Do we really want to go to war for the climate?

The British defence establishment is spoiling to become the global climate police.

Ben Pile

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Topics Politics Science & Tech UK World

Senior politicians and officials seem to be carving out a new green role for Britain’s armed forces and so-called ‘intelligence’ agencies. According to these reports, troops and spies could soon be doing Gaia’s work… protecting the Amazon from loggers, and covertly monitoring emissions from China’s factories and power stations.

The first stirrings of Greta’s Army came in the form of the Integrated Review – titled Global Britain in a Competitive Age – back in March. It set out to describe ‘the government’s vision for the UK’s role in the world’. The review makes a number of bland promises, such as ‘a more robust position on security and resilience’, ‘a renewed commitment to the UK as a force for good in the world’, and ‘an increased determination to seek multilateral solutions to challenges like climate change’. The full text of the review mentions ‘climate’ 90 times across 112 pages, and puts the environment at the centre of foreign policy.

Following this, the Ministry of Defence published its own report, Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach. In it, Lieutenant General Richard Nugee sets out his plan to make killing people and blowing things up more easy on Mother Nature. However, despite making lots of statements about intent, and how great the world will be when these intentions are realised, Nugee gives Net Zero explanation as to how this woke, green army will achieve Net Zero carbon emissions. Nugee fails to explain how a nuclear bomb can be used with minimal environmental impact or how an army, navy and air force (and shiny new Space Command) can be built from recycled materials, and powered by wind and sunlight.

Then, this month, the new head of MI6, Richard Moore, described climate change as the ‘foremost international foreign-policy item for this country and for the planet’. The ‘climate emergency’, said Moore, gave MI6 a role in keeping tabs on Chinese manufacturing. ‘It is perhaps our job to make sure that what they are really doing reflects what they have signed up to.’

Failed Conservative Party leader William Hauge also riffed on the scenarios created by the Integrated Review. ‘In the past, the UK has been willing to use all of our firepower, both military and diplomatic, to secure and extract fossil fuels’, he wrote for the Policy Exchange think-tank. ‘But in the future, the UK will need to use all of its diplomatic capacity to ensure that these resources are not used and that natural environments are protected.’ Citing the apocryphal destruction of a ‘football pitch-sized area of the Amazon rainforest every minute’ (which has been widely debunked), Hague claimed that ‘realpolitik will leave the UK with a dilemma: ease up the pressure on climate-change delinquents like Brazil or forget about your trade deal’.

The most striking thing is the message of utter bad faith all this sends out to the world. The government is currently hoping to broker a global agreement at the COP26 later this year. Listening to the green interventionist you would think this was supposed to embody Britain’s status as a ‘global leader’ – as though Britain had conceived and convened the meeting rather than merely being the 26th host country of the tortured annual ritual. Yet what our establishment is essentially saying is that the reward for signing the deal is that Britain’s spies will be watching, and our armed forces will be standing ready to make sure you comply. Stay in your lane, emerging economies! If an agreement is not premised on trust, but will instead be policed by a fading global power, why would any self-respecting, sovereign government sign up to it?

Britain’s sudden embrace of green interventionism has echoes of the past failed foreign-policy doctrine of ‘humanitarian intervention’, which reached its peak in the Blair era. Humanitarian interventionism presupposed Britain’s moral superiority, but it quickly descended into interminable wars without objectives, unleashing forces that were even uglier than what it had promised to protect us from. As has been well documented on spiked, throughout the ‘war on terror’, foreign policy manifestly reflected Western governments’ domestic crises, that were projected on to the world. And as Jean Baudrillard had observed, following the outbreak of the first Gulf War a decade earlier: ‘Promotional, speculative, virtual: this war no longer corresponds to Clausewitz’s formula of politics pursued by other means, it rather amounts to the absence of politics pursued by other means.’

Ecological intervention seems no less performative – promotional, speculative, virtual – than the doctrine that preceded it. The alignment of Britain’s institutions behind a singular green goal – latterly its military – is supposed to demonstrate that they have a purpose. After all, there is hardly any British institution that has not yet degenerated from whatever founding principles it once stood for. From the royal family to the BBC, institutions of all kinds have responded to their own deterioration by embracing environmentalism. They have all externalised their existential crises as problems with the climate, out there in the sky. And so it is now with the military.

So what can we expect from this new era of ecological interventionism? It seems unlikely that green espionage will do anything other than lead to a faster termination of any global climate agreement than, perhaps, Trump suddenly being remade president of the US. It seems equally unlikely that Britain will rush to the aid of Brazil’s forests – Brazil has a land area of 8.5million square kilometres and an active armed force nearly twice the size of the UK’s. Perhaps some smaller, oil-producing or deforesting nation will once again prove a convenient impediment to the green ethics now championed by Britain’s degenerate establishment. Some wag might claim that unless the trees are protected, London could be choked within 45 minutes. There is no shortage of dodgy climate dossiers.

But the grandstanding is all about what happens here, in Britain. The earlier doctrine of humanitarian intervention was intended to promote an image of Britain – as the good guys on the global stage – primarily to a domestic audience. The most fitting symbol of this was the bizarre order given by the New Labour government, in 2003, to park tanks at Heathrow Airport – seemingly to ward off terrorists and comfort the population. All it really did was deter tourists and provoke anxiety. In order to chase the phantoms of its own imagination away, the Blair government rolled back our civil liberties and confiscated our legal and political rights.

And isn’t that environmentalism in a nutshell? The reduction of living standards and the removal of freedoms demanded by the Net Zero agenda establishes an antagonistic relationship between the government and the public. Ecological interventionism may look like ‘foreign’ policy, but the consequence of the government’s chaotic search for meaning, and its alighting on green politics, will be felt most acutely by the domestic population.

Ben Pile blogs at Climate Resistance.

Picture by: Getty.

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