The US military-industrial complex pollutes more than 171 countries
Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°137 | 7 December 2021
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Looks like the House will vote on a couple things tonight, one of which is the NDAA, the bill that dictates how much money the Pentagon can be given and what things it can spend that money on. The NDAA isn’t a ‘budget bill’ or ‘spending bill’—technically, it only authorizes funding and doesn’t actually appropriate those funds—but it’s often referred to as such because it’s the one piece of legislation that gets closest to what the Pentagon budget actually is. It’s not a big deal if you mess up the NDAA’s true designation.
Combat’s effect on climate
The NDAA has a sizable impact on climate because the budget funds the world’s largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gases. In 2018, the Pentagon produced more greenhouse gases than Finland and Sweden and most other countries, too, emitting 56 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, or CO2e.
That figure’s from Neta Crawford’s analysis—“Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War”—in a Costs of War project report from 2019.
There are other studies that examine the US military’s environmental impact, but one thing that makes the Crawford/Costs of War study particularly cool is that it provides an estimate for how much CO2e is produced by military industry, too, in addition to the US military itself. Smush those two figures together and what you’ve got is the best available estimate (albeit a very conservative one) on how much greenhouse gas is produced by the military-industrial complex.
Answer: Approximately 336 million metric tons of CO2e, based on the latest available data; 56 million metric tons from the military itself (2018 figures) and about 280 million metric tons of CO2e from military industry (2017 figures). Situated amongst the 196 countries the World Bank ranked by greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, the US military-industrial complex came in at 25th-highest, polluting more than 171 countries.
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