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Oct 28, 2020

Pete Buttigieg wants to create  “a Senior Cli­mate Secu­ri­ty role in the Sec­re­tary of Defense’s office respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing cli­mate secu­ri­ty risks.” Elizabeth Warren insists “our military can help lead the fight in combating climate change.” And the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis tells us our primary goal should be to “Confront Climate Risks to America’s National Security and Restore America’s Leadership on the International Stage.” Everywhere we turn in liberal discourse, high-profile Democrats and center-left media are framing climate change as a “national security” risk requiring national security solutions.

Politically, it’s a clever enough frame. Like mocking Trump for being too nice to North Korea or latching on to anti-Trump Gold Star families, it’s a cheap and easy way Democrats can drape themselves in the flag while pushing an ostensibly liberal position: We know it’s a real threat because our military takes it seriously and they can be part of the solution - unlike those backwards Republicans we actually care what the generals are saying.

The primary problem with this is that the military speaks of climate change the way Davos discusses "inequality"––in square quotes, as a threat to be managed and mitigated, not solved, and certainly not seen as a moral imperative to be addressed with issues of social justice and racism in mind. The Pentagon, by its own admission, views climate chaos as a risk factor among many, and its primary goal is to protect American capital and the U.S.-led global expansionist  and extractivist economic order: two institutions fundamentally in need of overhaul if climate change is going to be reversed. Indeed turning to the US military to help solve climate crisis is like asking the police to solve institutional racism––at best they can suppress protestors and secure property in the event of mass unrest, but the thing that needs overthrowing is the thing they’re charged most with protecting.

One this second episode of our two-part series on climate chaos, we’ll explain why the DoD––and the military-industrial-complex more broadly––cannot be a partner in the battle against climate change because their prime objective is protecting its main drivers of mindless growth and war, why demilitarization and global cooperation are key to curbing emissions in time, and why creeping militarism, nationalist economic policy in green “tech” and other forms of liberal jingoism are subtly shifting mainstream liberal climate policy to the Right.

Our guest is Lorah Steichen of the National Priorities Project.