In various ways, everyone wishes to be more secure, worrying less about external threats, and living in a predictable and comfortable environment. Financial security, health care security, and certainly national security all trouble us at times. Climate security probably does not make our worry list as yet, but it may prove to be the most troubling issue in our, or our children’s, lifetime.
Around the world, military expenditures are an enormous drain on large and small, rich and poor countries. It is impossible to get precise numbers for the amount of money spent by every country, or even our own, for military purposes. The numbers are so large, and so subject to manipulation that we can only get a relative sense of what is really happening.
That said, in 2012 world military expenditures were estimated at $1.7 trillion. The US accounts for some 39 percent of the total spent. China is second on the list at 9.5 percent. The US military spending is more than the next seven countries combined.
The United States Senate has only very recently acknowledged in a formal vote that climate change is actually occurring. Even then the vote did not recognize that human activities are making a contribution to climate change. By contrast, the head of the US Fleet in the pacific has identified climate change as “the biggest long term threat” facing the region.
The military clearly understands the conditions that exist around the world. Tensions increase resulting from water shortages, pressure on agriculture, rising ocean levels, droughts, severe weather events and other more subtle climate change anomalies
We are starting to invest our resources in ways that address climate change. Over the long term, this should alleviate some world trouble spots and reduce scenarios requiring military actions. Unfortunately, in the real world, climate change can also be used as leverage for even more military spending. Efforts to create a climate change-industrial complex have not yet found traction.
Climate change has the potential to make the world uninhabitable, much as did the nuclear threat around the middle of the last century. Our response to nuclear proliferation was a massive military expenditure to “protect” us from annihilation.
Military prowess is not enough to prevail against climate change. Homeland security in the future may be determined by how we approach the climate change threat.