Code Red for Humanity: The Climate Impacts of Military Emissions

US military spending is nearly half the world total, even without war, making it the world’s largest institutional emitter of Green House Gases. Therefore, UUs are urged to demand better monitoring and reporting of these emissions and to join coalitions to reduce, not just warfare, but US military activities, bases, and production, both in the US and abroad.

Proposed by: Dick Burkhart, partnering with Cindy Piester; UUs for a Just Economic Community (lead group); Veterans for Peace Climate Crisis and Militarism Project; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom ‘US Earth Democracy Committee’, also its ‘International Environmental Working Group’.

Many UU groups have supported prior work on this project, including UUs for Social Justice, UU Service Committee, UU Ministry for Earth, UU Young Adults for Climate Justice, UU BIPOC Caucus on Climate Justice, the UU Peace Ministry, and the UUA Create Climate Justice Net.


  • United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres has warned that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report is CODE RED FOR HUMANITY - “an atlas of human suffering”. Action is required NOW or NEVER. Youth, elders, people of color, the poor, and the Global South, are disproportionately impacted.

  • The US Department of Defense (DOD) uses fossil fuels intensely for its vast logistical facilities and supply lines around the world, in addition to modern weapons of war on land, sea, or air. In fact, it is the world’s largest institutional emitter of Green House Gases (GHG). This leaps out, since US military spending is nearly half of world military expenditures, and world military emissions are 5% of the global total.

  • Scientists warn that current US efforts to reduce GHG are far short of what’s urgently needed to meet the 1.5℃ (2.7°F) limit on global temperature rise already at 1.1℃ (2.0°F), to avoid or dampen key climate tipping points , which are advancing much more rapidly than predicted.

  • Continued production of energy intensive weapons systems locks us into decades of fossil fuel reliance, despite efforts to minimize such reliance and advances in alternative energy sources.

  • Yet as a result of US government pressure in 1997, military emissions were granted confidentiality and reporting mechanisms remain optional and obscure resulting in vast underreporting.

  • The supply of affordable oil, already fragile, is expected to continue into serious decline. Thus the US government must develop and implement alternative technologies and strategies to help anchor global security, in addition to reducing GHG.

  • Both our 6th and 7th UU principles call us to action: “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all” and, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

  • This statement will focus on a glaring gap in US emission reduction strategies, while building off a long history of related UU statements: 2006 Statement of Conscience (SOC) on “Global Warming and Climate Change”, 2010 SOC on “Creating Peace”, 2015 AIW “Act for a Livable Climate”, and 2019 AIW on “Building the Movement for a Green New Deal”.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the 2023 UUA General Assembly, its member congregations, and Unitarian Universalist individuals and groups take immediate action to:

  • Organize moments, stories, or activities in worship and religious education to support Climate Justice, including advocacy to reduce militarism and its environmental impact.

  • To bring attention to military bases and weapons production in our regions and attempt to assess their emissions and other impacts, joining coalitions to curtail or alter damaging practices.

  • To support state, national, and global groups which are focused on the institutions and practices of peaceful conflict resolution, enabling the reduction of warfare and military forces, replacing them with social and physical structures that reduce GHG in equitable ways.

  • To ask the US Administration and Congress to require annual tabulation and full and transparent reporting of all GHG emissions related to US military activities by DOD and associated agencies to the UN.

  • To re-establish a UU presence at the UN to include support for Climate Justice linked to reductions in militarism through the UN and its associated agencies.

  • To network with the many UU groups who work on issues of militarism or climate justice, such as UUs for a Just Economic Community, UUs for Social Justice, UU Service Committee, UU Ministry for Earth, UU Young Adults for Climate Justice, UU BIPOC Caucus on Climate Justice, and the UU Peace Ministry.

Reference Materials

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As a individual, who works each day to save our planet in my own little patch of earth, I see this effort as having a greater impact across the US and around the globe. The research here is solid and deserves to be amplified!


We have had 27 Conference of Parties (CoP) meetings, lots of discussion, even some actions, but they leave out one of the bigger sources of emissions, and one of the most destructive: the military. Yes, we need it for defense, but have gone way beyond that, and Nature will not give us a pass on climate change because of “national security”. Looking at the environmental and human damage of war—from mustard gas in WWI to Agent Orange in Vietnam to the devastation in Ukraine—we need to get a handle on just how much military emissions are contributing to climate change so that we can start reducing them. Let’s go into CoP 28 with a plan to do just that.

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But do we need to defend ourselves? Respect and trust are the things that build safety - not having the biggest gun.

I agree— but currently military emissions are huge, and are NOT counted in the international reports, leaving the statistics inaccurate and the problem seeming less dire than it actually is. Here is Cindy Piester’s presentation from last year, when a similar AIW missed by one single vote: “Protect What You Love, Reduce Militarism To Create a Livable Climate.” - YouTube

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and Cindy’s report back from CoP27: UUJEC Webinar: Report Back on COP27. Peace for Climate Justice - YouTube