While the outlooks for the Durban Climate Change Conference (Conference of Parties) are not hopeful, some see possibilities in the failing fight against climate change. The defence industry “could be one of the few beneficiaries from ecological catastrophes”, according to journalist David Cronin, by “turning an environmental question into a security issue”, “with global warming expected to increase competition between nations over energy sources. Indeed, arms exports to climate change affected conflict regions will most likely increase and the development of new ‘greener’ weapons offers more new profit prospects. Still, these might not be the most lucrative opportunities climate change has in store for the defence industry. It is the new ‘environmental market’itself which has the prospect of hitherto unseen new profit areas.
Surprisingly clear about this was the jubilant announcement for the second Energy Environmental defence and Security (E2DS) conference last May: “The defence market worldwide is worth a trillion dollars annually. The energy and environmental market is worth at least eight times this amount. […] Far from being excluded from this opportunity, the aerospace, defence and security sector is gearing up to address what looks set to become its most significant adjacent market since the strong emergence of the civil/homeland security business almost a decade ago.”
The conference was sponsored by large arms producing companies, such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Saab, Finmeccanica, EADS, Thales and Northrop Grumman. Needless to say this wasn’t out of environmental or humanitarian considerations. Climate change means business!
Lockheed Martin for example is moving into the alternative energy market, providing energy efficiency programs and developing ocean thermal and solar plants, to “open up adjacent markets for continued business growth.” Aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, part of United Technologies, was awarded a contract to deliver a biomass heat recovery power plant for Nechako Green Energy Ltd. in Vanderhoof, British Columbia. Meanwhile thousands of buses worldwide use the HybriDrive electric propulsion system delivered by BAE Systems.
Perhaps the most promising new market defence companies will find in (satellite) observations, monitoring, and data collecting and analyzing. Large space projects, like the European initiative for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), are set up with European money under the cloak of environmental protection, but have many military applications.
A joint venture of Finmeccanica and Thales, Thales Alenia Space, is deeply involved in GMES. As GMES has provided a whole lot more companies with work in its security-related projects, including Astrium, ATOS Origin, GMV Aerospace and Defence, QinetiQ, the Swedish Defence Research Agency and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).
Also worth mentioning is the ‘Alliance for Earth Observations‘, a partnership of large arms producers, such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, EADS and Raytheon, and research institutes “to ensure the rapid and broad delivery of the most timely, comprehensive, and accurate environmental information for improved decision making” for amongst other things “more effective management of agriculture, forests, energy and water resources.”
Sure, high-tech and other inventions the defence industry can provide, may be useful to monitor some aspects of climate change consequences. However, above all, they distract attention and resources away from the real and only possible answer to climate change, which is political courage and decisiveness to commitment to energy saving and non-pollutive energy sources. With this they present a false perspective of being able to continue the way we live, just needing some slight adjustments to adapt to climate change. Adjustments that, coincidentally, the arms industry is able to make profits from.