As the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is in full swing in Glasgow, pressure is mounting for military pollution to be included in climate agreements.
While the failure of recognising militaries as greenhouse gas emitters requires urgent rectification, “greening the military“ will not be enough to address and mitigate the ecological crisis.
The military-industrial complex has grave impacts on the environment
The military-industrial complex is one of the greatest contributors to the climate crisis and environmental destruction. If it were a country, the United States military’s emissions alone would make it the world’s 55th largest contributor.
But it’s not only energy consumption used for using and moving troops and weapons that have devastating impacts on the climate. The impact goes far beyond it. The entire lifecycle of weapons’ production, testing, and use, from small arms to explosive or nuclear weapons, have huge repercussions for biodiversity, soil, groundwater, and air. The ever-increasing military expenditure, skyrocketing in 2020 to almost $2 trillion, diverts crucial resources for ecological regeneration and climate change mitigation, food security, housing, and healthcare.
However, most governments refuse to connect the dots between military activity and environmental impacts. “The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change obliges signatories to publish annual GHG emissions, but military emissions reporting is voluntary and often not included,” observes the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) in its call for action. Similarly, the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International that just recently concluded its annual five-week session, has not yet shown any signs of meaningfully integrating ecological considerations into its work on disarmament and arms control.