Contributors: Dafne Yeltekin, Lizander Oros, Zainab Koli, Yusra Bitar, Elisa Soto-Danseco
With the first IPCC Assessment Report in 1990 and the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the scale of climate change impacts have been met with dominant international actors viewing climate change as both a national and international security threat, rather than a matter of collective human and ecological security.
The global military institutions’ securitized framing of the climate catastrophe continued from there. The US military considers climate change a “stress multiplier” that will aggravate existing tensions. The EU similarly defines it as a “threat multiplier.” In 2021, Biden declared climate change a “national security priority.” NATO adopted an Action Plan for 2030 to deliver a “Climate Change and Security Agenda.” The UN Security Council convened for a high-level open debate on climate security.
This approach not only intentionally prevents from questioning the structural roots of the climate crisis, denouncing the US military’s toxic environmental and genocidal legacy and therefore enacting systemic change, but it also strengthens the power of militaries, policing, security and border agencies. It further fosters the corporate interests and profits of transnational corporations (TNCs) and misplaces responsibility from the culprits to the real victims of climate change, labeling them as “threats” and “risks.”
A climate security approach that relies on militarized responses will ultimately create more insecurity. A true alternative and systemic approach would instead be rooted in decolonization, abolition, transnational feminism, degrowth and ecological security seeking to demilitarize and abolish a War on Climate, while returning land to Indigenous communities and building alternative institutions and relationships that foster collective wellbeing for humans and non-humans. These alternative movements working in transnational solidarity counter false solutions that claim to “green the military,” position them as the most capable providers of disaster relief and climate change planning, and promote border securitization.
A demilitarized future is possible.
*The organizations included below are mostly based and/or focused in the Global North. This is due to numerous reasons, including language barriers and our current experience being in the Global North.
If you are aware or are a part of other organizations or resources we can add to our list, particularly in the Global South, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Way Forward 1:
Abolition & Demilitarization
Drawing from the Black Radical traditions, bringing an abolitionist framework to the climate crises brings with it an understanding that true security comes from the presence of collective wellbeing, building institutions which foster the social and ecological relationships needed to live dignified lives. An abolitionist framework stands in opposition to seeing “others'' as threatening or the labeling of events as “threat multipliers.” It goes against patriarchal notions of domination and epistemologies of mastery. It rejects the realist logic of international relations which sees one state's gains as a loss to another. Instead, the abolitionist framework challenges the state institution and seeks to build solidarity between local and global peoples. Through this transnational perspective and solidarity-building work premised on abolition, true solutions to climate change and other social ills can come forth.
By centering on collective security, an abolitionist approach to climate would necessitate the defunding and complete dismantling of the Military Industrial Complex (military, intelligence, border regimes). It would instead allocate funds towards the construction of alternative institutions which provide the collective security needed for both human and non-human kin, including reparations to those most harmed by military industrial violence. The Red Nation’s Red Deal, drawing on Black abolitionist tradition, calls not only for a divestment away from carceral practices of the state apparatus, but a similar divestment from the exploitative and extractive violence at the heart of the fossil fuel economy.
The first step is divesting from the current $2.1 trillion global military spending and reinvesting in climate finance; a tax on offshore corporate profits could raise $200–$600 billion a year towards supporting vulnerable communities impacted by climate change.
A demilitarized future is possible. Countries like Costa Rica and Panama are examples that armies do not keep people safe and that abolition is the answer.
Organizations leading the way in Abolition & Demilitarization:
Global Grassroots Justice Alliance (GGJ)(active throughout the US, with solidarity with global organizations)
Grassroots Global Justice is an alliance of over 60 US-based grassroots organizing groups comprised of working and poor people and communities of color advocating for No War, No Warming, Build a Just Transition to a Feminist Economy. GGJA’s DemilitaRISE is a working group bringing together members who are involved in grassroots organizing or people impacted by US militarism, both at home through police and ICE violence, occupied Indigenous lands, racial profiling, mass incarcerations and detention, and globally from war-impacted communities, as well as veterans enduring grave trauma. They adopt Feminist Abolitionism and About Face’s frameworks.
United Frontline Table (US)The United Frontline Table is comprised of the following networks, alliances, coalitions, and their members, with the cooperation of movement support organizations: Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Center for Economic Democracy, Climate Justice Alliance, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, Indigenous Environmental Network, It Takes Roots, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Labor Network for Sustainability, New Economy Coalition, People’s Action, Right to the City Alliance, The Rising Majority, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, and UPROSE. Their A People’s Orientation to a Regenerative Economy Report presents fourteen planks for a regenerative economy, one of which is Divest From Wars, Criminalization & Militarism At Home And Abroad - Invest In A Regenerative Future.
