Unsealed files show how US would harm the planet to preserve its global power — Analysis
Documents show paranoid US will to give up planet for hegemony
The National Security Archive has released declassified documents that reveal how aggressive and paranoid the US was in its negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol. This historic deal, which required almost all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent the onset global warming, is now available.
Washington wanted to make sure that the Pentagon did not have to meet emissions goals. This desire was understandable – after all, research by Durham and Lancaster University published in 2019 revealed the US military is “one of the largest climate polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more CO2 than most countries.” If it was a nation state, it would be the world’s 47th largest greenhouse gas emitter.
Still, President Joe Biden has declared climate change to be the biggest threat to national security today, although a cynic might suggest the real fear is that environmental destruction could mean that the US defense budget – $768 billion this year alone – might be scaled back slightly. That was certainly the case in the leadup to the Protocol’s signing in December 1997.
In a confidential State Department cable, UN Ambassador Mark Hambley was advised to look for a visa in late 1997. “national security exemption relating to military activities that are directly in support of peacekeeping,”Even though we acknowledge the Federal government, and their “defense installations and training operations”The following were “single biggest user of energy”By the US.
The Pentagon is responsible for 93% US government fuel consumption, according to a Brookings Institution 2007 paper. Many documents from the National Security Archive tranche prove that US officials, including Bill Clinton, were informed by the National Security Archive that this figure is only a fraction. The false image was presented to media and lawmakers as a justification for the Pentagon emissions exemption.
At a briefing in March 1998, White House advisors explained to the Oval Office resident, “The Department of Defense only accounts for 1.4% of total carbon emitteds.” Military operations and training contribute 0.8%. Meanwhile, a State Department paper two months earlier challenging domestic criticisms of the Protocol declared US military emissions “amount to less than one-half of one percent of total US greenhouse gas emissions.”
These figures are completely absurd, given the DOD was using around 30,000 gigawatt hours of electricity annually in 2006, and 46 billion gallons of fuel on average each year at the time of the study – more than double all US civilian airlines from 2004 to 2020.
It is difficult to combine a serious commitment to tackling global warming with the desire to keep a vast network of ships, trucks and planes across the globe. This contradiction-in-terms is summed up neatly in a document outlining US approaches to Russia on establishing a national security sidestep in the Kyoto Protocol.
“Our delegation would appreciate the support of all members of this body in examining how we can protect world peace while preserving our planet through some kind of national security or national emergency provision,”On October 31, 1997, officials made the following statement: “We have an obligation to the world community, our individual nations, and ultimately to the men and women who serve in our military forces to carefully consider how we address military operations in this Protocol.”
Washington could have used other methods to ensure compliance with its predominant national security agenda. An early December 1997 memo authored by Hambley indicates that Japanese delegates to Kyoto had asked him to reconsider the US position – “We looked at this idea briefly and were not impressed,”He kept the records. So he suggested to offer “emissions carrots” To Tokyo “developing countries”You can find out more about it here “buy their acceptance.”
The same memo details negotiating sessions, noting that Pentagon representatives were directly involved in the discussions, and when it came to the exemptions they “have carefully orchestrated this issue which, in any case, looks very problematic.”
The US also used the New Zealand delegate Daryl Dunn as a tactic to present the idea for a follow-up process to Kyoto negotiations. This made any agreement only provisional and open to negotiation in the future.
Another memo by Hambley notes how the US pushed Dunn into making this unpopular suggestion, and Dunn commented that he was reminded of the popular BBC sitcom ‘Yes, Minister’, “in which the Minister, who routinely proposed to undertake risky or merely stupid endeavors, was encouraged to do so by his senior advisors only to return from the battle in bloodied form.” Dunn the memo records, “was concerned about becoming the Minister.”
A combination of bribery, bullying and begging led to a coalition made up of all the willing. Japan and a number of other nations reliant on the US military – including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland – pledged support for national security exemptions to emission targets.
Other Kyoto participants including Russia, China and the UK were not as convinced. Hambley resigned in a December 5th memo. “unusually bitter attacks”At US because it tries to hide any talk of saving planet in national security double speak, accusations were levelled
As luck would have it though, four days later the Kyoto committee accepted exemptions that included joint military efforts between countries, meaning emissions arising from such operations didn’t need to be reported as part of national totals. This was important because it extended to aviation. “bunker fuels”Used by warships and fighter jets as well as military vehicles beyond national borders.
The US was clearly getting its way and then some in Kyoto – but even these significant concessions weren’t enough in certain quarters. The word about the protocol was sent to American shores. Dissent quickly spread through the political ranks.
In a January 1998 letter, a group Republican legislators wrote to President Bill Clinton arguing that “the vast bulk of our military’s domestic training and operations will fall under the Protocol’s limits,” This could be a good reason. “generate pressure from the UN to curtail the training and operations that have made our armed forces second to none.” Evidently, maintaining Washington’s “full spectrum dominance” Trying to save the world it dominates was considered more important than saving its planet.
This attitude is also pervasive in a highly critical White House Office of Environmental Initiatives appraisal of the Protocol’s terms, which notes that it “only”Exempts “multinational and humanitarian” Military efforts are not reported. “That will inevitably put pressure on us to limit unilateral military action, such as in Grenada, Panama or Libya,” the document’s nameless author despairs.
The in-house environment office’s paper also offers extraordinarily candid insight into the paranoid mindset of US planners. For example, financial incentives for countries meeting emissions targets were viewed in sinister, zero-sum terms – “a sham”Which “billions of dollars”Could be transferable to Russia or other countries. “rogue nations” Including Iran, Iraq and Libya. Washington was also forced to accept these targets. “too tough”And “not tough enough”Other people.
This memo is located in the Clinton Presidential Library. It laments. “Won’t this Protocol inevitably come to impair US sovereignty?” After that, the author went all conspiracy-theory and asked, “Won’t we inevitably be turning over decisions about American energy usage, and therefore the American economy, to international bodies dominated by the developing countries, perhaps acting in concert with the EU? Are there any verification processes that can be used to verify other countries are honoring their obligations? How will the Protocol be enforced?”
Ultimately, all of America’s plotting, scheming, schmoozing and angsting was for nought. The Kyoto Protocol came into effect in 2005 and expired 15 years later, without the US ever ratifying it or coming anywhere close to meeting a single one of the modest, prospective targets it would’ve been compelled – completely voluntarily – to attempt to achieve, even if it had become a signatory.
These documents amply illustrate that when it comes to a choice between global ‘security’ and the planet’s continued existence in a remotely habitable form, the Pentagon and the White House will always choose the latter – at the expense of the environment, and human life.