The US military consumes as much fossil fuel as 140 countries combined. Disarmament is important for both human and ecological safety, writes the debater Ida Arneson.


We must disarm - for human and ecological security

War and military violence always involve human suffering and ecological damage. Investing in military rearmament is therefore the wrong way to go. Our time requires instead a courageous and radical security policy, and above all a disarmament policy - for people's right to life in peace, for equality and for the climate.

During the month of October, we have seen several military operations around the world that have led to high death rates. In Chile, the military has taken to the streets and public places following protests over the economic inequality that prevails in the country. Protesters have been shot, many to death. Thousands of people have been imprisoned and injured, including a couple of hundred children.

The Chilean Institute for Human Rights has reported that the military has sexually abused women and girls. The military has also carried out harassment and arbitrary abductions of peaceful protesters, passers-by and residents of lower-income residential areas.

Increased violence by the military is also happening right now in Syria. There is a war going on that has gained new intensity through Turkey's military offensive against Rojava. Hundreds of people have died since the Turkish invasion, including civilians. Of the 1,7 million people living in northeastern Syria, 700 are in need, and in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee as a result of the increased violence. At the same time, Turkey is threatening to deport refugees back to Syria under threat and coercion, according to reports from Amnesty. Turkey is being investigated for several violations of international law such as ethnic cleansing, the use of chemical weapons and the execution of civilians. At the same time, Sweden has exported weapons and munitions to Turkey for many years. The fact that arms exports have now been stopped was a much-awaited decision.

It is when societies are militarized that military violence is considered a legitimate means of dealing with conflicts and injustices. Unfortunately, Chile and Syria are just two examples of several places where military violence is increasing.

Military spending is rising

We live in a time of military rearmament. In 2018, military spending increased at a cost of 1822 billion dollars (about 18 billion kronor). SIPRI reported that spending for 2018 was the highest since 1988, which is the year when data was first available from around the world.

Money spent on military funds always comes at the expense of something else - health care, school, preventing violence in close relationships, maternity care, trans care and other initiatives that can increase equality in society. By redistributing resources from arms production and militarism, based on an active disarmament policy, we can have more equal societies.

The starting point must always be to stop and eradicate the root causes of war. Sustainable peace should be defined from a humanitarian disarmament perspective that focuses on human security. Furthermore, ecological security should also be a priority in a definition of sustainable peace and disarmament. The climate crisis is caused by human activity and is due to our greenhouse gas emissions. Something that is less noticed in the media and the political debate is precisely the military's destructive impact on the climate and the environment.

The military is among the biggest emitters

The US military is today the institutional player that consumes the most fossil fuels in the world (hydrocarbons), shows new research from Durham and Lancaster University (2019). The emissions correspond to what 140 countries consume together.

The Swedish military also has large emissions that should be examined more critically. The Swedish Armed Forces today consume as much fossil fuels as a medium-sized Swedish city. But as the International Women's Association for Peace and Freedom (IKFF) in Gothenburg drew attention to earlier this year in publication Militarism and the Climate, the accounting requirements for fuel have been reduced since 2015 for the Armed Forces and we do not know what the actual emissions are today.

There is no data available on how large carbon dioxide emissions are caused by international exercises and weapons tests in Sweden. IKFF Gothenburg draws attention to the fact that prior to future environmental reports, military carbon dioxide emissions must not be reported at all. The Armed Forces cannot stand above human security and the climate. They must be included in a radical societal change in order for us to reach the goal of 1,5 degrees.

Globally, we are affected to varying degrees by increased militarization and rearmament, and furthermore its consequences by human insecurity and ecological destruction. The majority of the countries that are currently at war or conflict are in the global south. It is also these parts of the world that climate change will hit hardest. SIPRI has reported that eight of the ten countries that receive the most expatriates in so-called multilateral peace operations are also exposed to a high risk of climate change.

When countries are exposed to militarized violence and at the same time to climate change, these are the main causes of poverty, unemployment and hunger. We know that women and children are among the most vulnerable groups in war. The same applies to climate disasters.

The construction of sustainable peace must strive for equality and climate justice. This is something that military rearmament cannot contribute. Through dialogue, redistribution of resources and disarmament, however, we can create more peaceful societies.

We must stop the rearmament now, for Chile and for Syria. And for the whole planet.

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

Do you also want to write a debate article for Uttvecklingsmagasinet? Contact us at

Share this: