Category Archives: Environmental irresponsibility

US Defence and Climate Change: What is the National Security Challenge?

I recall the days of the Greenies and how the green movement was dismissed as pseudo science. Anything that undermined the economic mantra is demonised in subtle and overt ways. This is because the perception of security rests with economics not nature.  When I read articles such as this my mind goes immediately to the questions:

Do they see the link between climate change and greed?

Do militaries understand they are utilised to defend property not rights? 

Is national interest global interest or are we competing separately for self interest first (greed)?

Still the climate sceptics industry is fuelling the argument and doubt that what is happening is not human induced and therefore they do not have to take responsibility and radically change for the sake of current and future generations. The real challenge for those in authority and those who are the powers behind the facades, is can they step aside from self interest and put the planet and future generations ahead of their own interests? Can the militaries look inwardly and see the connection between lack of inner peace (harmony) and outer discord? Can they make the link between inner climate and outer climate given we are the creators of our reality.  I use these words consciously as we are 100% responsible for the world of our own making. I see this is the greatest security challenge to the current paradigm.  The real insecurity is economic and its infinite drive to produce more materialism as profits is what is behind the changing climate. Can we define the real problem? Can we face the pink elephant in the room?

Investing in peace education enables people to make peace with where they are so they can handle change in a positive way. The reality is the climate has changed and it will create discord and upheaval (refugee flows) and the challenge is how we deal with these problems that will make a difference. If we fall into fear and insecurity we will panic and conflict will arise as many compete for limited resources. If we can learn to work together, to nullify fear (conflict transformation) and work on harmony within and outside of ourselves then renewable solutions will arise to mitigate our fears. I see this as the real climate change. The risk management that transforms risk into solutions. Another way of seeing this is transforming fear into love (unity), this is the real alchemy that has been spoken about for centuries. Some may call it the holy grail.

I wonder what an environmental analysis on the industrial military complex would yield? What of the munitions in war? What of the environmental damage through depleted uranium and toxic waste? What of destroyed environment and infrastructures in warfare that render communities destitute? What of the bombing of infrastructure? hospitals? civilians? What of the violence? Can the military look at this reality without a story of defence and freedom and redefine its role and meaning in the world? Is defence security or the mindset of endless war? What does the war against anything create? What if finally the military made peace realising fear is the enemy not people?  What if fear is really false evidence appearing real. Then there is no threat only possibilities. I wonder…

The article below will frame it differently in the current paradigm. One positive note is the military reducing its own emissions which are considerable.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/trump-s-defense-chief-cites-climate-change-national-security-challenge


Secretary of Defense James Mattis

DOD/Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Trump’s defense chief cites climate change as national security challenge

Reprinted from ProPublica

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that climate change is real, and a threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere, a position that appears at odds with the views of the president who appointed him and many in the administration in which he serves.

In unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis said it was incumbent on the U.S. military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners. He also stressed this is a real-time issue, not some distant what-if.

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

Mattis has long espoused the position that the armed forces, for a host of reasons, need to cut dependence on fossil fuels and explore renewable energy where it makes sense. He had also, as commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in 2010, signed off on the Joint Operating Environment, which lists climate change as one of the security threats the military expected to confront over the next 25 years.

But Mattis’ written statements to the Senate committee are the first direct signal of his determination to recognize climate change as a member of the Trump administration charged with leading the country’s armed forces.

These remarks and others in the replies to senators could be a fresh indication of divisions or uncertainty within President Donald Trump’s administration over how to balance the president’s desire to keep campaign pledges to kill Obama-era climate policies with the need to engage constructively with allies for whom climate has become a vital security issue.

[C]limate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.

James Mattis

 

Mattis’ statements on climate change, for instance, recognize the same body of science that Scott Pruitt, the new Environmental Protection Agency administrator, seems dead-set on rejecting. In a CNBC interview last Thursday, Pruitt rejected established science pointing to carbon dioxide as the main driver of recent global warming.

Mattis’ position also would appear to clash with some Trump administration budget plans, which, according to documents leaked recently to The Washington Post, include big cuts for the Commerce Department’s oceanic and atmospheric research — much of it focused on tracking and understanding climate change.

Even setting aside warming driven by accumulating carbon dioxide, it’s clear to a host of experts, including Dr. Will Happer, a Princeton physicist interviewed by Trump in January as a potential science adviser, that better monitoring and analysis of extreme conditions like drought is vital.

Mattis’ statements could hearten world leaders who have urged the Trump administration to remain engaged on addressing global warming. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet Trump on Friday.

Security questions related to rising seas and changing weather patterns in global trouble spots like the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa are one reason that global warming has become a focus in international diplomatic forums. On March 10, the United Nations Security Council was warned of imminent risk of famine in Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan.

As well, at a Munich meeting on international security issues last month, attended by Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence, European officials pushed back on demands that they spend more on defense, saying their investments in boosting resilience to climate hazards in poor regions of the world are as valuable to maintaining security as strong military forces.

“[Y]ou need the European Union, because when you invest in development, when you invest in the fight against climate change, you also invest in our own security,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a panel discussion.

Concerns about the implications of global warming for national security have built within the Pentagon and national security circles for decades, including under both Bush administrations.

In September, acting on the basis of a National Intelligence Council report he commissioned, President Obama ordered more than a dozen federal agencies and offices, including the Defense Department, “to ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans.”

A related “action plan” was issued on Dec. 23, requiring those agencies to create a Climate and National Security Working Group within 60 days, and for relevant agencies to create “implementation plans” in that same period.

There’s no sign that any of this has been done.

Whether the inaction is a function of the widespread gaps in political appointments at relevant agencies, institutional inertia or a policy directive from the Trump White House remains unclear.

Queries to press offices at the White House and half a dozen of the involved agencies — including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, Department of Energy and Commerce Department — have not been answered. A State Department spokeswoman directed questions to the National Security Council and the White House, writing:

“We refer you to the NSC for any additional information on the climate working group.”

Mattis’ statements were submitted through a common practice at confirmation hearings in which senators pose “questions for the record” seeking more detail on a nominee’s stance on some issue.

The questions and answers spanned an array of issues, but five Democratic senators on the committee asked about climate change, according to a government official briefed in detail on the resulting 58-page document with the answers. The senators were Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking member, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Excerpts from Mattis’ written comments to the committee were in material provided to ProPublica by someone involved with coordinating efforts on climate change preparedness across more than a dozen government agencies, including the Defense Department. Senate staff confirmed their authenticity.

Dustin Walker, communications director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said responses to individual senators’ follow-up questions are theirs to publish or not.

Here are two of the climate questions from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, with Mattis’ replies:

Shaheen: “I understand that while you were commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command you signed off on a document called the Joint Operating Environment, which listed climate change as one of the security threats the military will face in the next quarter-century. Do you believe climate change is a security threat?”

Mattis: “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”

Shaheen: “General Mattis, how should the military prepare to address this threat?”

Mattis: “As I noted above, climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.”

In a reply to another question, Mattis said:

“I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.

 

Biodegradable Plastic Bags Cause Environmental Harm

I didn’t know this.  Perhaps it is wise to just use the same cotton bags.  It is easy to get drawn into group think rather than really think through what actions we take.  Each decision we make is a decision that is in harmony with the environment or not.  So be aware.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/cif-green/2009/jun/18/greenwash-biodegradeable-plastic-bags

Biodegradable plastic bags carry more ecological harm than good
Fred Pearce
Decomposing bags sound environmentally friendly but they require a lot of energy to make, won’t degrade in landfills and may leave toxic leftovers
Plastic bags
Britain gets through 8bn plastic bags a year. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA

Thursday 18 June 2009 20.00 AEST

Biodegradable plastic bags – as handed out by Tesco, the Co-op and once even sold by the Soil Association – must be good, surely? They have a magic ingredient that means they self-destruct after a few months, breaking up into tiny pieces made of simple molecules that bugs and fungi can happily munch up. Dozens of major corporations use them, including Pizza Hut, KFC, News international, Walmart and Marriott hotels.