Source: United Frontline Table
Muslim Abolitionist Futures (US)Muslim Abolitionist Futures is an interactive platform to learn and engage with the stories and work of resistance against the War on Terror. Their Abolishing the War on Terror Grassroots Policy Agenda, was built as a collaboration between grassroots and community-based organizations whose members are impacted by and have organized against the War on Terror.
Source: Muslim Abolitionist Futures
We are Dissenters (US)We are Dissenters is a national movement organization that is leading young generations to reclaim resources from the war industry, reinvest in life-giving institutions, and repair collaborative relationships with the earth and people around the world. We are Dissenters seeks to build local teams of young people across the country to force elected officials and institutions to divest from war and militarism, and reinvest in what communities actually need - homes, healthcare, and education.
- Divest From Death Campaign is pressuring colleges and universities to divest from the top 5 US companies profiting from war (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Raytheon).
- #ByeBoeing Campaign Against a War Profiteer (Webinar)
About Face: Veterans Against the War (US)About Face is a post-9/11 service members and veterans organizing to end a foreign policy of permanent war and the use of military weapons, tactics, and values in communities across the country. They seek to use their knowledge and experiences to expose “the truth about these conflicts overseas and the growing militarization of our communities here at home,” building a movement of service members and veterans to tackle the root causes of war through the transformation of “ourselves, our values, and American society.” They take action in solidarity with all people impacted by wars abroad and at home, which is critical towards the realization of their vision of a world free of militarism.
Arab Resources and Organizing Center (AROC)The Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) is a grassroots organization working to empower and organize their community towards justice and self-determination for all. AROC members build community power in the Bay Area by participating in leadership development, political education, and campaigns. A key part of their community organizing is focused on Anti-War and Anti-Militarism, mobilizing against both policing and militarization. They believe that the global nature of policing and repression is directly related to the relationship between U.S. imperialism and Zionism. Supporting BDS and the liberation of Palestine is integral to the liberation of all people.
Demilitarize U.S. to Palestine Network (US & Palestine)Demilitarize US to Palestine is a national network of individuals and grassroots organizations that seeks to end state violence and police militarization in the U.S. and Palestine. They provide a space for individuals and organizations to connect with one another and share strategies and tactics for demilitarization campaigns in the US and Palestine, with the aim of empowering local organizing with the tools and resources necessary to lead and develop abolitionist demilitarize campaigns in their local contexts.
Veterans for Peace (Global)Veterans for Peace is a global organization of military veterans and allies whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace through the use of their experiences and lifting their voices. Veterans for Peace has a network of 140+ chapters worldwide. Their work includes educating the public about the true causes of war and its enormous costs, advocating for a dismantling of the war economy, providing services that assist veterans and victims of war, and working to end all wars.
War Resisters’ International (Global)Founded in 1921, War Resisters’ International is a network of over 90 pacifist and antimilitarist organizations in over 40 different countries who work together for a world without war.
War Resisters League (US)War Resisters League is the oldest secular pacifist organization in the US, founded in 1923 by individuals who opposed WW1. Members of the WRL agree with their pledge: “WRL affirms that all war is a crime against humanity. We are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive nonviolently for the removal of all causes of war, including racism, sexism, and all forms of exploitation.” Their strategies include education, organizing, strategy, and direct action with the goal to sow and grow “seeds of peace and liberation in our time”.
Stop the War Coalition (UK)Stop the War Coalition was founded in the UK in September 2001 in the weeks following 9/11 and has since been dedicated to preventing and ending the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.They are committed to supporting Palestinian rights, opposing racism and Islamophobia, and to the defence of civil liberties.
War on Want (UK)War on Want works in the UK and with partners around the world to fight poverty and defend human rights, as part of the movement for global justice. It works in partnership with grassroots social movements, trade unions and workers’ organizations in the Global South and across the world, specifically focusing on militarism and repression.
Focus on the Global South (Asia)Focus on the Global South was established in 1995 to challenge neoliberalism, militarism and corporate-driven globalization while strengthening just and equitable alternatives.
School of the America’s Watch (US)SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement working to close the SOA / WHINSEC and similar centers that train state actors such as military, law enforcement and border patrol. They strive to expose, denounce, and end US militarization, oppressive US policies and other forms of state violence in the Americas. They act in solidarity with organizations and movements working for justice and peace throughout the Americas.
