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US Spends $88 on the Military for Every Buck Fighting Climate Change

It's a reflection of our priorities.
 
 
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A few days ago, a Spanish reader made his way through a story about these primary-related gender wars we're fighting, and had a suggestion. "I think you all must go to the shrink," he wrote, "in a kind of collective, nationwide, psychoanalysis."

Some support for that view surfaced this week, as the Institute for Policy Studies released a new report by Miriam Pemberton titled " Military vs. Climate Security." Pemberton found that for each dollar the U.S. government spends on fighting global warming, it throws $88 at the military . It's a stunning -- and telling --ratio, but it's not the whole story; according to the report, "even the modest $7 billion in the federal climate change budget is badly targeted toward what ought to be low priorities, while major climate priorities get short shrift."

The shocking thing is that the 88:1 ratio is actually an improvement over recent years; from the report:

Releasing its latest report to Congress on federal climate spending, the Bush administration highlighted the fact that during the previous five years it had spent more than $37 billion for this purpose. During the same period, it spent more than $3.5 trillion on its military forces. That means:

  • During the last five years the ratio of military security to climate security spending has averaged 97 to 1.
  • The government is allocating 99% of combined federal spending on military and climate security to military security.
  • The U.S. government budgeted $20 to develop new weapons systems for every dollar it requested to develop new technologies to stabilize the climate.
  • We will devote 50 times as much to arming the rest of the world as to helping it prepare for and avoid global climate catastrophe.

I know those Canadians have been looking sideways at us lately, and I'm as nervous as the next guy about their intentions, but, really, in a world without a conventional (nation-state) enemy, these numbers are signs of a nationwide, bipartisan mental illness.

It's all the more so given that the military itself sees global warming as a potential security threat. As the Washington Post reported last spring:

[A new report by the US Army war College] lays out a detailed case for how global warming could destabilize vulnerable states in Africa and Asia and drive a flood of migrants to richer countries. It focuses on how climate change "can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world," in part by causing water shortages and damaging food production.

"Many developing nations do not have the government and social infrastructures in place to cope with the type of stressors that could be brought about by global climate change," the report states. "When a government can no longer deliver services to its people, ensure domestic order, and protect the nation's borders from invasion, conditions are ripe for turmoil, extremism and terrorism to fill the vacuum."

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.