The money we’ve spent on the five-year Iraq War could have shifted the world to renewables
Today is the five-year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it that other people haven’t said better. I would just stress one point:
People frequently fret that we can’t afford the measures necessary to fight climate change. That is false. We are an enormously rich country. We’re in the midst of spending trillions on a war that is providing no benefits whatsoever, just to stoke the imperialist fantasies of our ruling class. We can afford whatever we want. It’s whether we really want it that’s the question.
Here’s some reading you might consider:
Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that the ultimate cost of the war will top $3 trillion.
Sen. Harry Reid’s office has released its own attempt at tallying the cost of the war, not only in money but in lives, military readiness, security, and the stability of the Middle East.
Barack Obama gave a major speech on foreign policy today, claiming that “there is a security gap in this country — a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security, and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions.”
Oil Change International has issued a new report called A Climate of War (PDF), which attempts to quantify the greenhouse gases associated with the war and the opportunity costs of fighting the war rather than climate change. Here are some of the top-line conclusions:
1. Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends.
2. The war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003. To put this in perspective, CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US this year.
3. Emissions from the Iraq War to date are nearly two and a half times greater than what would be avoided between 2009 and 2016 were California to implement the auto emission regulations it has proposed, but that the Bush Administration has struck down. Finally, if the war was ranked as a country in terms of annual emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do. Falling between New Zealand and Cuba, the war each year emits more than 60% of all countries on the planet.
4. Just the $600 billion that Congress has allocated for military operations in Iraq to date could have built over 9000 wind farms (at 50 MW capacity each), with the overall capacity to meet a quarter of the country’s current electricity demand. If 25% of our power came from wind, rather than coal, it would reduce US GHG emissions by over 1 billion metric tons of CO2 per year — equivalent to approximately 1/6 of the country’s total CO2 emissions in 2006.
5. In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the whole world spent on investment in renewable energy.
6. US presidential candidate Barack Obama has committed to spending “$150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of green energy technology and infrastructure.” The US spends nearly that much on the war in Iraq in just 10 months.
What a horrific, heartbreaking waste.