For forty years scientists have been warning of the warming effects of the continued burning of fossil fuels. Study after study, exposé after exposé, evidence of denial and cases of criminal obfuscation on the part of the petroleum industry demonstrate this beyond any reasonable doubt, and the US government response remains woefully inadequate. The planet is faced with death — the death of the oceans, mass extinctions of thousands of species of flora and fauna, extremely costly “extreme” weather events, and thousands upon thousands of needless deaths all due to governments’ and industry’s refusal to stop burning fossil fuels. Why? There are abundant alternative energy sources. There is no need to continue burning fossil fuels. A talk by Center for Global Justice co-founder Betsy Bowman offers one explanation: the US military and its contractors.
The US military is the largest user of fossil fuels on the planet. Fossil fuels are the only source of energy currently in use powerful enough to move armies, navies, air forces and associated equipment and personnel. After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the inhabitants of the planet hoped for a “peace dividend.” It seemed that there was no longer any reason for societies to starve their populations of food, education, health care and welfare for the purpose of war preparation. And yet the war preparation has only accelerated and become even more expensive eating up over 50% of the US government budget, needlessly adding to the national debt. Why does the US need to maintain a global military force with its 1,000 plus military bases and the capacity to wage war in several different places at the same time?
Bowman argues that our government and the petroleum industry is forcing us to risk planetary destruction to maintain this capability. This is literally insane. What could possibly be driving global elites to this end? In a word, debt. Most of the mountains of debt owed by US citizens, US students, US corporations, the US government and others is denominated in US dollars. The US dollar as the world’s reserve currency protects those debts from being called or from becoming worthless. Foreign governments and/or industries who threaten to conduct business in a different currency have faced the persuasive powers of the US. First the economic hit men go in to change a given government’s or industry’s policies to ones that support the US dollar and the US economy; if they fail, the “jackals” or the “special ops” go in. If they fail, the US military goes in. We need only remember Saddam Hussein’s suggestion of selling Iraq’s oil in Euros in 1990. Today, Iran has suggested that it will sell its oil in Euros. We’ll see what happens.
I think the issue of stopping climate change means stopping the US military and stopping war. Nothing more, but nothing less. The transition from a world in which the US dollar is the only reserve currency is already well under way. The Euro, the Chinese Renimbi and the IMF’s “Special Drawing Rights” are all possible alternative units of value. The transition to a multi-polar, multi-reserve currency world can be negotiated peacefully. Or it can be violent with violent weather, drought, flooding, etc. We can welcome the four horsemen of the apocalypse as elites’ vainly defend the US dollar and their debts or we can demand peaceful negotiation to safeguard the future of the planet and humanity.