This project is designed to engage climate/environmental groups and others to support ending all military air shows on the basis of the gratuitous pollution emitted by these entertainment-oriented performances. This furthers discussion of the military’s contribution to the climate crisis and spotlights the fact the US military is the world’s single largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels and the world’s single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gases.
Hosting a presentation of VFP’s Climate Crisis & Militarism’s educational slideshow provides many under-appreciated facts about the military’s role in worsening the climate crisis and can help convince your audience to call for the end to military air shows. To request a presentation, please click here.
Please click on the links below to access resources, articles and videos to support your actions.
- PBS Interview: Protestors call for cancellation of the Miramar Air Show
- “Disneyland of War” short documentary
- Clip from “War Machine”
Two short videos:
- The US military is the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels
- The true cost of the military-industrial complex
- Inconvenient Truths About Military Air Shows
- Opinion: Airshow protest highlights Pentagon's carbon footprint
- The Problem With the Blue Angels
Sample OpEd - Opinion: The U.S. military’s impact on the climate crisis is STILL rarely mentioned. Here’s what you should know.
By Gary Butterfield
Butterfield is past president of San Diego Veterans For Peace. He lives in Scripps Ranch.
Earth Day is rapidly approaching. And, just like last year, people are again focusing efforts to help save our planet. We hear of many ways to change our habits, to include using less plastic and fewer paper towels, changing to better light bulbs, switching to electric cars, and even lessening our reliance on animal proteins and going vegan. Many of our local governments are devising “Climate Plans” so local citizens can have a roadmap of what our cities are doing on a macro level.
However, NONE of these plans address the world’s single largest institutional user of fossils fuels and the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG). That gross emitter is the US military. And San Diego has the country’s highest number of active duty troops of any county. How is the military’s gross contribution TO the climate crisis being factored into the local climate plans?
Did you know that the Pentagon is the world’s single largest institutional user of fossil fuels and the single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG)? In fact, if the Department of Defense were a country, it would rank 47th (out of 170) on the world’s ranking of carbon dioxide-polluting countries, between Peru and Portugal. The U.S. Air Force holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest user of jet fuel. For example, each Thunderbird (or Blue Angels) team that flies overhead (for our entertainment) uses approximately 18,200 gallons of jet fuel per hour. So, if the “show” lasts 40 minutes, that’s about 82,500 pounds of jet fuel, which releases 118 metric tons of carbon dioxide plus the smaller particulates that are emblematic of the combustion of fossil fuel. So think about these numbers when we are “entertained” by that patriotic flyover at the next sporting event. Consider that when the Navy decides to share their “love of aviation” with us this September.
The Pentagon also maintains over 800 bases in foreign countries, creating extensive and wasteful supply lines. Each of the Army’s 60,000 Humvees gets between 4 to 8 miles per gallon of diesel fuel; the M1 Abrams tank gets about 0.6 mpg.
Add in toxic spills, Agent Orange, burn pits, depleted uranium and unexploded ordnance and you have the profile of a very large, very irresponsible public organization. One that, indeed, is contributing significantly to climate degradation while creating climate refugees in its wake. And more and more attention is now being paid to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as forever chemicals, which don’t break down in the environment and are tied to cancer and other health ailments. PFAS are used widely in industrial and household products, but, very specifically, are used extensively in military firefighting foam.
Did you ever see the “Wall of Fire” at the Miramar Air Show? That very same firefighting foam was employed to help put out the fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard right here in the San Diego harbor.
Who holds the U.S. military accountable for these damaging actions? And, then, how is that military held accountable for the roughly $900 billion it spends each year? Sadly, U.S. politicians and negotiators have made sure that military emissions are not counted toward a country’s total emission levels (see the Kyoto Agreement).
Governmental policies have kept the U.S. from supporting landmine prohibitions, nuclear and climate-change treaties and even bilateral nuclear reduction treaties with Russia. The Pentagon has failed to achieve a clean audit in the only three financial audits that have ever been undertaken to examine whether it is spending responsibly. But the true fault lies with both major political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, who routinely ratify increases to the Department of Defense’s budgets while neglecting to demand accountability for both monies spent and actions taken.
How would you spend that $900 billion?
We at Veterans For Peace are asking that our local politicians and civil servants lead the cause in demanding transparency to ALL military emissions and to devise realistic climate plans with these contributions in mind. After all, how can we common citizens respond to pleas for using less while the military continues to pollute more, with very little accountability?
Case Study: Miramar Air Show in San Diego and San Diego Veterans For Peace, Chapter 91
Chapter 91 in San Diego has been protesting the annual Miramar Air Show since 2016. We began by focusing upon the military’s glorification of war and its overt appeal to youths as young as 8 years old as it allowed kids to aim automatic weapons at each other and climb atop tanks, romp inside helicopters and “fly” Top Gun jets. We sought community support, and, although we did receive some local media attention, we found ourselves with few allies. That changed in 2021 when we refined our focus to that of the Blue Angels as gross polluters. We had three local climate/social justice organizations endorse us and attend our actions. We saw that we were connecting with an issue beyond Peace groups. We amplified our efforts to gain supporters earlier in 2022 and ended up with 18 local organizations endorsing our actions!
We did this by educating the San Diego public. This, in spite of San Diego’s reputation as a military town. You too can do this if your community is affected by one of the nearly 65 scheduled “big banner”* military air shows in 2023. AND we will gladly help you! We will help you develop allies and amplify your voices. Focusing on pollution makes the argument more easily understood to climate activists. Please contact Dave Patterson at email@example.com for additional information.
*Here are links to 2023 “big banner” Military Air Shows: