From July 2023, the warmest recorded July in the world, we have now entered the “global boiling point”, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rightly pointed out. [1]

The scientists are clear. The two biggest threats to the destruction of the planet (not only of the human species) at the moment are two: the climate crisis and nuclear weapons. Both are driven by human activity and, ultimately, fully interconnected. Nuclear weapons are, in addition to their obvious threat of a return to the age of amoebas, a part of military spending. And that’s where the flirtation with environmental destruction begins…

The famous ‘bootprint’, the environmental footprint of military spending, has been deliberately removed from the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and the European Green Deal. And the reason is obvious. As the last two highly enlightening studies by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and its partners (2022 [2] & 2023 [3]) have shown, military spending is linked to 5.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and according to the Stockholm International Policy Research Institute (SIPRI) annual report [4], in 2022 global military spending reached a record US$2.2 trillion! It is obvious that apart from the growing threat that this intensity of militarization worldwide poses to Peace, Democracy, and Freedom, the natural environment is paying its price.

For several years, but since the 2014 Wales Summit, NATO has adopted a policy of increasing military spending by all member states to at least 2% of GDP. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this has become a more urgent demand by the leadership of not only NATO but also the US to those member states that have not yet complied. In 2021, only six of the 31 member states spent more than 2% of GDP on the military: Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Latvia, Poland, the UK and the US. The target has become an obsession for Trump, who has threatened on several occasions to withdraw from NATO if European nations do not “immediately” meet the 2% target. Greece is in first place (2021 data) with 3.7% of GDP and also in the top ten with the highest emission of metric tons of carbon dioxide (KtCO2e), a key greenhouse gas, while 26.3% of the population is at or already below the poverty and social exclusion line, according to Eurostat (2022)[5].

The recent TNI survey (2023) highlights another tragic aspect of European policy. What would happen if the European member countries of the EU and NATO increased all their military spending by more than 2% as requested? The cost would simply be more than 1 trillion euros (€), which is as much as needs to be invested in the implementation of the European Green Agenda. I wonder what will be prioritized in the next European elections?

Moreover, analysis of NATO members’ arms exports shows that they are currently being sent to 39 of the 40 most climate-vulnerable countries; 17 of which are already in armed conflict, 22 of which have authoritarian regimes, 26 of which have low scores on human development indicators and nine of which are subject to arms embargoes by the UN or the EU. These exports are fuelling conflict and repression at a dangerous time of climate breakdown.

The constant invocation of ‘security’ to justify the militarisation of society and the logic of ‘deterrence’ to avoid the elimination of nuclear weapons, as already mandated by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) [6], are nothing more than political distractions, diverting attention from the greatest security crisis that humanity as a whole has ever faced: climate collapse and/or the extinction of almost all life on the planet.

The lessons are clear. “Khaki” threatens to become the new “green”. Tackling climate change and nuclear annihilation will depend, among other things, on reducing global military spending, eliminating nuclear weapons, de-escalating tensions, and promoting diplomacy, peace, and international cooperation. It will depend on individual and collective action that argues that war and armaments are absurd and that peace and demilitarisation are the sensible thing to do.