October 13, 2009

Weapons or Wind?

Arms export jobs make up only 0.2% of the UK workforce and arms exports comprise less than 1.5% of total exports. Arms export jobs are subsidised by at least £9,000 per job per year.

The hasty sale of unwanted Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia was ‘sold’ to the public on the basis of supporting UK jobs. We were told it could mean as many as 50,000 jobs, but it is unlikely to be more than a tiny fraction of that as an assembly line is expected to be set up in Saudi Arabia for the production of two-thirds of the aircraft.

Similarly, 66 Hawk jets were sold to India, but 42 of these are being manufactured under licence in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

The pressing needs of society are not to make more weapons. They are to create sustainable industries. With a subsidy of £9000 per job, sustainable technologies could hit the ground running. More jobs would be created in the sustainable industries than would be lost from the arms industry. The response to the 'credit crunch' has shown that politically it is entirely possible for the Government to intervene in individual sectors of the economy, and with colossal sums of taxpayer money. A shift in resources from arms to areas that would reduce carbon emissions might be politically huge, but would be financially small. A company like Ecotricity could massively rollout the installation of windmills. The UK has enough wind power to supply 5 times the energy it uses – so what is the holdup?

Climate change is widely acknowledged to be the most severe threat to national and international security, essentially it is system failure. But because a military mindset dominates Government thinking, the financial resources allocated to addressing climate change are tiny relative to those wasted on arms production.

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