US military is a bigger polluter than many countries

The U.S. military is a major emitter, emitting more than most countries. Below is an open letter from Veterans For Peace to Secretary Kerry.

Open Letter to Climate Envoy John Kerry: Center Militarism in Climate Talks

Dear Honorable John Kerry:

On behalf of Veterans For Peace and other peace and climate champions, we congratulate you on your appointment as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, thank you for returning us to the Paris Agreement, and applaud your efforts to lead the Biden administration’s clean energy revolution.

Let us put militarism at the center of this conversation on climate.

We are pleased that the Biden/Harris Administration has created this position, as a reflection of the seriousness of the climate crisis, and we are pleased that the person with that position is you. It is approaching 50 years since you, as an anti-war veteran, delivered to Congress a lengthy, articulate and devastating critique of the Viet Nam war. Some of us were already anti-war veterans or soldiers, and you spoke truth to power for us. You have had many positions of power since that time; in your present position, we ask that you summon the courage and clarity about war and militarism that you expressed to Congress in April 1971.

You posed the question, “How do we ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Now the question we pose is, “How do we ask millions of people to die as a result of a climate catastrophe fueled by endless war and militarism?”

To thwart climate catastrophe, we present the following requests:

1) Please implement the inclusion of military emissions in all reporting and data on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The US shamefully demanded, during the negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, that military emissions be excluded from countries’ total GHGs, and then did not even sign the Protocol.

2) We ask that you use your public platform to consistently point out the role that US militarism and the Pentagon play in exacerbating the climate crisis, and push to greatly reduce the military’s reach around the world, to bring our troops home, end drone warfare, close hundreds of overseas bases, stop endless wars, reject nuclear modernization and defund the Space Force – to end the squandering of financial, material and human resources, and minimize the Pentagon’s carbon bootprint.

3) We ask that you promote bilateral accords between the US and Russia and the US and China to prohibit financial institutions from funding future fossil fuel investments, cease military exercises in the South China Sea, keep the Arctic safe from extractive exploration and weapons systems, and conduct people-to-people “climate protector” delegations to exchange knowledge, build friendships and undertake joint projects to promote biodiversity and renewable energy.

4) We ask that you use your public platform to advocate for the US to pay its fair share into the Green Climate Fund.

5) We ask that you be a strong advocate for a Just Transition so that both workers who have been and will be displaced by the shift from fossil fuel production, and working people who have been marginalized, are able to fully prosper.

6) We ask you to recognize that along with the efforts of many elected and appointed officials including yourself, the efforts of people’s movements for climate justice are essential in overcoming the power of those forces that have led us into our present climate disaster. We therefore ask that you work with our groups as allies. We ask these sister groups also, as we are asking you, to challenge war and militarism that so far has been little addressed in the climate movement.

This is in spite of:

a) The Pentagon being the world’s largest institutional user of fossil fuels and thus the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses (GHG emissions).

b) The huge additional environmental impacts from manufacturing, shipping and using weapons and equipment, and the intense bombing of infrastructure and natural environments of other countries.

c) The trillions of dollars of our money that have been spent on endless wars, nuclear weapons and some 800 overseas US bases – none of which defend us against climate disruption – which should be redirected to human needs and healing our planet.

d) The deep complicity between the military-industrial complex and the fossil fuel corporations. Our military enforces US corporations’ plunder of the planet to steal resources and the fruits of human labor.

Yet, when we listened to your speech of February 18, on the occasion of the welcome return of the US to the Paris Climate Agreement, we noted the lack of any reference to the military contribution to the climate crisis.

Similarly, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Report, "Solving the Climate Crisis" lays out changes needed in many areas. In the section on National Security, however, it only includes how climate change will affect the military on US bases, but nothing on how the military affects the climate crisis.

We cannot afford to ignore the elephant in the room or remain in denial.

As we witness extreme weather events, from flash floods to wildfires to freezing temperatures, we are reminded of the urgency of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. To ensure a carbon-free future in a sustainable world, we must redefine global security as climate security and recognize that war and war preparations will only make us less secure. Otherwise, we face an increasingly militarized and dystopian world, in which industrialized countries lock out climate refugees from the Global South, and in which indigenous peoples disproportionately suffer as a result of our addiction to fossil fuels and militarism.

We recognize that ending this existential threat to our survival requires transforming the organizing principle of our society from greed to sustainability, equity, community and regeneration. This will require the collaboration of many groups: frontline communities, racial and climate justice advocates, youth, labor, environmentalists, and religious groups, along with the crucial role that you and other concerned officials can play.

Working together to end war and militarism must be a central part of this effort.

We would like to schedule a showing of our slides on “Climate Disruption and US Militarism” and plan to be in touch with you on how best we can work together. Thank you for your time, consideration and leadership as Climate Envoy.

Sincerely, Climate Crisis and Militarism Working Group, Veterans For Peace

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