Your military taxes worsen climate crisis

November 5, 2019

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared: E-The Environmental Magazine, 04-Nov, 2019

Photo by JO1 Gawlowicz – DN-ST-92-00823

The US’s Global War on Terror has been raging for 18 years and has already racked up costs of $5.9 trillion federal dollars, over 480,000 deaths due to direct war violence, and 21 million war refugees and displaced persons.

War’s toll on the environment is heavy too. As detailed on the Watson Institute at Brown University’s public website Costs of War, the worst environmental impact of the War on Terror is hastening of global warming. Here’s why.

War’s contribution to climate crisis
With over 500 military bases worldwide, counter-terrorism operations in more than 80 countries, and an armed force of more than two million people, the US military relies heavily on burning fossil fuels and is the largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases (GHGs) worldwide: If it were a country, the emissions from fuel usage alone would rank it the 47th largest emitter.

Our military’s post-9/11 operations in the major war zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria have produced more than 400 million metric tons of GHG emissions (measured in CO2 equivalents), as detailed in a special report from the Watson Institute. This is comparable to the annual emissions of 85 million passenger vehicles.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is already planning for inevitable climate change which it views as a “threat multiplier” of existing security threats. Yet, the DOD turns a blind eye to the military’s hefty contribution to the warming planet.

It’s utterly ironic that, by planning for even greater future reliance on fossil fuels, the military is fomenting the very political unrest that draws the United States into conflicts. Take Syria, for example, where climate change worsened the drought which fostered civil war and mass migration.

This blind spot likely stems from a little known detail of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol pushed by the United States: an exemption for military-related GHG emissions in tallying a country’s emissions.

Your tax contribution to wars
The United States spends more on defense that the next nine countries combined. Military spending is the second largest chunk of the federal budget, after healthcare, and accounts for over half of discretionary spending.

Consider 2018. Congress allocated $670.6 billion to fund the DOD and its “overseas contingency operations” fighting the Islamic State, plus $186.5 billion for the Veterans Affairs Administration, totaling $857.1 billion in military and war-related spending. Of the $4.1 trillion in total federal spending, more than one in five dollars (20.9 percent) went to fund the military and veterans.

Courtesy of National Priorities Project at institute for Policy Studies

The nongovernmental organization National Priorities Project tracks annually where your federal tax dollars go. In 2018, you forked out 29.5 cents of every federal tax dollar for military (24 cents) and veteran (5.9 cents) support.

The military’s failure to account for what it spends and on what is shocking. The Pentagon ignored a 1990 Congressional order that all governmental agencies provide yearly audited financial statements until 2014 when 1,200 auditors were hired to comply for the first time. After four years and at a taxpayer cost of $400 million, the auditors threw up their hands in 2018 because the military’s record keeping was impossible to decipher.

Whether you personally believe the Global War on Terror has made the world safer, it’s incumbent upon us taxpayers to understand the real costs to people and the planet of this perpetual state of war funded by our tax dollars. Given we have just over a decade to rein in GHG emissions to avert the most devastating effects of climate change, we should be demanding that our government divert tax dollars and military might away from creating human carnage and environmental destruction and focus instead on stemming and preparing for global warming.

Majorities of Americans now believe that climate change is happening and caused by human activities, that CO2 should be regulated as a pollutant, and that the President and Congress should be addressing the problem.

There are encouraging signs that Congress is finally coming around. Six bills that slash GHG emissions by putting a price on carbon have been introduced in the current session. There’s also widespread agreement among economists, both conservatives and liberals, that pricing carbon (and returning the money to consumers as dividends or tax credits) is the most cost-effective route to a green energy economy. Stay tuned.


Your Military Taxes at Work: Human Carnage

September 15, 2019

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Appeared as:
Time to reconsider perpetual war in Orange County Register, 15-Sept, 2019 (p. H2)
Your tax dollars are being used for perpetual war and human carnage in The Press-Enterprise, 14-Sept, 2019

The United States is well into the 18th year of its Global War on Terror. We’ve heard hope-inspiring names for the military’s operations, like Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom, but where are the pride-evoking outcomes?

Given that this is the longest war in US history and that taxpayer dollars pay for every mess kit, rifle, bomb, and airplane, it’s the public’s duty to take a serious look at the price tag and what we’ve bought. The Watson Institute for International Affairs’ public website Costs of War details the economic and human costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and runoff violence in Pakistan and Syria.

What you paid:
Military spending is the second largest chunk of the federal budget, after healthcare (Medicare & Medicaid) and accounts for over half of discretionary spending.

