Climate Change and Conflict

Mike Martin made a speech reflecting on Climate Change and Conflict at an event during the Aberdeen Climate Strike on 14th February.  Mike is an environmental modeling group programmer dedicated to mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions from different land uses and land use change.  He’s a member of CND and the Stop the War Coalition

Here are his notes:

Since the last time I addressed you much has happened – Australia, US drone assassination ramped up tensions with Iran, General Election and a massive locust plague in East Africa.

Australia

As of 14 January, fires this season have burnt an estimated 186,000 km2, about 0.75 size of UK, destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes) and killed at least 34 people. Eastern Australia is being gripped by a heat wave and a prolonged drought.

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Image by Pierre Markuse Smoke of the Australian Bushfires – January 4th, 2020  CC BY 2.0

Conflict not only kills people but is also carbon intensive

A 2019 report from Brown University has estimated that since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. military has emitted 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. In 2017 alone, CO2 emissions added up to 59 million tons – more than many industrialized nations including Sweden and Switzerland.

General Election

We now have a leadership who want to bring the UK into a closer alliance with the US, which will mean accepting US standards (chlorinated chicken) and being a loyal participant in US interventionist geostrategic objectives.

Locusts

The swarms spread into east Africa from Yemen across the Red Sea, after heavy rainfall in late 2019 created ideal conditions for the insects to flourish.

Conflict prevents progress on implementing measures to address climate change as the UN FAO could not deploy in Yemen and Somalia because of security concerns.

Technical solutions already exist

There are measures, which can be taken to straightforwardly address this threat and which could, through their implementation, result in a more attractive environment in many ways.  For example:

The Green New Deal:

  • Planting a trillion trees across the planet in underutilized, marginal or degraded land forest cover is currently 42% in EU, 11.8% UK, 10% England, 15% Wales, 19% Scotland and 8% in NI, 11% Ireland
  • Deployment of renewable energy systems
  • Deployment of new methods in cement production, improved building construction methods, upgrading of existing housing
  • The provision of heat – vast amounts are vented into the atmosphere
  • Transport electrification – health benefits, Aberdeen has hydrogen-powered buses and cars
  • Agriculture – poor land management, individual farmers making impressive efforts. New farming methodologies

An expanded workforce

The Green New Deal has the potential to create millions of jobs as much additional labour will be required

Importance of Government

The role of government as an enabler is crucial:

  • state led investment
  • mobilization of underutilized capital (80% held privately) and labour

Importance of Government intervention

I grew up in 60s and 70s with war, racism and increasing standard of living

State investment 3-4% of GDP, built up pharmaceuticals, nuclear power, computers, and council housing, which peaked at almost 200,000 in 1967.   There were remarkable changes in energy use – the transition from town gas from coal to natural gas took place between 1967 and 1977.  There is a parallel with WW2 – government can direct the economy as well as mobilize and motivate people

Above all intergovernmental cooperation is required

Situation now

There is war, racism and falling standard of living.  State investment is less than 1% of GDP, stagnant economy across Europe plus climate crisis

What holds us back – the importance of understanding the UK

The UK government is perfectly capable of intervening and doing all of this, but the problem is that both the UK government and organs of the state are locked into the past, in a sort of military-empire alcoholism

Barriers

British Naval patrols operate thousands of miles away from the UK but in close proximity to other countries, Persian Gulf, South China Sea – very provocative! The US-led “Operation Sentinel” maritime security coalition patrols the Strait of Hormuz. Operation Sentinel’s members include Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK and Albania – interestingly not the EU.

400 UK Army personnel are deployed in Iraq, across three bases forming part of Operation Shader – the UK’s contribution to the US-led mission against so-called Islamic State. The RAF is also part of Operation Shader through launching air strikes over Iraq and Syria from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, and by Reaper drones operated remotely from RAF Waddington and Nevada in the US.

The UK has no business there, the people of the Middle East are perfectly capable of sorting out their own affairs if they are left to do so – as per UN Charter. This is where the first civilizations in human history in Mesopotamia (what is now Iraq) began 5,200 years ago.

