Make Levees Not War: Shifting Resources from the Military to Climate Protection

We recently posted a guest opinion piece in our Eye on Earth series, “U.S. Climate Funds Increase, Future Levels Remain in Doubt.” The author, Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Studies, observed that in fiscal year 2008, the U.S. federal government had spent $88 on the military for every dollar spent on averting full-fledged climate change.  Because climate disruptions may well translate into fresh or aggravated conflicts down the road, investing in climate stabilization is also smart security policy.

Under the Obama administration’s FY 2010 budget request, this spending ratio improved to 65 : 1.  And because the economic stimulus bill passed in February contains a raft of green programs, the gap was further reduced to 9 : 1.  (The problem, however, is that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a one-time measure. The next budget cycle will most likely return us to greater budget disparities.)

Make Levees Not WarMake Levees Not War

The United States accounts for more than 40 percent of the $1,464 billion the world spent on arms and soldiers in 2008, and so, in principle, has the most ample room for shifting resources to support a vigorous climate policy.  But how are other nations faring?

Like climate policy itself, information about available programs and budgets is still highly fragmented, often divided among different government ministries with different, perhaps even contradictory, missions.

India is busy formulating its National Action Plan, but funding for key aspects like the government’s solar investment plan remain uncertain.  Meanwhile, the government upped its military spending by 34 percent over last year.

Germany’s FY 2008 climate budget ran to €3.3 billion ($4.7 billion), almost double the €1.5 billion in 2005. But compared with the €29.5 billion ($42 billion) allocated to the Ministry of Defense, that’s still a ratio of 9 : 1.

The situation in Japan is similar.  In FY 2009, ¥432 billion ($4.6 billion) in climate-related programs are still dwarfed, about 11 : 1, by ¥4,774 billion ($50 billion) for the military budget.

It is becoming ever clearer that success at the Copenhagen climate conference in December will significantly ride on making sufficient funding for climate mitigation and adaptation available.  Rich nations, historically responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions, have been tight-fisted.  By reassessing their budget priorities, and reducing the astronomical sums devoted to armaments, they can facilitate a Copenhagen deal.

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