The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) (US)The Movement for Black Lives is a space for Black organizations across the country to debate and discuss the current political conditions, develop shared assessments of what political interventions are necessary in order to achieve key policy, cultural and political wins, convene organizational leadership in order to debate and co-create a shared movement wide strategy. They are rooted in the fundamental idea that we can achieve more together than we can separately.
- Cut Military Expenditure Policy Demands
- End the War on Black People: The Demilitarization of Law Enforcement
More Resources on Abolition & Demilitarization:Books, Articles, and Reports:
- Abolish the Military by Greg Shupak
- Abolish National Security by Arun Kundnani - TNI
- No Warming No War by Lorah Steichen and Lindsay Koshgarian
- What if armed forces were abolished? by Symon Hill
- No Abolition without Demilitarization: Black and Muslim Solidarity for Ending Policing Worldwide by Benji Hart
- What is Abolition - Critical Dissenters
- Abolition Library
- An Indigenous Abolitionist Study Guide - Toronto Abolition Convergence
- An Intro to Abolition Study Guide - Abolition Journal
- Demilitarize, Decolonize, Decarbonize (Webinar)
- Just Resistance: Building Toward a Demilitarized and Decolonized Future (Webinar)
- From Data Criminalization to Prison Abolition (Webinar)
- Who feels secure? Racial capitalism and global security: Arun Kundnani in conversation with Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò (Podcast)
- Abolition Means No War! (Webinar)
Way Forward 2:
Globally, militaries are usually the largest land ‘owners’ in most countries and much of their unparalleled fossil fuel consumption goes into transportation across their spread-out infrastructure. The US has 800 bases in over 80 countries around the world, with an additional 740 military bases within the US, of which a total of 315 are army installations. The land for military bases is more often than not violently taken, with the US military having a long and documented history of violence and dispossession against Indigenous peoples. Continued military presence within these lands perpetuates long standing histories of violence against Indigenous peoples. Military testing in areas home to Indigenous peoples have long been linked with health problems. A study by the Environmental Working Group found 385 military sites with PFAS - known as “Forever Chemicals,” contamination in addition to 294 DoD installations with groundwater contamination.
Contrast that with a 2018 study in Nature, which showed how despite making up less than 5% of the total population, Indigenous people manage their lands in ways that support, sustain, and protect genetic species, and ecosystem diversity. It is estimated that Indigenous peoples protect 80% of all biodiversity. The Indigenous Environmental Network’s Indigenous Principles of Just Transition, centers the need for systemic change wherein the eco/genocidal impetus of imperial ambitions is swapped out for a relationship of reciprocity, respect, and mutual flourishing for both humans and non-humans.
The United States’ imperial ambitions, and those militaries which it supports (i.e. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc) continue to perpetuate violence upon the land and the people. Centering imperialism from the East and West as the greatest facilitator of capital and environmental degradation, is urgently needed if we are to chart a pathway forward.
Members of the Red Nation protesting an attack by a national park service ranger on Darrell House, of the Diné and Oneida Nations at the Petroglyph Park in Tiwa Territory (Albuquerque, NM)
(Source: Twitter / @The_Red_Nation)
The Red Nation’s Red Deal Part 1: End the Occupation reminds us to open our eyes and ears to when US imperialism is framed as the solution to human rights or environmental crises. We must reject intervention at all times, seeking to organize and educate the community around the fight against imperial ambitions. From Palestine to Turtle Island, and everywhere in between, land must be returned, not as a metaphor, but as a real, tangible act.
For more on decolonization and land back, see our Land page.
Source: The Red Nation
Organizations leading the way in Land Back:
The Red Nation (US)The Red Nation is a coalition of Native and non-Native activists, educators, students, and community organizers advocating Native liberation from capitalism and colonialism. The Red Nation’s The Red Deal is a platform that calls, among many things, to End the Occupation through demilitarization, police, prison and ICE abolition, and tearing down all border wall.
NDN Collective (US)NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building and narrative change, they are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms. NDN Collective believes that Demilitarization is Decolonization and that The Right of Return is Land Back.
