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Climate Crossfire: From Gaza to Ukraine, How War & Military Spending Accelerate Climate Chaos

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Image Credit: NATO/Flickr

Broadcasting from COP28 in Dubai as Israel continues its bombardment of Gaza, Democracy Now! investigates how militarism and war fuel the climate crisis. “The jets, the tanks, the bombs, the missiles, all of these things that we are seeing raining down on people, they’re all fossil fuel-dependent,” says Deborah Burton, co-author of a new report that shows increased spending by NATO nations will divert millions of dollars from climate finance while increasing greenhouse gas emissions. “We are absolutely going in the wrong direction.” Shirine Jurdi, a women, peace and security expert with close colleagues in Gaza, lays out how women are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and the global war machine. “If we want to talk about real impacts and outputs out of this COP, we really need to look at militarization.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from COP28, the U.N. climate summit in Dubai.

As Israel continues its bombardment of Gaza, we turn now to look at how militarism and war fuels the climate crisis. A new report warns that increased spending by NATO nations will divert millions of dollars from climate finance while increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

We’re joined now by two guests. Shirine al-Jurdi is a women, peace and security expert from Lebanon, member of the MENA — Middle East North Africa — task force with the Women and Gender Constituency at COP28. She’s also a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Lebanon and the MENA and regional liaison officer at the Middle East and North Africa Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. And Deborah Burton is here. She’s co-founder of Tipping Point North South. She leads their Transform Defense project, focused on military emissions and spending, climate change and climate finance, co-author of the report, “Climate Crossfire: How NATO’s 2% military spending targets contribute to climate breakdown,” published with the Transnational Institute.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Deborah [Burton], let’s begin with you.


AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what you have found in this report. We’re going to go specifically to the conflict just hours from us right now, in Gaza, and what that means. But broadly, talk about the link between NATO, war and climate change.

DEBORAH BURTON: I mean, I think the first thing I want to say, sitting here alongside Shirine, is, I don’t think we can be seeing a more extreme example of a war machine in operation than what it is we’re seeing and hearing from Gaza. I just want to say that Israel is the 15th-largest military spender in the world, and it’s spending $24 billion a year on its military. And you’re seeing this let rip on a population that really cannot defend themselves.

So, what we’ve been working on with Transnational Institute and Stop Wapenhandel in the Netherlands is this report, “Climate Crossfire.” “Climate Crossfire” is actually a companion piece to a report we wrote last year before COP, and that was looking generally at how military spending accelerates climate breakdown. So that was the general picture. This year we’re looking — we’re focusing on NATO.

NATO is a 31-member-strong military alliance. And just to give people a kind of general little bit of context to help orientate themselves, global military spending now is $2.2 trillion per annum. It’s rising. It’s risen something like 20% in the past 10 years. NATO accounts for half of that, so $1.1 trillion per annum accrues to NATO. And this is all before Ukraine and Gaza, so this is all going to start taking a sharp incline up.

Generally, in terms of emissions, the global military are estimated on patchy data, because they don’t fully report, but something in the order of 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And again, to put that in context, that is more than the 52 countries of the African continent, that come in at — that’s somewhere in the order of 3.5 to 4%. That’s the total greenhouse gas emission burden — it’s hardly a burden — for 52 countries. The global military come in at 5.5%.

So, to look to NATO, to come to NATO, which, as I said, is a 31-member military alliance, accounts for half of military spending, in terms of emissions, it currently would rank — if it were a country, NATO would come in at 40, the equivalent of the Netherlands, for example. And with its 2% of GDP request, what NATO are asking their 31 members to do is to increase on what they’re spending now and get their military spending, annual military spending, up to 2% or more of GDP. OK?

So, what we worked on, we asked the question: Well, what would that mean for greenhouse gas emissions? And what would it mean for military spending? And we worked over this eight-year period of 2021 to 2028. And in the case of military spending, it would be, over that eight-year period, accruing another $2.57 trillion over that eight-year period. And that $2.57 trillion would get you, as an example, 118 years — 118 years — of that paltry $100 billion climate finance figure that was agreed at in the Paris meeting in 2015.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you mean by “climate finance”?

DEBORAH BURTON: So, this is the $100 billion that was agreed in 2015 at Paris —

AMY GOODMAN: That Hillary Clinton announced in Paris.

