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The Global Cost of War

Both militarization and climate change lead to -

Military land use

Indigenous populations have been displaced from their homes by military bases and by military training needs. This especially impacts disadvantaged communities, e.g. Diego Garcia.

Infrastructure destruction

War has caused oil-fires and deforestation.
Where centralised power stations are destroyed, they are replaced by domestic-scale diessel generators, with detrimental effects on the environment.

Fossil fuels

The US Department of Defense is said to be the largest institutional user of fossil fuels in the world. See also the impact of UK armed forces.

US military fuel use is exempt from international monitoring.

In addition access to oil can trigger military conflict.

Oil spills

Marine contamination may be caused by deliberate "scorched earth" policies or by the escape of oil from sunken vessels.

Depleted uranium (DU)

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Depleted uranium in munitions can become dispersed on impact, contaminating water and soil, and making the environment carcinogenic.

Herbicides

Agent Orange defoliant and other herbicides, used by the British in Malaya and by the US in Vietnam, caused leaves to fall off trees. This was advantageous militarily but an ecological disaster in tropical forests, decimating wildlife.

Stocks are hard to dispose of safely.

Agent Orange also causes cancer. It has been used in Oregon with the approval of the US Forestry Service, where it is said to have caused illness and miscarriages.

The Israeli Army uses herbicides to destroy Palestinian crops, removing potential shelter for Palestinian demonstrators near the border of the Gaza Strip.

Minefields

Landmines, unexploded missiles, cluster bombs, etc., can make access to open country hazardous. Neither farmers nor cattle dare enter. Children cannot wander in.

Despite record global investment in land mine clearance in 2017, exceeding $770 million worldwide, nearly 2,800 people were killed and thousands more injured by mines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Civilians, half of them children, accounted for 87% of all casualties.

Over half of 62 countries known to have mine contamination are committed to the Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, but only four are on track to meet their clearance deadlines. At the current rate of mine clearance, some estimates suggest that it will take over 200 years to clear the world, at a cost of over $100 billion.

Conventional mine clearance relies on dangerous manual labour. A new Israeli company, 4M Analytics, offers a new approach based on artificial intelligence and autonomous robots. This is claimed to offer faster, safer and cheaper results.

Radioactivity

Radioactive discharges from nuclear submarines, including the hulks of disused vessels, will inevitably increase.

Strontium-90 from nuclear weapon testing, nuclear waste disposal, reactor faults and nuclear transport accidents can displace calcium in the human body.
Consequent radioactivity within the bones can cause bone cancer and leukemia.

Nuclear Winter

It is feared that even a limited nuclear war, such as between India and Pakistan, might generate firestorm clouds of smoke, soot and dust in the upper atmosphere, reducing the solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth.
This "nuclear winter" would reduce the temperature, destroy vegetation, decimate harvests, spreading starvation and disease.
Earlier fears may have been exaggerated, but some still maintain that the danger of nuclear winter should be taken as seriously as the threat of global warming.

Section 3171 of the 2021 Pentagon budget requires the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) to provide an independent study on potential environmental effects of nuclear war. The report is to be completed in 2022, and should concentrate on the danger of nuclear winter.

Contamination of water supplies

Water contamination around military bases can contain harmful chemicals.

Abuse of Animals

Wild animals, farm animals and domestic pets have been among the victims of Agent Orange, napalm and land mines.

Animals are regularly subjected to military-related experiments. It is estimated that 48,400 animals were killed at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, Wiltshire, between 2010 and 2017.

The 1% Principle

A report by the Oxford Research Group has established that even a 1% chance of a security risk materialising would be unacceptable to the defence establishment; so a tiny threat to our security would lead to more guns, more tanks more aircraft - "to make us safe"; and increased warnings of "threats" to justify more spending on arms.

Compare this "1% doctrine" with the far greater risk of imminent climate catastrophe. Yet -
  • In the UK total climate finance is only 3.1% of military spending.
  • In the US total climate finance is only 0.2% of military spending.
  • In Germany total climate finance is 22% of military spending.
  • In Japan total climate finance is 18% of military spending.
  • In China total climate finance is 13.6% of military spending.

Conversion

Bath Iron Works (BIW) is part of General Dynamics, the arms manufacturer with a factory in Hastings.

Environmentalists in Bath, Maine, are calling for the conversion of their local plant, Bath Iron Works, to peaceful production.

Their initial proposal to build a massive off-shore wind farm was shelved for lack of state support, despite extensive backing from employees.
A fresh proposal has since been put forward, which does not involve the participation of Bath Iron Works.

Maine students lead a campaign for solar power in Maine schools.

The newly-elected State Government of Maine is taking steps to limit the effects of global warming and acidification on the Gulf of Maine.

Hastings against War salutes our friends in Maine.

See Climate-driven violence