But last week, the European Plastics Recyclers Association warned that they “have the potential to do more harm to the environment than good.”

Technically what we are talking about here is “oxo-degradable” plastics. These are plastics made to degrade in the presence of oxygen and sunlight, thanks to the addition of tiny amounts of metals like cobalt, iron or manganese.

British manufacturers – headed by Symphony Technologies of Borehamwood – are at the sharp end of a revolution that could banish bag-strewn beauty spots and back alleys alike.

But the criticisms are twofold. First, some research suggests that the bags don’t degrade as well as claimed. And second, priming plastic bags for destruction is itself an ecological crime.

So, do they really biodegrade away to nothing? Symphony, which supplies the Co-op and Tesco, says its bags are “able to degrade completely within about three years, compared to standard bags which take 100 years or longer”. Tesco reckons they all decompose within 18 months “without leaving anything that could harm the environment”.

But whether it actually happens seems to depend a lot on where the “biodegradable” plastic ends up. If it gets buried in a landfill it probably won’t degrade at all because there is no light or oxygen. But what about elsewhere?
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Studies of one brand in the US, commissioned by the Biodegradable Products Institute, found that breakdown is very dependent on temperature and humidity. It goes slow in cold weather. And high humidity virtually stops the process, making long, wet winters sound like bad news.

You might think a compost heap full of biodegrading bugs would be ideal. But a recent Swedish study found that polyethylene containing manganese additive stops breaking down when put in compost, probably due to the influence of ammonia or other gases generated by microorganisms in the compost.

And, while most manufacturers say that to put only tiny amounts of metals into the plastic, the US study found that one brand contained “very high levels of lead and cobalt”, raising questions about the toxicity of the leftovers. Neither of these studies relates specifically to Symphony’s products. But they raise questions.

The European Plastics Recyclers Association last week argued that biodegradable bags are not the right environmental option anyway. Plastic bags take a lot of energy and oil to make so why waste them by creating bags that self-destruct? “It is an economic and environmental nonsense to destroy this value,” the recyclers’ trade association concluded.

Of course, we consumers can reuse or recycle biodegradable bags as easily as any other kind. Symphony and other manufacturers stress making bags biodegradable is just an insurance policy for those that don’t get recycled or reused. But surely we are less likely to bother if we are told the bags are eco-bags that biodegrade.

This European backlash against oxo-biodegradable plastics follows similar rumblings in the US. In March, the New York Times announced it would not be wrapping its paper in bags made of the stuff because claims that the plastic was “100% biodegradable” did not stand up. This followed a ruling last December by an advertising industry watchdog, part of the US Council of Better Business Bureaus, that makers should stop calling the bags “eco-friendly”.
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(In marked contrast, the UK Periodical Publishers Association two years ago recommended that all its members use oxo-biodegradable film to wrap their magazines)

Industry websites, including Symphony’s, do proudly proclaim one green endorsement – that the organic trade body the Soil Association buys their bags. But Clio Turton at the Soil Association told me: “We’ve had problems with people making these claims. We have asked for them to be removed. It’s very frustrating.”

Plastic bags are not the biggest environmental issue on the planet, as George Monbiot explained in a blog here recently.

But most of us probably make “bag choices” several times a day. Brits get through 8bn plastic bags a year. For that reason, they are one of the choices that tend to show if we care about the environment or not. And we should be clear. Re-using bags is best. Recycling is second best. Throwing them away in the hope that a magic formula will guarantee their rapid disappearance is laziness, not environmental care. And anybody who tries to persuade us otherwise is guilty of Greenwash.

• This article was amended on Friday 19 June 2009. We should have made clear that the Soil Association no longer sells the biodegradable plastic bags referred to in this article. This has been corrected.

• Do you know of any green claims that deserve closer examination? Email your examples to greenwash@theguardian.com or add your comments below