local level, peacebuilding and nonviolent conflict resolution help to ensure climate resiliency in communities. Climate change must not be securitized as a threat multiplier that requires a robust military response.


More Information:

The IPB will be in New York for the Converge for the Climate Conference on Saturday, September 20 and the People’s Climate March and Mobilization on September 21 (International Day of Peace)

1) Tamara Lorincz, Senior Researcher and writer of the working paper will be presenting ‘Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization’, at the Converge for the Climate Conference workshop panel on ‘Climate Change and Militarism: Following the Money and Understanding the Costs’ with Dr. Michael Klare, William Hartung, Ellen Powell and Judith LeBlanc on Saturday from 9:00-10:30 am at St. John’s University. See full workshop schedule.

2) Tamara will represent the IPB at the People’s Climate March & Mobilizations in New York on Sunday, September 21.

3) Former IPB President Cora Weiss is presenting at the event “The Things that Make for Peace Event” on Friday, September 19 from 9:20-15:00 at the Church Center for the United Nations 777 UN Plaza (44th St. and 1st Ave.).

Some Key Resources on Militarism, War and Climate Change – IPB Recommendations

Books and Publications

Conflict and Climate Change, Booklet and DVD
Movement for the Abolition of War, United Kingdom

Global Warming, Militarism and Nonviolence: The Art of Active Resistance 
Book by Marty Branagan

The Impact of Militarism on the Environment 
Publication by Physicians for Global Survival Canada

The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism
Book by Barry Sanders.

Paying for the Climate Pivot 
Article by Emily Schwartz Greco and John Feffer

The US Military is a Major Contributor to Global Warming
Article by John Lawrence


Costs of War Project

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Stop the Wars, Stop the Warming

Ideas for hashtags 

Don’t let the climate be another casualty of war

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