Introducing: No Warming, No War: How Militarism Fuels the Climate Crisis - and Vice Versa

Today, on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the National Priorities Project is proud to release No Warming, No War: How Militarism Fuels the Climate Crisis - and Vice Versa. Recognizing that the impacts of climate change will dramatically increase instability around the globe, this resource examines the role of militarism in a climate-changed world. To achieve climate justice, we must transform the extractive economy we have now that is harming people and the planet. We need a Just Transition with anti-militarism at the core.

The Pentagon is a major polluter. 

U.S. Militarism degrades the environment and contributes directly to climate change. Funded by an annual budget of more than $700 billion, the United States has a massive military presence across the globe. With extensive infrastructure and operations both domestically and abroad, the largest industrial military in the history of the world is also among the biggest polluters

Maintaining an expansive military sprawl requires significant investment in carbon-intensive infrastructure and gas-guzzling equipment. Just one of the military’s jets, the B-52 Stratofortress consumes about as much fuel in an hour as the average car driver uses in seven years. Beyond their significant carbon “bootprint,” U.S. military operations themselves wreak havoc on the environment. But “greening the military,” or finding ways to wage eco-friendly war, misses the mark. Instead, the climate justice movement calls for restructuring the extractive economy that is harming people and ecosystems.  

The United States has a well-known history of fighting wars for oil.

 The U.S. military spends an estimated $81 billion a year to protect the world’s oil supplies, while an estimated one-quarter to one-half of all interstate wars since 1973 have been linked to oil.

 In addition to causing war, the fossil fuel industry also relies on militarized state violence to uphold its operations around the globe. Those who fight to protect their lands from extractive industries and infrastructure are often branded as “eco-terrorists” and met with state-military or paramilitary violence. In the United States, protestors are often met with police departments flush with surplus military equipment. Globally, Indigenous peoples are disproportionately subject to this violence. While Indigenous people make up about 5% of the world’s population, they account for about a quarter of those murdered for defending land and the environment.

Climate change and border militarization are inextricably linked.

People around the world are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change. In the coming decades, climate change will make corners of the globe increasingly uninhabitable. These new ecological realities will compound existing conflicts, cause more political instability, and dislocate unprecedented quantities of people. 

Commonly cited estimates project that around 200 million people will be displaced by the middle of the century due to climate change. But instead of responding with solidarity, and sharing the resources that could provide safe refuge to those forced to travel across borders, migrants are met with expanded border enforcement and repression. Around the globe, governments are allocating more of their budgets to build walls, hire armed guards, and militarize borders to keep migrants out

Having played such an outsized role in causing the crisis, the United States bears a disproportionate share of responsibility to address it, including a debt to displaced people around the world. We must reverse our decades-long trend of border militarization — and all anti-immigrant operations carried out by ICE and CBP — and uphold all peoples collective freedom to move and stay. 

Over-investment in the military comes at the high cost of under-investing in other needs, including climate.

Enormous and unnecessary military expenditures have warped our sense of what’s possible, too often tricking us into believing we can’t afford to improve our lives or keep our planet livable. We can — we just need to take back our resources from wars, weapons, and walls.

The reality is that there’s no shortage of funds for a Just Transition to a green economy. Compared to the $6.4 trillion spent on war in the past two decades, the cost of shifting the U.S. power grid to 100% renewable energy over the next 10 years is an estimated $4.5 trillion. Instead of funding endless wars, we could have already transformed our fossil-fueled energy system, with money to spare.

Workers need a way out.

In both the fossil fuel and military sectors, workers end up funneled into lethal work due to limited options. Like the workers in the fossil fuel industry will need to transition into new jobs, there must be alternative pathways to good employment for individuals and communities whose livelihoods are tied to the military.

In order to rapidly transition to a green economy, we must fund millions of new jobs and convert a major share of the economy from building weapons of war to building a 100% clean energy economy by 2030. Compared to the same level of military spending, clean energy and infrastructure create over 40% more jobs and energy efficiency retrofits creates nearly twice the level of job creation by military spending.

Racism and racial oppression form the foundation for both the extractive fossil fuel economy and the militarized economy. Neither could exist without the presumption that some human lives are worth less than others, and racial justice would undermine the foundations of both.

 For more and to download the primer, visit the No Warming, No War website.