How the military budget affects US climate action

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US President Joe Biden addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 21 warning that the climate crisis is rapidly approaching a “point of no return”. He promised that the United States would rally the world to action. “We will lead not only with the example of our power but, God willing, with the power of our example,” said Biden.

But the United States is not a leader when it comes to saving our planet. Yahoo News recently published a report titled “Why the United States Lags Europe on 10 or 15 Year Climate Targets”. The article was a rare acknowledgment in American corporate media that the United States has not only failed to lead the world on the climate crisis, but has in fact been the primary culprit blocking timely collective action to avoid a world existential crisis.


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The anniversary of the September 11 attacks and the American defeat in Afghanistan should ring alarm bells in every American’s head, warning us that we have allowed our government to spend billions of dollars on war, to cast shadows. , sell weapons and fuel conflicts. all over the world, while ignoring the real existential dangers for our civilization and all of humanity.

Young people around the world are dismayed by their parents’ failure to cope with the climate crisis. The BBC reports that a new survey of 10,000 people between the ages of 16 and 25 in 10 countries around the world found that many of them believe that humanity is doomed and that they have no to come up. Three quarters of young people surveyed said they were afraid of the future and 40% said the crisis made them hesitate to have children. They are also frightened, confused and angered by the inability of governments to respond to the crisis. As the BBC reported, they “feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults”.

America is far behind

Young Americans have even more reason to feel betrayed than their European counterparts. America is far behind Europe on renewable energies. European countries started meeting their climate commitments under the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s and now derive 40% of their electricity from renewable sources, while renewables provide only 20% of electricity to the United States. United.

Since 1990, the benchmark year for emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, Europe has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 24%. The United States has failed at all to reduce them, spitting out 2% more than in 1990. In 2019, under the Trump administration, the United States produced more oil and more natural gas than ever before. in their history.

NATO, our politicians and the mainstream media on both sides of the Atlantic promote the idea that the United States and Europe share a common “Western” culture and values. But our very different lifestyles, our priorities and our responses to this climate crisis tell the story of two very different, if not divergent, economic and political systems. The idea that human activity is responsible for climate change was understood decades ago and is not controversial in Europe. But in America, politicians and the media have blindly or cynically repeated fraudulent and selfish “disinformation” campaigns by fossil fuel companies and other vested interests. If Democrats listened better to scientists, let’s not forget that, as Europe replaced fossil fuels and nuclear power plants with renewables, the Obama administration triggered a boom in hydraulic fracturing to switch from coal power plants. to new plants running on fracking gas.

Why is the United States so far behind Europe when it comes to tackling global warming? Why do only 60% of Europeans own a car, compared to 90% of Americans? Why does every American car owner double the mileage traveled by European drivers? Why doesn’t the United States, like Europe, have modern, energy-efficient and widely accessible public transport?

We can ask similar questions about other stark differences between the United States and Europe. When it comes to poverty, inequality, health care, education, and social insurance, why is the United States an outlier compared to what is seen as societal norms in others? rich countries ?

One answer is the enormous amount of money the United States spends on militarism. Since 2001, the United States has allocated $ 15 trillion (in FY2022 dollars) to its military budget, surpassing its 20 closest military competitors combined.

The United States spends significantly more of its gross domestic product (GDP) on the military than any of the other 29 NATO countries – 3.7% in 2020 from 1.77%. While the United States has exerted intense pressure on NATO countries to devote at least 2% of their GDP to their armed forces, only 10 of them have done so. Unlike the United States, the military establishment in Europe faces significant opposition from liberal politicians and a more educated and mobilized public.

From a lack of universal health care to levels of child poverty that would be unacceptable in other wealthy countries, the US government’s underinvestment in everything else is the inevitable result of these skewed priorities. This leaves America struggling to cope with what is left after the US military bureaucracy takes the lion’s share – or should we say “the generals’ share”? – available resources.

Federal infrastructure and “social” spending in 2021 is only about 30% of the money spent on militarism. The infrastructure package that Congress is debating is desperately needed, but the $ 3.5 trillion is spread over 10 years and is not enough.

Climate against the army

On climate change, the infrastructure bill only includes $ 10 billion per year for conversion to green energy, an important but modest step that will not reverse our current course towards a catastrophic future. Investments in a Green New Deal must be constrained by corresponding cuts in the military budget if we are to sustainably correct the perverse and destructive priorities of the US government. It means standing up to the arms industry and military contractors, which the Biden administration has failed to do so far.

The reality of America’s 20-year arms race with itself makes America’s claims that China’s recent build-up of arms now force Washington to spend even more completely absurd. China spends only a third of what the United States spends. What drives the increase in China’s military spending is its need to defend against the ever-growing American war machine that “pivots” towards the waters, skies and islands surrounding its coasts from the administration. Obama.

Biden told the United Nations General Assembly that “as we close this period of relentless warfare, we usher in a new era of relentless diplomacy.” But his new exclusive military alliance with the UK and Australia, and his demand for a further increase in military spending to escalate a dangerous arms race with China that the US started in the first place, reveal to how far Biden has to go to live up to his own rhetoric, both on diplomacy and on climate change.

The United States is due to travel to the United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow in November, ready to sign the kind of sweeping measures that the United Nations and less developed countries are calling for. It must make a real commitment to leaving fossil fuels in the ground, converting quickly to a net zero renewable energy economy, and helping developing countries to do the same. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says, the Glasgow summit “must be the turning point” in the climate crisis.

This will require the United States to seriously reduce the military budget and engage in peaceful and practical diplomacy with China and Russia. Genuinely moving away from our self-inflicted military failures and the militarism that drove them would free the United States to adopt programs that address the real existential crisis facing our planet.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.


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