Militarism and Climate

350 Bay Area is striving for a “clean energy future with racial, economic, and environmental justice.”  To this date, 350 Bay Area has not taken a formal position on the U.S. military budget and foreign policy, but there are many ways that U.S. military spending is at odds with our agenda.

The main conflict with 350 Bay Area’s mission, vision, and platform is that much of U.S. military spending is not “defense”.  According to the article “The Toxic Relationship Between Oil and the Military” an estimated 16% of the military budget goes to “protecting global oil interests”.  That’s about $140 billion a year.  And according to this article “750 Bases in 80 Countries Is Too Many for Any Nation: Time for the US To Bring Its Troops Home” about $80 billion a year goes to maintaining 750 bases around the globe, including relics of World War II such as those in Germany or Okinawa, or solely to promote U.S. access to oil, such as in Saudi Arabia.  Plus the US spends many billions more on supporting arms sales to other countries, which isn’t counted as US military spending. 

Consider that the Inflation Reduction Act provides about $35 billion per year for the next 10 years for climate actions.  Compare that to the $877 billion annual military budget.  And as shown in the graph below, US military spending is way out of line compared to other countries.  This underscores the point that all this money could be put to much better use fighting the climate crisis. 

If we take a look at the 350 Bay Area platform, we can see how the military budget is in opposition to our goals (350 Bay Area goals in bold):

  • Ensure resilient, safe, affordable clean energy — and clean energy jobs. Fighting to protect and expand fossil fuels is the antithesis of this. Plus, as in all the cases below, military spending could be much better spent on promoting clean energy and green jobs.
  • Speed the shift to carbon-free, affordable, safe and accessible mobility for everyone.  We don’t need to fight for oil to run our transportation system on renewable electricity.  We do need funding to speed this transition.
  • End toxic air pollution, prioritizing the heavily impacted front-line communities.  The military is exempt from environmental impact requirements and has left contaminated sites such as Hunters’ Point and Treasure Island as well as other sites around the country.  And the aftermath of wars have left toxic pollution around the world including depleted uranium and agent orange.
  • Create a fast transition to healthy, clean-energy buildings.  We have the technology to replace methane gas in all buildings, but we need funding, which is wastefully going to military spending.
  • Accelerate the fossil fuel end game and achieve a just transition.  Again, fighting for fossil fuels is the opposite of what we need.  We should be fighting to leave fossil fuels in the ground.  Plus the massive amount of fossil fuels used to fuel airplanes, ships, tanks, and vehicles used by the military is contrary to ending fossil fuels. See graph below.  And, again, funds for a just transition could be gained by cuts in military spending.

The conflict between military spending vs. economic and environmental justice is clear in the examples above.   What about racial justice?  As military spending impedes our efforts to solve global warming, the result is that people all over the world, especially in Africa and Asia, as well as low income communities in the U.S. continue to suffer from climate disruption.  Therefore, redirecting military spending to combatting the climate crisis will directly support racial justice, both in the U.S. and globally. 

The global situation also demands deep cuts to military spending.  “NATO’s military expenditure of $1.26 trillion in 2023 would pay the most-polluting nations’ unfulfilled promise of climate finance of $100 billion a year for 12 years. . . . Analysis of NATO members’ arms exports shows that these are currently being sent to 39 of the 40 most climate-vulnerable countries” (source:  Transnational Institute report “Climate Crossfire”.

The conclusion is clear.  We in the climate movement must not only oppose the use of fossil fuels and support clean energy alternatives, but the movement must also oppose the bloated U.S. military budget as well as global arms sales.  We recognize that taking on the military-industrial complex in addition to the fossil fuel industry is daunting.  But we are not going to achieve a zero carbon future as long as military spending is blocking our path.  

graphic credit:  Transnational Institute

by Jack Lucero Fleck 12-25-23