Source: Twitter / @ndncollective
More Resources on Land Back:Books, Articles, and Reports:
- Demilitarization is Decolonization - NDN Collective
- The Right of Return is Land Back - NDN Collective
- Veterans’ Day & Demilitarization of Indian Country with Krystal Two Bulls (Podcast)
- Our History is the Future with Nick Estes (Podcast)
- The Right of Return is Land Back (Webinar)
Way Forward 3:
Desecuritization & Ecological Security
International and national securitization is not the answer to the climate crisis as it creates more insecurity for those affected by it. Instead, demilitarization means ecological security. An ecological security approach seeks to challenge anthropocentric notions, centering the security of the biosphere and reframing the relationship between people and the environment as a collaborative one rather than seeing the environment as a threat. This discourse allows for a more systemic approach to climate change that examines the structural roots of the climate crisis as the overlapping economic, political, and social issues of the global system. Within this approach, both the boundaries of the nation-state and the notion of security itself are challenged. The role and work of non-state transnational actors and global civil society such as grassroots organizations, social movements, new forms of sovereignty, and marginalized communities on the frontline of the climate crisis is central.
Organizations leading the way in Desecuritization & Ecological Security:
Rethinking Security (UK)Rethinking Security is a network of UK-based organizations, academics and activists working together for security based on justice, cooperation and sustainability.
The Transnational Institute (TNI) (Global)The Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world. TNI’s War and Pacification Program looks at the nexus between militarization, security and globalization. TNI uses the word “pacification” to replace what is usually defined as “security” because it recognizes that many policies adopted in the name of security have increased social control and violence.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) (UK)CAAT is a UK-based organization working to end the international arms trade. CAAT’s priorities are to stop the procurement or export of arms, end all government political and financial support for arms exports, and promote progressive demilitarization within arms producing countries. CAAT considers that security needs to be seen in much broader terms that are not dominated by military and arms company interests. A wider security policy would have the opportunity to reallocate resources according to actual threats and benefits, including addressing major causes of insecurity such as inequality and climate change.
More Resources on Desecuritization & Ecological Security:Books, Articles, and Reports:
- Matt McDonald
Way Forward 4:
A transnationall feminist approach is crucial to interrogating the patriarchal system - the toxic masculinity of the military and weapons, white petro-masculinity and heteronormativity – and gender dynamics that exist at the core of militarized responses to climate change. Cis-hetero-masculinity reinforces myths of militarism as a way of life where those deemed weaker face oppression. Additionally, gender discrimination and gender-based violence arise more during and after armed conflict as weapons facilitate femicides and violence against queer and trans people. War also leads to forced displacement disproportionately affecting women, girls and queer people leaving them at greater risk of abuse, trafficking and forced prostitution.
A feminist lens allows to look at the ways in which women and LGBTQIA+ people, especially BIPOC communities, are disproportionately affected by armed conflict and violence and how it can inform anti-militarist approaches.
Organizations leading the way in Transnational Feminism:
INCITE! (US)INCITE! is a network of radical feminists of color organizing to end state violence and violence in our homes and communities.
Source: INCITE! / “Women of Color Against War Flyers & Stickers,” artwork by Favianna Rodriguez
Consortium on Gender, Security & Human Rights (US)The Consortium’s work aims to use knowledge about gender and security to end armed conflicts and build sustainable international peace.
More Resources on Transnational Feminism:Books, Articles, and Reports:
- The military is anti-feminist by Greg Shupak
- Anti-Militarism Resources - INCITE!
Who’s In The Way
Who’s In The Way
Global Military Apparatuses
(NATO, the US Pentagon & Others)
After the Cold War and the diminishment of traditional military threats, security institutions such as the US military and NATO began to broaden the scope of issues they examined, issues classified as “low politics.” The environment became a global security issue.
Military apparatuses, such as the Department of Defense, project resource scarcity and climate security language to fuel more armed conflict and serve the interests of the status quo.
Commissioned by the former Royal Dutch Shell planner Peter Schwartz, the 2003 Pentagon Report “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security” depicted dystopian and apocalyptic scenarios of climate change. This contributed even more to alarmist media narratives.
In 2008, the EU followed suit by publishing a report on climate change and international security, defining climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ affecting EU own security and interests. Fast forward to 2021, President Biden declared climate change a national security priority, NATO created an action plan on climate and security, the UK declared it was moving to a system of “climate-prepared defense,” the EU developed a Climate Change and Defense Roadmap, and the UNSC held a debate on climate and security.
As the biggest global polluters, the growing spending budget of the military industry contradicts its so-called commitments to ‘greening’ their militaries. Recent data by SIPRI shows that global military spending has surpassed $2 trillion in 2021 for the first time.
The Pentagon alone is the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuel. Because military emissions reporting is only voluntary, there is a lack of transparent data and therefore the absence of accountability mechanisms. A 2019 study by Brown University estimated that more than 440 Million Metric tons of CO2. have been consumed by the U.S. military alone since the beginning of the War on Terror in 2001 (all war-related emissions including the major war zones of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria). According to the same study, the amount of emissions by the US military is larger than the emissions of many countries, as well as greater than all CO2 emissions from US production of iron and steel.
