The Guardian • Issue #2039


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2039

Hannah Middleton

We face two crises which could ultimately destroy humanity and our planet – nuclear and climate Armageddon. A report – Climate Collateral – documents how military spending accelerates climate breakdown.

Military spending and arms sales have a deep and lasting impact on the capacity to address the climate crisis.

Every dollar spent on the military not only increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also diverts financial resources, skills and attention away from tackling one of the greatest existential threats humanity has ever experienced.

Moreover, the steady increase in weapons and arms worldwide is also adding fuel to the climate fire, stoking violence and conflict, and compounding the suffering for those communities most vulnerable to climate breakdown.

The trajectory of military spending and GHG emissions are on the same steep upward curve. Global military spending has been rising since the late 1990s, surging since 2014 and reaching a record $2,000 billion in 2021.

Yet the same countries most responsible for large military expenditure are unable to find even a fraction of the resources or commitment to tackle global heating.

The richest countries most responsible for the climate crisis are spending 30 times as much on their armed forces as they spend on providing climate finance for the world’s most vulnerable countries, which they are legally bound to do.

Between 2013 and 2021, the richest countries spent $9.45 trillion on the military compared to an estimated $243.9 billion on additional climate finance.

A 2020 report by Tipping Point North South estimated that the carbon footprint of the global militaries and associated arms industries was around five per cent of the total global GHG emissions in 2017.

If the world’s armed forces were ranked together as a single country, they would be the world’s 29th biggest oil consumer.

The armed forces of the richest countries increasingly boast of their efforts to address climate change. A closer look, however, suggests this is more hype than substance:

The military has been unable to find adequate fuel alternatives for the transport and equipment used in operations and exercises – which make up 75 per cent of military energy consumption. Jet fuel alone accounts for 70 per cent of the fuel used by the military, followed by naval propulsion and, to a lesser extent, land-based vehicles.

One year’s military spending by the top 10 military spenders would pay for promised international climate finance for 15 years.

Together with other proposals for financing – such as an end of fossil-fuel subsidies – there is more than enough money to fund mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage.

Faced with the climate crisis and the signs of reaching dangerous planetary tipping points, there is an overriding imperative to prioritise climate action and international cooperation to protect those who will be most affected.

To tackle the biggest threat to human security, the climate emergency, we need all countries to work together to prioritise climate over militarism. There is no secure nation without a climate-secure planet.

Climate Collateral is published by the Transnational Institute, Stop Wapenhandel, Tipping Point North South and Global Campaign on Military Spending. For a copy of the report, go to

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