Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

U.K. and U.S. Defense Worker Views on the Environmental Costs of War and Military Conversion

With humanity now facing the possibility of catastrophic and irreversible climate change, the environmental costs of the world’s military industries are increasingly being recognised as a significant part of the problem. This realization now even extends to the defense companies and weapons-exporting governments, themselves, who are currently in the process of discussing how to ‘green’ defense. How to do so is a topic of debate amongst industry officials, environmentalists, policy makers, and others.

Within this debate, the views of defense sector workers themselves have been largely absent, despite their importance for understanding the feasibility of conversion. In response to this participation deficit, this paper focuses on the views of a cross-section of current and former defense workers on the environmental issues around their work and the case for military conversion. It includes workers in the United States (U.S.) and the United Kingdom (UK) as they are the two largest global defense exporters on a rolling 10-year basis. The paper reveals that while some workers said that the defense sector is ‘socially useful’, many were frustrated with their field and would welcome working in the green economy. 


Read the related paper, From a Militarized to a Decarbonized Economy: A Case for Conversion >