My latest piece on an environmental issue that, as I found out, few seem willing to talk about:
Climate change has been branded a threat to national security, but a future global treaty addressing the issue is likely to exempt from regulation most of the greenhouse gases associated with overseas military activities and the world’s largest polluter—the U.S. armed forces—a fact some environmentalists are arguing will significantly undercut the effectiveness of such an agreement. The issue is potentially troubling for proponents of a treaty as it suggests that even as the Obama administration and leading Democrats push emission controls based on the perceived security threat posed by global warming, they are unwilling to address a leading contributor to the problem.
The preliminary climate change agreement announced in Copenhagen leaves unresolved many key questions, but there’s a broad consensus overseas military operations will continue to enjoy a major exemption under any eventual comprehensive, legally binding treaty. Indeed, both foreign diplomats and officials with most major environmental groups have been reticent to broach the subject for fear of alienating the U.S. government, which accounts for nearly half of global military spending.
“It can be a bit of a delicate subject,” says a former senior Defense Department official who was deeply involved in the debate over the Kyoto Protocol. “We’re the largest military in the world and we’re going to be the most penalized if military emissions are counted, so that has to be considered.”
An illegal war bound by law to be eco-friendly. The obvious irony aside, it wouldn’t feel that right to me if it happened (in some alternate universe, where it actually could). While less emissions is always good, I find the imagery of a spectacled ecologist high fiving generals for butchering the local resistance in an environmentally friendly manner too disturbing. (Military sprays acid instead of bombs to cause less burning buildings! World applauds!)