DEBORAH BURTON: — as support, climate support, climate finance support, for the world’s most vulnerable countries. And we, the rich countries, are legally bound to deliver that. So what we’re trying to do with the scale of military spending, which is in the trillions — it’s in the trillions — is to put that alongside these, on the one hand, pledges and, on the other hand, gaps. There are so many climate finance gaps.

The 2% GDP target for NATO members in terms of emissions — so there is an emissions burden to this — currently NATO is sitting — again, you know, it’s something in the order of the Netherlands’ emissions, in terms of emissions. That 2% increase over that eight-year period, again, we calculate, would bring it closer to Russia, Russia’s emissions burden. Russia is a major, you know, oil-producing country. It’s something like 2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, actually, President Putin is expected to be here in Dubai tomorrow.

DEBORAH BURTON: What can we say? I mean, you know, it’s clear here at COP, and certainly in terms of this issue that we’re working on here, the military emissions story. And it’s primarily because of Ukraine, and now with Gaza. Suddenly, we are able to get some oxygen of publicity — you know, we’re here now talking about this — because of this collision between conflict, wars, conflict-related emissions — which, I should say, is not in that 5.5% estimate. This estimate of 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions accruing to the military does not include conflict, doesn’t include conflict.

So, with Ukraine and now Gaza, we are able to illustrate, to show, to, as I say, bring oxygen and publicity to the fact that there is an absolute correlation between military spending — so, the more you spend on your big-ticket, gas-guzzling, fossil fuel — totally fossil fuel-reliant hardware — the jets, the tanks, the bombs, the missiles — all of these things that we are seeing raining down on people, they are all fossil fuel dependent. There is an absolute correlation between military spending and the emissions that come from that hardware. And we are going in the wrong direction. We are absolutely going in the wrong direction. And the NATO 2% target, for example, is completely counter to all climate targets.

AMY GOODMAN: Say what you mean by 2% target.


AMY GOODMAN: You must spend on the military.

DEBORAH BURTON: They are asking their 31 members to spend 2% —

AMY GOODMAN: I remember Trump, President Trump, kept saying —


AMY GOODMAN: — “You are not paying your fair share.”

DEBORAH BURTON: In fact, and more, we need you to spend. We need you to spend more. And it doesn’t really stop at NATO. NATO have allies in other parts of the world who are looking at 2% or more. So, this 2% of GDP, it’s important — it doesn’t sound like very much, but it’s very significant, because you’re talking about orders of billions over a period of time.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Shirine al-Jurdi. We just came in on Saturday night. Sunday there was a major protest against what’s happening in Gaza, calling for a ceasefire. There were at least a hundred people protesting, holding a sign that said “ceasefire.” You were one of the people there. The names of the dead were being intoned throughout the protest. You just heard our last segment talking about what’s happening in Gaza. You’re with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Can you talk about the connection between war, weapons and militarism, directly what’s happening in Gaza?

SHIRINE JURDI: Yeah. We can see, like, the gloomy picture just, like, by what we saw now and by Deborah, the numbers that she gave. This is a gloomy picture that we have. And definitely what we see and what we know is that women are disproportionately impacted by conflict. So, what about if you have lack of infrastructures, especially when we talk about conflict? It means we are talking about lack of infrastructures, lack of infrastructures of peace, of institutions, and also lack of the rule of law. And unfortunately, this is all unfolding in Gaza, in the Middle East at large, in other conflict areas, as well, but maybe now we are talking about a Palestine per se and what’s happening in Gaza.

What’s happening is tremendous. I mean, I could not even believe that we are living this at this moment in our history. This is too hard even to believe that we are witnessing that. We are witnessing that within our own eyes. And I think it’s just obvious, like the impact of militarization on women. And we’ve seen it in different spaces. We’ve seen it, like as now was mentioned, like, in hospitals. We’ve seen it with mothers. We’ve seen it, like, at the grassroots. And —

AMY GOODMAN: How many women were pregnant in Gaza?

SHIRINE JURDI: Almost 50,000 women were pregnant at that time. And if we have seen, with the lack of electricity, when electricity was put down, we saw even these infants struggling, struggling to breathe, to continue living. And unfortunately, lots of these newly born kids were also killed. And this is not only a genocide. I mean, this goes beyond humanity.

