Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The United Nations appears to think nations should stop wasting money on guns and soldiers and instead embrace funding UN climate change, economic decarbonisation and sustainability programmes.
Redirect military budgets to tackle climate change and pandemics
Governments should stop spending billions of dollars on weapons and protect citizens from the real threats they face.
20 AUGUST 2020
Despite threats to human existence from climate change, biodiversity loss and a pandemic that’s devastating economies and paralysing societies, countries still spend recklessly on destructive weapons for wars they will never fight.
As an academic who advises the United Nations on arms control and the military uses of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, I have long argued that nations should prioritize ‘human security for the common good’ over military spending1,2. That means ensuring people can live to their full potential — economically fulfilled, politically enfranchised, in healthy environments and free from the fear of violence and pressing mortal threats such as climate change or pandemics.
This year must represent a turning point for national security budgets. Governments need to accept that their concept of national security sustained by a military–industrial complex is anachronistic and irrelevant. To recover from the costs of the pandemic, estimated at up to $82 trillion over the next 5 years (see go.nature.com/2q5jtyf), they should instead focus their spending on stimulus packages for decarbonization, health, education and the environment. National security budgets should be ploughed into realizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2015 Paris agreement to avert dangerous climate change. Ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty — whose member parties are meeting virtually this week — should be a first step.
Given how badly the UN WHO bungled their Covid-19 response, the UN is the last group I’d listen to for advice on how to make the world a safer place.