“Warships sailing on dying oceans:” Tamara Lorincz reviews global defence spending

Written by Sophie M. Lavoie on November 21, 2017

Peace activist Tamara Lorincz speaking to an audience in Fredericton on Nov. 16. Photo by Sophie M. Lavoie.

Tamara Lorincz asked a Fredericton audience if it would be happy to take leave of the planet while sailing on a warship in a lifeless ocean.

Environmental and peace activist and PhD student at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (Waterloo), Lorincz spoke at the University of New Brunswick on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Her talk was titled “Climate Change, Energy Security, & Militarism: A Critical Look at the Western Militaries’ Impact on Climate and the Environment.”

Lorincz shared that the Canadian Polaris Air refuellers have delivered 700,000 gallons of fuel to American fighters in the Middle East, in support of the U.S. Military Operation Inherent Resolve, the program to destroy and defeat ISIL. According to Lorincz, over 1,000 bombs are being dropped every month during this coalition mission by the military’s own admission. Airwars, an independent collective of journalists that are monitoring the area, show a total of 28, 353 coalition strikes that include 102,082 bombs or missiles.

The link to climate changes is that none of the emissions from the fighter planes are accounted for in national reports since there are widespread exemptions, noted Lorincz.

The year 2017 has been one of the hottest years in history. The fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report found that we are in the “business as usual” trajectory, which is the worst case scenario. This trajectory is leading us to catastrophic consequences. There is an urgent need to transform our carbon economy. One sector of the economy that is not considered in the decarbonization of the economy is the military sector. The US Department of Defense is the largest institutional consumer of oil and the largest landholder, with 800 bases in 70 countries. The same can be said about Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND).

Guidelines exist for reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Reporting Guidelines (2006). Emissions from military missions are not included. How did this come about? Stuart Eizenstat, the former U.S. Under Secretary for the Economy who was lead negotiator for the Kyoto Protocol, who specifically targeted the removal of military emissions from accounting.

The Pentagon “believes in climate change” but are “not concerned about their contribution to the problem.” Canada released the Defence Energy and Environmental Strategy recently. It reads: “the federal reduction target will not include emissions from military activities and operations.” No military operation outside of border sis accounted for in Canadian greenhouse gas numbers and climate change impact. DND uses 57% of all the fuel used by the Canadian government.

Lorincz noted that the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change were meeting that week in Bonn, Germany. She asked, how are countries going to implement and take action on the Paris agreement (which doesn’t take into account military operations)? Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 include goals of clean affordable energy (#7) and climate action (#13) but governments are not spending money on these goals or the Green Climate Fund largely because of global military spending.

Canada is 17th in military spending in the world. Even though the U.S. is the biggest spender ($600 billion), the accounting for the U.S. military remains largely opaque and problematic “trillion dollar accounting gaffes,” noted Lorincz. Military spending in Canada can be found online on Public Account. Canada’s National Defence budget is $28.5 billion while Environment Canada’s is marked at $1.5 billion (2015-16). Spending on Defence has gone up significantly (from $8 billion in 1997). According to Lorincz, Canada will be increasing military spending to $35 Billion a year to maintain high level war fighting, buy materials and recruit soldiers.

There is largely “no parliamentary or public oversight” of many of the actions of Canada’s military in a large variety of zones around the world and the Canadian Armed Forces are a “highly sexualized culture that is hostile to women,” argued Lorincz.

The Department of National Defence’s Military Heritage and Outreach Budget (aka Communications) is spending $207 million “to instill a sense of pride in Canadians” about the military and to create a “favourable perception of the armed forces” and the spending is set to increase by $6 million dollars.

In comparison, the Environment and Climate Change Canada is spending $147 million in one area (to $91 million by 2019). Lorincz said, “Federal budgets are “moral documents” and our priorities are not on the environment. What about environmental and human security? Do we want to spend ‘the precious reserves’ we have on military spending? The environment is essential to our sustained survival and there is a need for peaceful alternatives.”

Lorincz would like to see a reduction and reallocation of military spending to climate finance, for example. The British Campaign Against the Arms Trades (CAAT) produced a report called “Arms to Renewables” that is very interesting and relevant. The idea of economic conversion is critical to create more jobs. In Canada, Voice of Women has a campaign called “Demilitarize, Decarbonize.”

In a 2016 interview on CBC, Daryl Copeland, a former Canadian diplomat, posited that “there are no military solutions to the most profound problems that are imperilling the planet; it’s got to be diplomacy.” For example, Canada and Russia are negotiating about the North. The Irvings are building $104 billion dollars worth of warships to go sail “on our dying oceans.” This does not make sense to Lorincz.

Lorincz’s events in Fredericton were organized by the Voice of Women Fredericton Chapter.

Sophie M. Lavoie is a writer and editor with the NB Media Co-op. 

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