The Climate Costs of the U.S. Military Machine

by Pippa Bartolotti published on, November 27, 2023

  1. The Department of Defense budget comprises more than half of all federal discretionary spending every year. Just 11% of the military budget could fund renewable energy for every US home.
  2. A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies calculates that the cost of U.S. militarization in the last 20 years is a staggering $21 trillion, (this does not included the uncountable and unaudited money sent to Ukraine). About half of the budget goes to military contractors. Estimates calculate the total cost of shifting to 100% renewable energy over 10 years would be a fraction of this – $4.5 trillion.
  3. The US military is exempt from reporting on greenhouse emissions even though it is the largest single source of US environmental pollution IN THE WORLD.
  4. US tax dollars spent on the military, ($766 billion 2022) are a windfall for the weapons industry but devastating for people and the planet. The money could be spent on climate change mitigation measures.
  5. The Pentagon generates five times more toxins than the five major US chemical companies combined.
  6. Since 2001, the military has been responsible for 77% to 80% of federal energy consumption.
  7. Since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has produced more than 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. That is more than the entire country of Portugal in the same period.
  8. The F-35, the replacement for the F-16, burns about 5,600 liters of fuel per hour, about 200 million pounds of CO2 and assorted pollutants per year. That is the equivalent of the annual emissions of almost 20,000 passenger cars.
  9. Western-induced wars lead to spikes in carbon emissions, they have led to the use of depleted uranium and the residual dust is still causing major birth defects, poisoning of air and water. The estimated cost of cleaning up the environment in Iraq alone is $375 billion.
  10. Subsidies for arms exports cost American taxpayers $7.9 billion in 1996 (the last year for which full statistics are available), this could buy about 30 million wind turbines. 1.26 million turbines would power the whole of the US according to Forbes.
  11. The defense and foreign aid budgets are the largest single source of government funding for private corporations. More than half of U.S. weapons sales are now being financed by taxpayers instead of foreign arms purchasers.
  12. There are more nuclear reactors at sea than on land. All US aircraft carriers (10) and submarines (72) are nuclear-powered and there are 83 nuclear powered ships. The U.S. Navy uses highly enriched uranium — identical to the stuff in our nuclear weapons. Dozens of nuclear weapons have been lost at sea over the decades because they were on ships, submarines, or aircraft that were lost.
  13. The US has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world 10 times over. The current DOD budget includes over $44 billion for new nuclear weapons.
  14. The U.S. has more than 750 bases in 80 countries and colonies around the world. More bases than any nation, empire or people in world history.
  15. Nearly all military bases in the United States have a history of PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances otherwise known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they never break down in the environment). The cost of clean-up of military related sites is estimated to be upwards of $500 billion.
  16. The humanitarian cost of climate refugees. Approx 21.5 million people are forced flee their homes as a result of sudden onset weather hazards every year. There is no provision for them to be integrated into host societies.
  17. $1 billion spent on clean energy healthcare and education will create substantially more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military.
  18. Investments in clean energy, healthcare and education create a much larger number of jobs across all pay ranges, including midrange jobs (paying between $32,000 and $64,000) and high-paying jobs (paying over $64,000).

It is entirely possible for next generation to grow up in an economy that’s about nurturing life, not waging death.

*Featured Image: credit

Pippa Bartolotti is a former Spokesperson at Wales Green Party and member of Global Women for Peace Against NATO and Author and activist.
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