September 2019, Anders Theis Bollmann asked readers of the Danish newspaper Information if they could ever envision going to war for the climate. To illustrate his case, he used Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil where the rain forest was burning.
imagine that research showed that the burning of the Amazon was so violent that it would cause parts of South America to become uninhabitable. Or that it would exactly lead to the destruction of the globe and of humanity as such. So how should other states deal with such a threat? […if] Brazil will not change its behavior, regardless of the political, economic and diplomatic sanctions and climate impacts it is facing. Then what? Can we then go to war for the climate? Could it potentially be ethically justifiable in this situation to intervene militarily? Would gross neglect of the climate, regardless of the intentions behind, justify military intervention and potential use of military force?
Anders Theis Bollmann is a philosopher and historian (and a tweeter). He goes on to explain the foundation of “just wars” as thought up and described by Cicero, Augustin, Thomas Aquinas, and international law. His criteria for a just war are:
- Fair cause (e.g. protecting human life)
- Proportionality (negative consequences in the form of lost lives, resources, etc., must be outweighed by the positive consequences in the form of saved human lives, peace, stability, etc.)
- Reasonable assumption of success
- Last resort (if other solutions are realistic, these should be used)
The Prussian military philosopher and Major General Carl von Clausewitz wrote in his magnum opus On War of 1832 that war was always “a serious means to a serious purpose”. The climate and the survival of the globe are by nature a serious purpose. As climate change accelerates, war and climatic issues like this will move out of the philosophical laboratory and penetrate more and more into the real world. We might as well begin to relate to them now.
Criteria one, the fair cause, is already fulfilled, one could argue. Criteria two to four, not so much.
So, what happened in the Amazon since this discussion? While everyone were concentration on not getting Covid-19. Deforestation has increased for 13 months straight and are at the highest levels since 2007. And yes, the government is to blame.
Bolsonaro has rolled back environmental regulations, granted amnesty from fines for illegal deforestation, cut budgets for environmental law enforcement, diminished the role of scientists in the government, blamed environmental NGOs for deforestation and claimed without evidence that Leonardo DiCaprio funded last year’s fires in the Amazon, and opened protected areas and prospective indigenous territories for extractive industries and agribusiness. He’s openly called for more deforestation in the Amazon, while his administration has sacked officials charged with protecting forests and indigenous peoples against illegal land invasions.Mongabay, 9th of May 2020
On the other hand, Bolsonaro is deploying troops to defend the Amazon. Apparently.
What do you think? War on climate criminal states?