US and UK Military Owe $111 Billion for Planet-Heating Emissions

Landmark Study Reveals Environmental Costs of US and UK Militaries

A groundbreaking study has determined that the US and UK armed forces owe a minimum of $111 billion in reparations to communities most adversely affected by their emissions contributing to global warming. This study is the first of its kind and utilizes a “social cost of carbon” framework, which quantifies the monetary value of the climate damage caused by each additional ton of carbon in the atmosphere.

Patrick Bigger, the research director of the Climate and Community Project and a co-author of the report, emphasized the staggering environmental costs associated with maintaining the global military reach of the US and UK military forces.

The report, jointly published by the UK-based thinktank Common Wealth and the US-based Climate and Community Project, reveals that these two military entities have collectively generated over 430 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent since the 2015 United Nations Paris climate agreement. This quantity surpasses the entire greenhouse gas emissions produced by the UK in the preceding year.

To provide a minimum level of compensation for the harm caused by these emissions, the study proposes that the US military allocate $106 billion in international climate financing, while the UK military should contribute $5 billion. These figures are described as “extremely conservative” by the authors, who clarify that they represent the lower bounds of the actual financial obligations.

One key reason for this conservatism is the reliance on data that is considered “opaque” and “incomplete” from the US and UK governments. These figures do not encompass the majority of emissions originating from the military institutions’ supply chains and exclude data from specific years when emissions were not reported. Additionally, they do not factor in certain climate consequences of military activities, such as the warming impact of jet fuel and other related issues.

The report acknowledges that both the US and UK have initiated efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of their military operations. Nonetheless, the researchers assert that the ecological impact of these military forces extends beyond greenhouse gas emissions and highlight the omission of health-related impacts on nearby communities. These impacts range from the environmental damage caused by nuclear testing in places like Bikini Atoll and the increased health risks due to chemical pollution in Vieques, Puerto Rico, to the long-term health issues stemming from the use of depleted uranium in Iraq.

Khem Rogaly, a researcher at Common Wealth and co-author of the study, underscores that these estimates are the bare minimum, especially considering the extensive overseas military bases and their associated activities that involve fossil fuels, land clearance, construction, and toxic waste contamination.

Basav Sen, climate policy project director at the Institute for Policy Studies thinktank, commends the research as indispensable, emphasizing the necessity of including the military-industrial complex in emissions accounting efforts.

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