Random Thoughts: the real polluters


Hanl Brown

Staff reporter Aden McClune shares his perspective on various issues in his weekly column, Random Thoughts.

Aden McClune, Staff Reporter

Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity today, especially my generation, and the generations to come. Many environmentally conscious people are doing their best to personally combat climate change, either by forgoing plastic straws, recycling, or reducing fuel usage by commuting by public transportation, or biking. While their hearts are in the right place, unfortunately, the vast majority of the American public has been completely fooled by who is really responsible for the destruction of our planet. It’s not down to “individual responsibility,” as many right-wingers spout (if they even accept the possibility of climate change being real), but the truth being that massive corporations, and the U.S. state, specifically the military, contribute to an overwhelming amount of pollution in our world today.

It’s common sense to see why the U.S. military is such a massive polluter. One reason is simply the amount of money the government pours into the military and it’s favorite arms contractors. The U.S. spends more money on its military than the next eight countries combined, and most recently, the House of Representatives passed a gargantuan $768 billion defense spending bill, further fueling the quite literal fire. But how does this spending equate to pollution? The answer is simple. Fuel. In 2017 alone, the US Air Force bought $4.9 billion of fuel, with the U.S. Navy in second place, only purchasing a meager $2.8 billion worth of fuels. Then, the ships burn their fossil fuels in our oceans, with the occasional multi-billion dollar jet crashing into the sea, with its corroding engine and whatever fuel it had on board disseminating into the ocean. The US military is a bigger polluter than most countries on Earth.

Efforts have also been made to measure exactly how much CO2 the U.S. military emits. The Costs of War project in Brown University measured that since the beginning of the war on terror and the decimation of Iraq in 2001 that the military has released approximately 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of the yearly emissions of 257 milllion automobiles, which is over double the amount of cars on the road. Keep in mind that this report only goes until 2017, so we have had nearly five more years of this if the data remains constant.

But of course, we can’t forget the corporation’s hand in this. According to an article in Harvard Political Review, only a mere 100 fossil fuel companies are responsible for 70% of the entire world’s carbon emissions. The average American household produce only 8.1 metric tons of the 33 billion tons of CO2 globally. Plastic straws also make up only 1% of the plastic in our oceans. Most people slightly older than my generation remember the famous British Petroleum “carbon footprint” advertising campaign, a revolutionary idea, placing the blame on the individual for the destruction of the planet, which companies spend quite literally billions of dollars of their super profits on propaganda and phony campaigns to pull the wool over the eye of the public.

While a genuine individual effort to reduce emissions is valiant, and should be commended, simply not asking for a straw at Starbucks or taking the bus twice a week instead of driving is absolutely inconsequential compared to large corporations and the military. It is clear that the only way to combat this crisis is to hold companies accountable and drastically reduce military spending, both at home and to do everything we can to support disarmament and anti-war efforts abroad and domestically.