The single biggest threat to our human security and well-being is climate change and associated problems such as loss of biodiversity, depleting soil health, extreme weather events and sea level rise. Some of our members are working for a recognition of the climate crisis be taken seriously as security priority.
Feature: SGR and military carbon emissions
SGR run projects and carry out research and advocacy on a variety of issues at the intersection between science, social justice and environmental sustainability. They have published on the military and corporate influence in scientific research, the threat from nuclear weapons, and they champion ethical careers in science, design and technology.
One important project that encompasses human and environmental security is the impact of militaries on the climate crisis. There are a number of important ways that SGR are bringing new information to light so that we are better informed about this threat to human and ecological security.
In all countries, including the UK, the carbon emissions of the military are not fully or transparently included in national emissions reporting or reduction targets, yet military activities make a major contribution to carbon emissions. In fact, in a study published in 2020, SGR found that UK military activities for 2017–2018 emitted approximately 11 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. That’s the same as the average annual mileage of 6 million cars driven in the UK.
Not only that, but as SGR point out, the military competes for resources that, and skilled workers who, could otherwise be useful in essential climate sectors such as cleaner energy and energy conservation. Furthermore, climate change can increase the risk of conflict – including between nuclear-armed nations – and military responses are often prioritised over measures that tackle the root causes of conflict. Indeed, nuclear war itself could cause catastrophic climate change – called ‘nuclear winter’ – and SGR have shown that the UK’s nuclear arsenal is large enough to cause such impacts.
SGR have produced reports on the carbon emissions of the military in the UK and EU, comparing official statistics to try to build an accurate picture. They also keep track of and publish findings on how military budgets compare with other government spending.
SGR know that science and technology can support human and environmental security but the UK’s (and other countries’) commitment to militarism means that scientists and engineers are often directed into work for the military industrial sectors, with no social or environmental benefit. To that end, SGR are members of the Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS) in the UK and much of their research is used in GCOMS campaigns on this issue.
More information on our blog
Rethinking Security’s blog is a great source of work that rethinks security, from members, partners and beyond. Here are some recent articles on climate and environmental security:
- Community Energy: Local responses to the 2030 Climate Emergency Tony McNally, Managing Director of Climate Change Solutions and founding co-director of Heart of England Community Energy (April 2022)
- Moving the Immovable Object: Obama’s Climate Securitisation, Francesca Kilpatrick, PhD Researcher in climate communications at the University of Brighton (March 2021)