So, the nexus between climate, militarization, gender is highly now needed, especially now that we are in the COP, and especially that the issue of militarization is not put on the agenda. And at times, like, we see that the circle — if we really want to talk about emissions, if we really want to talk about fossil fuel phaseout, if we really want to talk about GST, if we really want to talk about real impacts and outputs out of this COP, we really need to look at militarization. We need to look at it from first the resources, the production, the export, the import, and how it is being used, like now in Gaza and also in Lebanon the white phosphorus bombs. I don’t know if you noticed or if you saw in TikTok, it went viral how they’re telling people how to remove the white phosphorus bombs. We are used to —

AMY GOODMAN: You mean the white phosphorus from their skin.

SHIRINE JURDI: Yeah, from their skin, because it will keep on going into your skin. And what about the implications that it has on the soil? What about the implications that it has on the water, on the earth, that we are having and breathing, as well?

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read you something from Al Jazeera: “From polluted water supplies to toxic smoke-filled air from burning buildings and bodies, every aspect of life in Gaza is now filled with some form of pollution.” There’s evidence of Israel using white phosphorus weapons both in Gaza and South Lebanon. This has disastrous effects on both the environment and people’s health. You’re focusing on Palestine. You yourself are from Lebanon.

SHIRINE JURDI: Yeah, Amy. In Palestine, we saw it with our own eyes. And we saw because of the many journalists, that they’re risking their lives, and many who lost their lives, as well, risking to take photos and to document the atrocities that are being done. In Lebanon, as well, we have seen also how phosphorus weapons were used. And we saw also how this huge area, green areas of olive trees were burned and put down, whether in Gaza or in Lebanon. I mean, it’s a huge catastrophe, whether at the forest level, whether at the human level. And it’s going beyond, beyond issues of actual present and direct impact, to the trauma, the trauma that everyone is living.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is from Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor: “Due to technological developments affecting the potency of bombs, the explosives dropped on Gaza may be twice as powerful as a nuclear bomb.”

SHIRINE JURDI: Exactly. That was even like two weeks ago, before the ceasefire. So, I could see — like, now I was even scared to see, because, I mean, it’s too — you cannot even watch these bombs that are being — yesterday I was watching — I follow several journalists, and I was watching her, and she was saying, “Now this is a massacre. If these, like now, bombs are being used while we are told to go to the south to a safe space, but there’s no safe space, so this is meant to terminate us.”


DEBORAH BURTON: You absolutely can’t talk about this without the arms industry.


DEBORAH BURTON: Because, I mean, they’re all — when we talk about even emissions, the arms industry — the supply chain for militaries are more polluting than the militaries themselves. It may come as a bit of a surprise that they are like this. The arms industry, just in the way that you can track oil through — the military’s use of oil through war. Of course, when they’re, you know, at war, oil usage goes up. So, you can track profits, war profits to the arms industry. There is no story without fully addressing the culpability of the arms trade.

And, you know, I brought something I want to read, because it will apply to Gaza. It absolutely will apply to Gaza. Their stock shares, their shares are going up, as soon as any conflicts hit. They’re making profits as it is. It’s a very nice life, thank you very much, as it is. When conflict kicks in, it’s off the scale. So, this is the CEO of Raytheon, OK? And I want to read this.


DEBORAH BURTON: “Everything that’s being shipped into Ukraine today, of course, is coming out of stockpiles, either at the DOD” — the Department of Defense — “or from our NATO allies, and that’s all great news. Eventually we’ll have to replenish it and we will see a benefit to the business over the coming years.” That’s a guy called Greg Hayes, CEO of Raytheon.

Israel, Israel’s suppliers, everybody that’s involved in the food chain, the kind of war machine food chain that is enabling Israel to do what it is doing on Gaza, will be making money. They will be going home very happy with their bottom lines and their profits in their back pockets.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. And we will link to your report. Deborah Burton is the co-founder of Tipping Point North South. She leads their Transform Defense project, focused on military emissions and spending, making the link between climate change and militarism. And Shirine al-Jurdi, women, peace and security expert from Lebanon. Thanks so much, both, for being with us.

SHIRINE JURDI: Thank you, Amy, for having us.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, we’re going to talk about the record number of fossil fuel lobbyists here at the U.N. climate summit in Dubai. Stay with us.

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