Consider 2018.  The US allocated $670.6 billion to fund the Department of Defense and its “overseas contingency operations” (currently fighting the Islamic State) plus $186.5 billion for the Veterans Affairs Administration, totaling $857.1 billion in military and war-related spending (excludes Department of Homeland Security’s spending on counter-terrorism). Of the $4.1 trillion in total federal spending in 2018, more than one in five dollars (20.9 percent) went to fund the military & veterans.

In 2018, you personally spent 29.5 cents of every federal tax dollar on military (24 cents) and veteran (5.9 cents) support, according to the National Priorities Project which tracks where tax dollars go.

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Public at Risk: Scandals at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

August 1, 2019

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Versions appeared:
Escondido Grapevine, 08-Aug, 2019
Fullerton Observer, 08-Aug, 2019
Times of San Diego, 12-Aug, 2019
Voice of OC, 01-Oct, 2019

Beachfront in-ground nuclear waste storage silos at San Onofre

Two recent scandals force the question: Is public safety the top priority of either the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or SoCal Edison as they lurch forward in removing spent nuclear waste from cooling pools and loading into dry storage at the now shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS)?

In August 2018, a conscience-driven whistle blower exposed how, because of a system design flaw and human error, a 54-ton canister loaded with radioactive spent fuel nearly crashed down 18 feet during a procedure to load it into an in-ground dry storage silo. He also detailed a general atmosphere of neglect for public safety by both the NRC and Edison.

A subsequent Special Inspection led the NRC to conclude that the incident was caused by “inadequate training, inadequate procedures, poor utilization of the corrective action program, and insufficient oversight.” Torgen Johnson, project director at the Samuel Lawrence Foundation who was instrumental in getting SONGS shut down, finds this deceptive because it places all the blame on personnel while ignoring the “defective engineering, design defects, and sloppy fabrication” of the storage system at SONGS.

NRC imposed an $116,000 civil penalty on Edison and cited the incident as a Severity Level II violation, the second most serious possible violation. NRC spokesperson David McIntyre confirmed that no spent fuel licensee has ever received a Level I violation and that Edison is the first to receive a Level II, making it the single most serious violation in the country.

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The Kids are the Grownups in the Room

March 29, 2019

(when it comes to the climate crisis)

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Versions appeared in:
Natural Life Magazine, 04-Apr, 2019
E-The Environmental Magazine, 04-Apr, 2019
Fullerton Observer, Mid-Apr, 2019 (p.20)
Times of San Diego, 18-Apr, 2019
Escondido Grapevine, 20-Apr, 2019
Irvine Community News & Views, Summer, 2019

The next U.S. presidential election is being transformed because children everywhere, watching in disbelief as grownups fail to address the climate crisis, are launching their own climate movements.

In contrast to the 2016 election – where exactly zero questions about global warming were posed during the general election debates – the lineup of presidential candidates are already being pressured to do something about the climate threat, and it’s our kids doing it.

Of the two largest youth climate movements in the United States, one originated here and one abroad.

The Sunrise Movement is a student-led political organization which sprang up prior to the mid-term elections to advocate for transitioning to renewable energy. Half of the 20 candidates Sunrise supported for refusing to accept fossil fuel money won election.

Now, Sunrise is aggressively promoting the Green New Deal (GND), a congressional resolution outlining an ambitious economic stimulus package to drive down greenhouse gas emissions while creating green jobs and addressing income inequality. It’s nothing short of an economic and social revolution.

That children confronting an elected official for not supporting the GND can deliver a powerful political gut punch was driven home when Senator Diane Feinstein’s condescending response to young activists went viral.

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Finally, a Bill in Congress to Fix Climate Crisis

March 20, 2019

And it needs your support

By Sarah “Steve” Mosko

Versions Appeared:
EThe Environmental Magazine, 19-Mar, 2019
Escondido Grapevine, 27-Mar, 2019
Times of San Diego, 30-Mar, 2019
Voice of OC, 08-Apr, 2019
Irvine Community News & Views, 08-Apr, 2019

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act addresses the climate crisis head on.

A bipartisan bill introduced January in the House of Representatives inspires hope that our children and grandchildren can be saved from what scientists tell us is an ongoing and growing climate disaster.

The evidence is incontrovertible that the climate is in crisis and that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause. A recognized global authority on climate change has warned that there is precious little time left, just 12 years, to drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions enough to avert the worst effects of climate change. By putting a price on carbon emissions, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R.763) shines a spotlight directly on the hidden costs of burning fossil fuels and very swiftly reins in GHG emissions. Here’s how it would work and how it’s a win-win for the public and industry.

A steadily rising price is placed on the carbon content of fossil fuels – coal, oil, and natural gas – when they enter the economy. It starts low ($15/ton of CO2-equivalent emissions) and increases yearly by $10/ton until GHG emissions are reduced by 90 percent. The predictable increases in fossil energy prices stimulate the market-driven innovation needed to transition to renewable energy sources, all without government intervention: no subsidies and no new rules and regulations.

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What Do Beer, Oysters, Salt, Air & Tap Water Have in Common?

November 10, 2018

They’re all ways humans are ingesting microplastics

By Sarah (Steve) Mosko

Shorter versions appeared in:
Los Angeles Daily News, 08-Dec, 2018
Long Beach Press Telegram,
08-Dec, 2018
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin,
08-Dec,, 2018
San Bernardino Sun, 08-Dec, 2018
Whittier Daily News,
08-Dec, 2018
Riverside Press-Enterprise, 08-Dec, 2018
Redlands Daily Facts, 08-Dec, 2018
Pasadena Star-News, 08-Dec, 2018
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 08-Dec, 2018
OC Register, 09-Dec, 2018 (p. H3)
Escondido Grapevine, 13-Dec, 2018
San Diego Free Press, 14-Dec, 2018
Natural Life Magazine, 16-Dec, 2018
Times of San Diego, 17-Dec, 2018
E-Magazine, 03-Jan, 2019

It was just two decades ago that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast circulating accumulation of plastic debris in the North Pacific, was discovered by accident. Since then, plastic pollution has been found to be ubiquitous in natural environments worldwide, including the open waters and sediments of oceans, lakes and rivers and even in soil and air.

It’s no wonder then that the tissues of wildlife as diverse as whales, seabirds, fish and zooplankton, all which ingest plastic debris, are polluted by plastics. Given that, it would be naïve to think that humans, who share the same global environment and eat at the top of the food chain, are somehow spared contamination.

Though no one has yet measured how much plastic pollution humans might be carrying around, there is plenty of evidence we’re taking the stuff in, by eating, drinking and even just breathing. This is frightening to contemplate because plastics carry potential health risks associated with chemicals both manufactured into them and later picked up from the environment.

Plastics for Dinner?

Discovery of seabird and whale carcasses chock full of visible plastic waste sparked concern that sea creatures consumed by humans might be imbibing plastics too. The broad picture emerging from a plethora of research is that plastic debris is being taken up by sea life throughout the ocean food web, including tiny fish that feed on plankton, fish that feed on smaller fish, shellfish, turtles and dolphins.

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No More Kicking Climate Change Down the Road

October 16, 2018

By Sarah (Steve) Mosko

Appeared:
E-The Environmental Magazine, 17-Oct, 2018
San Diego Free Press, 24-Oct, 2018
Natural Life Magazine, 24-Oct, 2018
The Sunbury News, 26-Oct, 2018
Fullerton Observer, Early Nov, 2018 (p.17)
Times of San Diego, 04-Nov, 2018
The Escondido Grapevine, 13-Nov, 2018
Voice of OC, 16-Nov, 2018
Irvine Community News & Views, 14-Dec, 2018

Photo: travelinglight

Mankind has only 12 years left to make unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if we want to stave off unimaginably catastrophic effects of runaway global warming. This is the warning detailed in October’s report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the recognized global climate authority which represents the investigations of hundreds of climate scientists and 195 participating nations.

A 2.0 degree Celsius average global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels was previously viewed by the IPCC as the tipping point beyond which global warming would spiral out of control with incomprehensibly negative consequences for humanity and the planet. We are fully half way to this cut-off, but more to the point is the revised projection by the IPCC that the worst effects will emerge with a smaller temperature rise of just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Preventing the 1.5 degree rise necessitates, by 2030, a 45 percent reduction in GHG emissions compared to 2010 levels, with “net zero emissions by 2050” which means all emissions need be balanced by removal of an equivalent amount from the air.

If GHG emissions continue instead at the current rate, the 1.5 degree mark will be reached in 2040, producing environmental havoc that effectively ensures the end of civilization as we know it. Picture a future defined by poverty, food shortages, coastal flooding, mass migrations, ferocious storms, bigger and more intense wildfires, plus unrelenting heat that makes parts of the world unlivable.

Hearing this, Americans should be screaming from the rooftops, demanding to know how our government will prevent this very real existential threat to our own and our children’s future.

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