U.S imperialism has a long toxic environmental legacy. Some examples include chemical contamination left in Afghanistan, the nuclear contamination in the Marshalls Islands and the colonial contamination in Guam.
A military nuclear waste dome, named by locals ‘The Tomb’, containing more than 3.1 million cubic feet of radioactive waste on the Enewetak Atoll of the Marshall Islands.
(Source: The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images)
(Source: The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images)
Besides Western military apparatuses, there is an emerging trend of countries of the Global South with large military apparatuses and/or authoritarian regimes that are also adopting a climate security approach. There is no blueprint for how each country in the Global South is engaging with climate besides sharing colonial histories from US and European imperialism. However, while the Group 77 serves as a proxy for the Global South, in the past 15 years positions on climate and security have been changing. For example, small island and developing countries, especially in the Pacific, have also been adopting a security framework.
Examples include Brazil, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Philippines and the Sahel region. India for example is the third largest military spender and while it claims to oppose the UN Security Council’s climate security approach, the Indian military’s responses to climate change reflect that its military has in fact embraced the national and international climate security discourse to legitimize its role as the country’s central security agent. The 2017 Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces adopts the ‘threat-multiplier’ rhetoric and lists climate change, environmental disasters, and resource security among others as “non-traditional external threats” to Indian national security, possibly requiring the military to respond to such threats.
A 2022 report on the Bay Of Bengal, one of the most climate-vulnerable regions in the world, adopts the language of climate as a threat-multiplier, focusing on the climate impacts on military assets and operations, and viewing climate-induced migration as a major conflict driver
We can see a parallel with the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine: sending US weapons to Ukraine and more troops through NATO and imposing draconian sanctions on Russia will only escalate the crisis and cause devastating environmental consequences. See NDN Collective’s article that lays out implications this attack has for human rights and the climate crisis.
Campaigns against NATO: No to Nato Campaign
The lines between industries and governments are increasingly blurred as transnational corporations directly influence much of the decision making around national security. Transnational corporations (TNCs), especially those in the arms, aerospace, security, and fossil fuel industries both advocate for and reap the largest profits from the climate security approach and its heightened militarization, globally. The largest five arms and military service corporations reaping these profits are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics, all of which are headquartered in the US, followed by companies based in China and Europe.
These war profiteers are involved in powerful and consistent lobbying to ensure rising military budgets. Substantial portions of these budgets are allocated to awarding contracts to arms, aerospace, border security, cyber security (surveillance), and homeland security firms.
From 2001 to 2021, the arms industry made campaign contributions totalling $285 million spanning US parties and offices who have influence over military budgets in addition to $2.5 billion on lobbying, all of which have been quite successful in promoting their interests.
People from these industries and governments increasingly pass through the revolving door going from positions in one sector to the other, and influencing policy in favor of defense industries. The past four of five US Secretaries of Defense were previously executives at some of the top weapons contractors (General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon).
Defense contractors also fund many well-known think tanks that champion increasing military budgets. The top 50 think tanks in the U.S. received $1 billion in funding from weapons firms between 2014 to 2019 (largest contributions from Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Airbus). There is a growing list of non-military and civil society think tanks advocating for greater attention to climate security:
- Brookings Institute (US)
- Council on Foreign Relations (US),
- International Institute for Strategic Studies (UK)
- Chatham House (UK),
- Center for Climate and Security
- International Military Council on Climate and Security
- Center for New American Security
- Center for Strategic & International Studies
Contracts are awarded both in anticipation of climate change and migration related ‘instability,’ as well as towards ‘green’ technologies that are less reliant on fossil fuels and more resilient to climate change impacts. The Pentagon awarded a contract worth $89 million to Boeing in 2010 to develop a ‘SolarEagle’ drone. In 2013, the Pentagon also spent $5 million on the development of lead-free bullets.
The top five defense corporations, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics, won one-quarter to one-third of all Pentagon contracts in recent years, totalling $2.1 trillion between 2001 to 2021. Approximately 85% of Boeing’s annual revenue comes from contracts with the U.S. government and sales to foreign militaries. Additionally, Boeing received over $21 billion in 2020 and $60 million in tax breaks from the City of Chicago where Boeing is headquartered.
