Miriam Pemberton / Foreign Policy In Focus – 2008-03-11 22:50:22
Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco
(January 31, 2008) — Accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore called on the nations of the world to mobilize to avert climate disaster “with a sense of urgency and shared resolve that has previously been seen only when nations have mobilized for war.”
This report measures in fiscal terms how far our own nation has to go to reach that goal. For the 2008 fiscal year, the government budgeted $647.51 billion for military security. It budgeted $7.37 billion to slow climate change. That means:
• Finding: For every dollar allocated for stabilizing the climate, the government will spend $88 on achieving security by military force.
• Finding: The government is allocating 99% of combined federal spending on military and climate security to military security.
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:
• Finding: During the last five years the ratio of military security to climate security spending has averaged 97 to 1.
• Finding: In FY 2008, as well as during the past five years, the government has allocated for climate security only one percent of what it has devoted to military security.
The current ratio of $88 to $1 is, no question, an improvement over $97 to $1. It is also, no question, an inadequate improvement, given the relative magnitude of these problems. Terrorism is a serious problem. It doesn’t surround us. The effects of climate change, on the other hand, will. As the Nobel Committee said in awarding its Peace Prize to Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it “may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind.” Shifting the balance of resources between these two accounts will be one necessary part of a strategy for averting climate catastrophe.
The federal government allocates the lion’s share of spending on climate to technology development: about $3.9 billion for FY 2008. The Defense Department’s research and development (R&D) budget is $77 billion. That means:
• Finding: The U.S. government budgeted $20 to develop new weapons systems for every dollar it requested to develop new technologies to stabilize the climate.
Climate change is a global problem that won’t be solved except through international cooperation. The government allocates the smallest share of the current climate budget to working on the problem internationally, providing resources to assist other countries in their energy transition: $212 million. Meanwhile the federal budget’s military security assistance account allocates $9.5 billion to international military assistance. In other words:
• Finding: 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.
• Finding: The government allocates just 2% of the international assistance budget for both military and climate security to stabilizing climate.
The targets of U.S. foreign aid within the climate change budget are nearly as problematic as its size. Nearly half of the budget is allocated to an (unproven) strategy for mitigating the effects of existing coal-fired power generation infrastructure, rather than assisting in the transition to cleaner renewable energy sources.
Most of the rest is devoted to promoting U.S. technologies that may or may not be the most suitable to the recipients’ needs. The budget allocates less than 10% of spending to adapting to climate change effects, such as droughts, floods, crop loss and disease. And an amount barely worth mentioning, less than 1% of the budget, is devoted to assisting donor countries in participating in the broad systemic, global changes that we must make to avert climate disaster.
Overall, the largest shares of the climate change budget’s resources are spent on studying the problem and developing new technologies for the future. The two programs that are focused on tackling the problem now — international assistance and tax incentives — are its lowest priorities. In the FY 2008 budget, the US government actually cuts funding for the principal budgetary (as opposed to regulatory) tool — the $1.4 billion collection of tax incentives — that’s most likely to cut U.S. greenhouse emissions in the near term. Stabilizing climate isn’t a problem that can wait.
In addition to laying out the disparities between the two budgets and analyzing where the money is going, this report traces the connections between military and climate security, including the following:
• Climate change will create enormous problems for the US military, as the military itself has confirmed.
• The US military contributes to the problem of climate change more than any other single institution worldwide.
• The Bush administration’s foreign policy of leading with one (the military) and largely ignoring the other (stabilizing climate) are the two most prominent causes of the United States’ loss of standing in the world.
Shifting the balance in federal spending between military and climate security will help to repair the damage to our international reputation. It will also provide resources necessary to get serious, finally, about addressing the major challenge of our time.
The whole report is available as a pdf from the FPIF Web page that links to this story.
Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and Peace and Security Editor of its Foreign Policy In Focus project.