The economic war against Russia and Iran is just one step from actual war. Two large states but although Russian threat is played up bear in mind its economy is only

just larger than Spain but smaller than Italy’s. Sanctions damage prospects for individuals and businesses in the UK also. This year 2,500 UK troops are participating in Defender Europe 20, NATO’s biggest war-games for over 25 years which will take place in April and May in border regions with Russia, including Georgia. 18 states are involved deploying a total of 37,000 troops, 20,000 of which are US – a huge source of Green House Gas emissions.

Legacy of Empire – UK’s nuclear weapons

The UK is one of the few countries to have nuclear weapons; their use was threatened in the Falklands-Malvinas war in 1982. CND cites approximately 11,520 civilian jobs are directly dependent on Trident. Guaranteeing people’s livelihoods matters but the £205 billion cost of Trident could be used far more effectively to create well-paid jobs than wasting it on replacing Trident. The skills of the workers would be welcome in building conventional ships or in rapidly developing industries such as renewable energy.  A government-led economic diversification plan would minimise the job losses should Trident be scrapped. The Dreadnought class is the future replacement for the Vanguard class of ballistic missile submarines. Like their predecessors they will carry Trident II D-5 missiles.

497px-Trident_II_missile_image

Trident II Missile CC0 Image from Wikimedia Commons

UK is bonded to the US

The 1958 US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement, is a bilateral treaty on nuclear weapons co-operation. It allows the US and the UK to exchange nuclear materials, technology and information. Since 1958 the treaty has been amended and renewed with the most recent renewal extended it to 31 December 2024.

From the dead end of the Warfare State to the repair state

Our focus needs to be on fixing the climate, but like an alcoholic, the UK cannot move forward until it has kicked its military-empire habit built up over several centuries since 1707.   We must find ways to let go of the past and effect transition.  International, mutually beneficial, scientific and technical cooperation is needed to assist transition to a post oil and gas economy and sustainable planet.

Enormous societal assets

Many scientists and technicians are employed in the UK defence sector: BAe 83,500; Rolls Royce: 50,000 the majority of whom are on defence contracts; oil and gas sector currently supports more than 283,000 jobs in the UK. We need these skills for the transition.

In my past life I’ve met many people who work for BAe and in the oil and gas sector – it is not so much a problem with people – so many of them are excellent – it is a problem of the government and state – they have the power to set the direction of travel of society.

Most comparable states do not have this baggage of empire

  • the UK is a punitive state (compare German imprisonment rate)
  • it has underage military recruitment
  • UK maintains expensive overseas garrisons (military bases) in Brunei, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus
  • UK maintains strong relationship with the GCC states – sovereign wealth funds invested via the City of London, provision military services, a conveyor, friend of the family – Saudi pilots, Saudi researchers. Locking in current Saudi leadership, when Saudi Arabia could be leader of the solar transformation
  • Inherited wealth from the Empire

Reasons to hope

“It is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision, it will take courage, it will take fierce, fierce determination to act now, to lay the foundations where we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling. In other words, it will take cathedral (grand-mosque) thinking.”

We must lobby politicians who come in different types:

  • some are insecure people and blow with the wind, try to mold them
  • others are hopeless, they buy into the military-empire illusion
  • quite a number are principled and progressive.

obviously, we must take the opportunity to influence through elections but also by becoming the government, state and the media,

I am reminded of the philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky “don’t just slate the media, be the media!”, contest the political process and also every job where we can influence society, don’t leave it to the chancers and self- promoters

It is important we find ways to exercise maximum leverage, to influence, to refashion the government,

  • Understand the problem,
  • tactics subordinate to strategy (Sun Tzu)
  • boldness of vision, meticulousness of preparation,
  • energy and persistence but have a capacity to recognize and learn from mistakes,

It is not yet 1938 when World War 2 was inevitable after the defeat of Republicans in Spain and the consolidation of Hitler in Germany.  We’re in it for the long term but there will be no long term if we mess up!

 

 

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