The UK and US Militaries Owe $111bn in Climate Reparations

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Recent findings have put a staggering price on the environmental damage caused by the US and UK militaries. A groundbreaking study suggests these forces owe a combined total of $111 billion in climate reparations. This figure is based on the “social cost of carbon” framework, which quantifies the climate damage each additional tonne of carbon in the atmosphere causes in financial terms.

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Since the Paris climate agreement in 2015, the US and UK armed forces have produced at least 430 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. To put this into perspective, that’s more than the entire greenhouse gas emissions of the UK in a single year. The study, a collaboration between Common Wealth and the Climate and Community Project, urges the US military to contribute $106 billion and the UK military $5 billion towards international climate financing.

The report notes that this figure is a conservative estimate. It’s based on available but incomplete data, which excludes many indirect emissions and certain years for which data is not reported. Moreover, the actual climate impact of military activities extends beyond emissions. Health impacts on communities near military bases, such as increased disease risks and environmental degradation from chemical pollution and nuclear testing, are also significant.

The US and UK have begun to address their militaries’ emissions. Yet, the study argues that simply “greening” the military is insufficient. A comprehensive approach, including base closures, environmental remediation, and just transition plans for military workers, is necessary to tackle the environmental impact.

This research underscores the importance of including military emissions in climate accountability. As the world’s largest institutional greenhouse gas emitter, the military’s role in the climate crisis cannot be overlooked. The call for reparations is not just about compensation but also about justice and the urgent need to address the climate emergency in all sectors, including defense.

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