TNCs in these industries recognize the market opportunities present in climate security and related environmental initiatives and are making sure to invest in and promote such initiatives. The Energy Environmental Defense and Security Conference in Washington, DC in 2011, claimed that environmental markets presented a business opportunity eight times that of the current defense market for the defense industry.
Despite the promotion of ‘green’ renewable technologies, militaries still depend largely on fossil fuels to operate high-energy technologies and transportation. This results in contracts for fossil fuel companies to sustain war-making, as well as war-making to ensure continued access to fossil fuels and transhipment routes globally.
More Resources on War Profiteers:Books, Articles, and Reports:
- Who Profits from War
- Industry cash, not public opinion, predicts Democrat votes on defense - SPRI
- Weapons Industry Exploits Ukraine War as Profits Pile Up by Sarah Lazare
- Energy, Capital as Power, and World Order by Tim Di Muzio
- Divest From Death Campaign - We are Dissenters
Global Governance Structures
In the post-Cold War system, the main project of the governance mechanisms is the legitimization and the extension of the ruling institutions of the global status quo. These institutions include NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, the UN, the US, and the G8/G20. This system utilizes and devises methods, – particularly the use of organized violence – to help maintain an unequal international order, premised on the primacy of capital, racial and gendered violence, as well as US geopolitical power. The promotion of a Western neoliberal development model is, in the words of Stephen Gill, “baked in through the systematic use of military power and related geopolitical practices,” such as those of diplomacy, intelligence, surveillance and covert mechanisms of intervention. The proper, strategic response to global environmental crises involves the expansion of state-military capabilities in order to strengthen the centralized governance structures whose task it is to regulate the international distribution of natural resources, as well as ensure that a particular state’s own resource requirements are protected. Gains from one state are losses for another. Below, three different governance mechanisms used to securitize climate change are explored more in depth.
The UN:The climate is increasingly and systematically referred to as a “threat multiplier” within the UN system. This consistency appears in the 2009 UN General Assembly resolution A/63/281, titled “climate change and its possible security implications.” This resolution cautioned its members to “consider the possible security implications of climate change impacts.” This framing also appears in various reports and debates held by numerous UN bodies including UN Environmental Program, UN Climate Security Mechanism, Group of Friends, and UN Secretary General Address to Security Council.
The UN, the UK and other Western nations, have been amongst the chief proponents of crafting and endorsing the concept of climate security on an international level by noting that climate is not just an environmental problem, but rather threatens the status quo referenced above. More recently, as world leaders met in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit, activists and scholars gathered in an Arctic basecamp tent in the city for a panel discussion on the state of military emissions and to launch a new website dedicated to corralling disparate emissions reporting. Crucially, this site pulls government reporting on countries’ military emissions, in addition to other relevant data like gross domestic product and military expenditure, into one database which allows for easier comparisons to be made between countries. Military emissions are substantial contributors towards the destabilization of the climate and yet, military emissions continue to be absent in the formal agendas at UN meetings. This has not gone unnoticed as more than 200 civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, signed on to the Conflict and Environment Observatory’s call for governments to commit to meaningful emissions reductions ahead of the summit. During protests at COP26, climate activists called out the U.S. military specifically for its role in climate change. The UN’s framing of the conflict, via the language of security and the normalization of securitizing ‘solutions’ inevitably shows that there is a crisis within the global governance institutions as they are unable to offer pathways forward away from patriarchal, neoliberal logics of domination.
Source: International Crisis GroupThe UN Security Council’s incorporation of climate change within its mandate is of particular concern. The first foray by the Security Council into climate change and security nexus was held in 2007, where, in the words of the member states, the forum was meant to address “key security risks posed by climate change to international peace and security, including border disputes, energy supply interruptions, humanitarian crises, migration flows, resource shortages, and societal stressors.” While initially receiving skepticism from the Global South, including a breakdown in 2021 over negotiations within the UNSC to integrate climate-related security risk as a main complement within the UN’s conflict-prevention strategy, increasing pressure has been placed upon countries within the Global South to securitize climate policies in line with the Security Council’s position.
The securitization of climate change within the UN Security Council has often highlighted the manner in which climate change and extreme weather events can exacerbate societal and cross-border stressors,with potential consequent political and security impacts. A further UN Security Council debate was held just two years later in 2011, with renewed focus on links between human mobility, environmental refugees, and disaster-related displacement. Once again, multiple actors cautioned against the encroachment by the Security Council on matters on climate, with nations drawing concern over the securitization of climate in lieu of addressing the political, economic, and humanitarian aspects. Viewing climate change through a securitizing lens enables the UNSC, comprised of countries who are historically most responsible for the destabilization of the climate , to deflect attention from their own culpability. The Security Council, through the continued securitization of climate change, and continued pushing of this agenda upon the Global South, further perpetuates ecocide, genocide, power inequalities, and masculinist notions of what solutions are available.
