VOICES: The climate crisis vs. military spending

NPP Pressroom

The Garden Island
Laurel Briar

The Climate Crisis is the most-certain and the most-immediate of any of the threats the U.S. faces, including the military.

It is happening now, worldwide, with droughts, flooding, fires and extreme weather; the effects leading to crop failures, diminished access to fresh water, and instability around the world. This has contributed greatly to mass migration, political tensions and the refugee crisis.

A recent report from The World Bank projects there will be 216 million climate refugees by 2050. Here’s the thing: it’s real; it’s us; experts agree; it’s bad; there’s hope. There is not a cliff we will fall off at some predetermined point, a better analogy that well-respected climate scientist, professor and author Michael Mann uses is that we are walking onto a minefield, and the farther we go, the greater the risk. Conversely, the sooner we stop using fossil fuels the better off we will be.

The military has acknowledged the threat of climate change to U.S. security and added it to its list of national security concerns. And yet, the U.S. military is the largest institutional user of petroleum and the single-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the world. The Pentagon’s GHG exceeds those of many industrial countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Portugal. Since 2001, the Department of Defense has consistently consumed 80% of all U.S. government energy supplies.

The U.S. has repeatedly insisted on excluding requirements to reduce military carbon emissions from international climate agreements. Nor is it included in the graphs typically used to illustrate GHG emitted by the U.S. Ultimately, the military budget must focus on reducing their use of fossil fuels and addressing our greatest threat, the climate crisis.

The U.S. has authorized $700 billion a year for military spending in recent years, more than the combined military spending of our “rivals” China and Russia, and the next 10 biggest spenders, according to Boston University’s often- quoted Cost of War Project.


The DOD budget comprises more than half of all federal discretionary spending every year. The proposed military budget for FY22 is a new-record-high of $753 billion, which includes over $44 billion for new nuclear weapons. It’s a windfall for the weapons industry but devastating for people and the planet. A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies calculates that the cost of U.S. militarization in the last 20 years is a staggering $21 TRILLION, with about half of that going to military contractors.

Meanwhile, on Kaua‘i’s Westside, the DOD is proposing to build a $2-billion, 27-acre radar complex in a tsunami zone, ignoring sea-level-rise predictions. It epitomizes the military’s ongoing failed stewardship of Hawai‘i’s environment. The Homeland Defense Radar-Hawai‘i (HDR-H) was defunded in Trump, and recently Biden administrations, because new technology missiles can evade the HDR-H, rendering it obsolete.

The HDR-H was dug out of the rubbish bin by our congressional delegation, primarily Sen. Mazie Hirono. Hundreds of millions have been secured to do an environmental study. Yet, the community remains in the dark as to the economic, environmental, cultural and other impacts the construction and operation of the HDR-H will have on the infrastructure, housing, chemical exposures, electrical demands on the island.

For more information see nuffmilitary.org

The enemy we know, global warming, poses the most-urgent existential threat, and the need to mobilize all our resources to address it is now.


Laurel Brier is a resident of Anahola and writes for the Kaua‘i Climate Action Coalition, which meets via Zoom the third Monday of the month. Email Kaua‘iclimate@gmail.com to join or for more information. Education forums are held the second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. On Oct. 13 the meeting will focus on the importance and possibility of electric vehicles for climate action. For more information, go to ZeroWasteKaua‘i’s Facebook page or register at http://bit.ly/electricvehiclesKaua‘i.