Arming Ourselves as the World Burns
Studies by the world's top environmental scientists have confirmed that global warming is very likely caused by human activity and that immediate steps must be taken to avoid further degradation of land and the quality of life. The millions of poor in equatorial areas and the southern hemisphere are particularly vulnerable to temperature increases, flooding, and the potential loss of biodiversity. The scientists involved in these studies emphasized the need for world cooperation in reducing greenhouse emissions.
But alternative energy research around the world has actually decreased in the past 30 years. According to the International Energy Agency, Japan is the only major developed country that has increased research spending, largely on solar technology. China is adding a new coal-burning power plant every week. In the United States funding for alternative energy research is less than half of what it was in the late 1970s. George W. Bush proposed a 22-percent increase in clean- energy research in his 2006 State of the Union Address. Soon after, in the 2007 budget, energy efficiency funds were cut by 16%.
The need is evident - and some technologies are in place - for more efficient and less expensive solar panels and windmills, for carbon dioxide capturing systems, and for plant-based fuels. But private industry is often reluctant to invest in long-term projects with uncertain profit potential.
So what is the world spending its money on? War. Annual world military expenses have risen 34% since 1996. The world spends about $173 per person per year on military expenditures. The UN spends about $3 per person per year for peacekeeping efforts. Military expenses have risen in Russia as its oil revenues have increased, and in China and India as their economies have surged ahead.
The U.S. is responsible for almost half of the world's total military expenditures, which surpassed $1.1 trillion in 2005. The world is spending slightly less than during the Cold War, in inflation-adjusted dollars, but the U.S. has led the recent new surge in military spending. We spend as much as the next 14 highest-spending countries combined. We spend 29 times as much as the six perceived threats to our country: Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Libya, Sudan and Syria.
President Bush approved a record U.S. defense budget for 2007 - more than $439 billion. This was augmented by an additional $170 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 2008 budget will further increase defense spending, by a staggering 11% to $481 billion, while adding another $145 billion for war costs. Domestic programs will be increased by 1%.
At present, for every $1 spent on alternative energy research in the United States, $200 is spent on the military. It has been estimated that over 40% of each American citizen's tax bill goes to war.
The earth is being choked by carbon emissions as the nations of the world continue to spend their money on perceived short-term threats rather than on the future needs of their children. Much of the world looks to the United States as a global leader. We need a national leader who will direct our goals away from confrontation and toward cooperation in the search for life-giving energy.