False Solution 1:
Climate Change as a Threat Multiplier
Climate change is widely framed as a ‘threat multiplier’ exacerbating existing threats and tensions, triggering conflict, and creating an unpredictable and unstable world. Some of the existing ‘threats’ it is seen as exacerbating include poverty, migration, political unrest, environmental degradation, resource ‘scarcity’, terrorism, and other social tensions. The climate-scarcity-conflict-security paradigm which sees climate change as causing scarcity which leads to conflict has been widely questioned as it focuses on the illusion of scarcity rather than maldistribution. Using Nick Buxton’s words: “helps fuel arms races, distracts from other causal factors leading to conflict, and undermines other [collaborative] approaches to conflict resolution.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, too, has contested the paradigm as lacking sufficient evidence. Still this approach and rhetoric is extremely prominent in climate security discourse and practice. The scarcity language also affects water, food and energy arenas where narratives of shortages lead to market-based false solutions, such as ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’. Extractive economies, under the guise of ‘sustainability,’ through the increasing financialization and privatization of natural resources, especially in Global South countries, are facilitated by the military, local security agencies, policing and surveillance through private-public partnerships between governments and corporations.
To learn more, you can watch this webinar: Extractive Industries, Violence, and Corporate Criminality: Is There a Pathway to Global Justice?
False Solution 2:
Greening the Military
In response to rising public awareness and protest about miltaries’ role as some of the largest global polluters, there has been a demand for and move of militaries towards ‘greening’ their strategy, operations and facilities internally to counter their image as polluters and perpetrators of ecocide. Many militaries are attempting to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, setting reduction targets and some even net zero emissions goals. Solar panels are being installed at many military bases around the world. Alternative fuels are being substituted for fossil fuels in military technology, equipment and shipping, even though many of these technologies themselves are developed to be more and more “effectively” deadly and destructive to ‘enemy’ environments and humans. Such greening schemes are raising military budgets, globally. The arms industry is securing more contracts to develop this green technology that is not reliant on fossil fuels, is energy efficient, and is resilient to climate change impacts, such as solar-powered submarines and drones. This ‘greening defense’ strategy is ‘greenwashing’ since militaries are still based in an apparatus of violence that seeks to dominate humans and ecosystems, responsible for the environmental destruction and perpetuation of the capitalist colonial imperialist system that have led to the current state of climate change and global crises convergence. Nick Buxton asserts that the actual motivation for this transition to renewables is to reduce military dependence on fossil fuels which has made militaries’ vulnerable and presented difficulties in transporting fossil fuels for military operation. This ‘greening’ is then a strategy of making the military “more effective” and “better fighters” as made explicit by Former US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus: “We are moving toward alternative fuels in the Navy and Marine Corps for one main reason, and that is to make us better fighters.”
False Solution 3:
Militarized Humanitarian Aid & Disaster Relief
Militaries are being positioned and accepted by some as the most capable actors able to respond to climate change-related disasters. This is reasoned through militaries’ supposed multifaceted nature, self-sufficiency compared to other government agencies, immense resource supply, and widespread control as the largest landowners in most countries. Militaries’ long-time involvement in ‘soft power’ intervention and ‘rescue’ efforts is channeled towards military deployment for humanitarian aid, disaster relief, evacuation, and reconstruction in response to climate change-related disasters and conflict in collaboration with some civil actors. Contrary to the praise this scheme has received, such a violent institution and its violently trained armed forces should not be the ‘first-responder’ interacting with those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, when these same militaries are both the cause of these climate disasters and other violences marginalizing them. The only reason militaries have the resources and planning capacity to be seen as capable of this responsibility is due their unparalleled budgets, which can be diverted to community-led climate resilience and adaptation instead. Lastly, these disaster relief efforts are not simply well-meaning, especially internationally, where they are imperial strategies to increase the intervening state’s power and control in the regions they are claiming to help.
False Solution 4:
Military-led Research & Planning
Militaries are often some of the few governmental actors that are constantly engaged in long-term ‘comprehensive’ planning, including in the context of climate change and other global crises predictions where they have developed worst-case scenarios and planned responses to them. This planning is intended to prolong military existence and operations even as threats and contexts change. Militaries have been among the first institutions to release climate reports and predictions, which are being widely used as expert sources even by civic actors. Given this supposed ‘planning expertise,’ militaries are being integrated into climate planning across other government agencies and international institutions. This is dangerous because such an integration spreads a climate security approach and militarized responses to climate change across government agencies that may otherwise pursue non-securitized responses to climate change.
