The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on August 9. The team of 230 scientists said, “Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years…unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”
As a recent editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out, “America can’t fix the problem alone, but the world can’t fix it without a fundamental shift in American culture – a shift away from coal, oil, gasoline and other polluting energy sources, and toward renewable ones like wind and solar.”
One facet of that necessary shift in American culture gets little attention from the media - the impact of the US military and US foreign policy on climate change.
The US military is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and the single largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world. The US is currently bombing targets in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting the government of Syria, and bombing Somalia. The US is also imposing sanctions on Iran, Libya, and Venezuela. All those nations have large reserves of fossil fuels. So the US is burning fossil fuel to force nations to sell more fossil fuel to US companies so we can burn more fossil fuel.
Any serious commitment to preserving life on earth must begin with a drastic reduction in the US military and an end to the forever wars and the sanctions.
US foreign policy over the last seven decades has focused on maintaining global dominance. If rival like Russia or China is gaining too much influence in a neighboring nation, the US will use the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID to foment unrest and chaos by funding and training opposition groups. NED is currently interfering in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia to counter China. They are in Belarus and every Central Asian nation to counter Russia. Regime change efforts cause resentment of US interference, and undermine the internal cooperation nations need to address climate change.
The US withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord in 2017, the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018, and the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2019. The US signed but has not ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) , The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), and the Kyoto Protocol (2005). Of 18 international human rights treaties passed by the United Nations, the US has only ratified five. This destroys the trust needed to work together with other nations.
The US has long viewed itself as exempt from international law. All of the current US military engagements are blatant violations of the UN Charter, but you never hear that mentioned. The US, having signed the Rome Statute founding the International Criminal Court, subsequently withdrew its signature and has even passed laws authorizing the use of “all means necessary” to release any American detained by the ICC.
If the US government is serious about combatting climate change, it must give up any dreams of global dominance, stop interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, live up to its treaty obligations, and abide by international law. Ending our support for other serial violators of international law such as Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia would demonstrate our resolve.
America cannot curtail the worst effects of climate change on its own. It will need good working relationships with all nations. The technologically advanced nations must pool their talent and resources to find alternatives to fossil fuels and reduce their own consumption. The wealthier nations need to partner with less developed nations as they adapt to the changing environment and improve the lives of their people.
The days of America’s bullying of other nations are over. The US must lead by example, not by force. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Photo: US Army