False Solution 5:
Border Securitization & Migration Management
The climate security approach has also a significant impact on borders and migration, as its narrative emphasizes the ‘threat’ of climate-induced mass migration, which justifies colonial racialized and gendered responses. Focusing on military responses to migration has led to a concerning increase in funding the border industrial complex. Indeed, the border industrial complex is expected to grow globally by 7% annually. As the TNI report Global Climate Wall shows, the seven biggest GHG emitters the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Australia spent collectively at least twice on border and immigration control than on climate finance between 2013 and 2018. US border and migration has had its budget increased from €5.2 million in 2005 to €460 million in 2020. As of 2018, there are 63 physical walls worldwide. The budget for the EU border agency Frontex has increased from 5.2 million Euros in 2005 to 5.6 billion Euros allocated to the agency for the years 2021 to 2027. According to the report Cashing in on Crisis, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued more than 105,000 contracts worth more than US $55 billion to private companies between 2008 and 2020.
The world’s largest investors - BlackRock, Vanguard, and StateStreet - fuel and profit from climate change and border militarization by investing in fossil fuel, agribusiness, and border agencies causing human rights abuses and environmental destruction.
War and conflict are actually the primary cause of mass migrations, rather than the climate crisis.The most recent 2022 IPCC report not only recognized the role of colonialism as the root cause of the climate crisis, but that governance and socio-economic factors are responsible for conflict and migration rather than climate change. The case of the Syrian civil war, for instance, shows that it was not the climate change-induced drought that caused mass migration and civil unrest - a deeply problematic Western narrative - but rather Assad’s neoliberal policies that led to the agrarian crisis.
Organizations and Campaigns for Migration Justice and No Borders:
- The World Social Forum on Migrations (WFSM): It is one of the thematic processes of the World Social Forum. The WSFM, like WSF, is a space for democratic debate of ideas, reflection, formulation of proposals, exchange of experiences; for articulation of social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neoliberal globalization
- Abolish Frontex: #AbolishFrontex is a decentralized and autonomous network of groups, organizations and individuals. #AbolishFrontex is working towards ending the EU border regime; dismantling the border-industrial complex, and building a society where people are free to move and live.
- Transnational Migrant Platform: TMP-E responds to the various international, European and national developments that are impacting heavily the daily lives of migrant and refugee communities in Europe.
- Peoples’ Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA) in response to the state-led process and closed-door deliberations of the GFMD; the Global Coalition of Migration (GCM), born out of the PGA as the first global initiative promoting migrants rights which is a formal alliance of global unions, academic networks, regional and national networks from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin and North America.
Additional Resources on Militarization:Books, Articles, and Reports:
- The Secure and the Dispossessed: How the Military and Corporations are Shaping a Climate-Changed World by Nick Buxton
- War, Empire & Racism in the Anthropocene by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
- A User's Guide to the Crisis of CivilizationAnd How to Save It by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
- Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2021 - SIPRI
- Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2020 - SIPRI
- Border & Rule by Harsha Walia
- Undoing Border Imperialism by Harsha Walia
- Climate Security and Militarization: Geo-Economics and Geo-Securities of Climate Change by Sanjay Chaturvedi & Timothy Doyle
- War, militarism and climate change: time to connect the dots by Sheila D. Collins
- Militarism, Climate Change and Global Dissent by Dr Anuradha Chenoy
- Reimagining the Future: Some Critical Reflections by Stephen Gill
- Securitization of Climate Change: How Invoking global dangers for instrumental ends can backfire by Jeroen Warner & Ingrid Boas
- Global Environmental Governance in the Anthropocene: Breaking out of the Enclosures by Gabriela Kütting
- Conceptualizing Climate Governance Beyond the International Regime by Chukwumerije Okereke, Harriet Bulkeley, Heike Schroeder
- Disasters, Climate Change, and Securitisation: The United Nations Security Council and the United Kingdom’s Security Policy by Katie Peters
- Contested Legitimacy: The UN Security Council and Climate Change by Martin Binder & Monika Heupel
- UN Climate Security Mechanism Report 2021Security Council Report: The UN Security Council & Climate Change
- White Skin, Black Fuel by Andreas Malm & The Zetkin Collective
- État de siège: A dying domesticating colonialism by Ghassan Hage