Surfside Seashore, South Carolina is on the frontlines of local weather change. Rising sea ranges have left daunting prospects for the town’s closely tourism-dependent financial system. In a inhabitants of 4,000, roughly half of the workforce is centered on the enterprise of tourism: retail, meals service, and leisure. 5 years in the past, Hurricane Matthew destroyed the primary tourism attraction, the Surfside Seashore Pier. However in a area that has an 80 p.c likelihood of being hit by a tropical storm annually, little federal help has appeared to fund extra climate-resistant infrastructure.
As a substitute, the small coastal city’s sliver of federal help in opposition to local weather change will now be coming within the type of a navy armored automobile.
Final week, the Surfside Seashore city council unanimously handed a movement to take part within the U.S. Division of Protection’s “1033 Program.” This system, created in 1997, permits the U.S. navy to switch weapons, gear, and autos as soon as utilized in international wars to the possession of native legislation enforcement businesses. Over this system’s existence, greater than 8,000 native legislation enforcement businesses have requested $7 billion value of extra navy gear, every thing from assault rifles to respirators.
In keeping with reporting by WMBF Information in South Carolina, police chief Kenneth Hofmann will use this system to obtain a number of items of navy gear, together with mills and armored tactical autos, comparable to “humvees” and “5-ton vehicles” to “assist the division when hurricanes come by.” Though the excess program was not initially designed to mitigate the logistical issues created by extreme climate occasions, municipalities throughout the nation have more and more named climate occasions as a justification for his or her inclusion in this system.
Over the previous few years, tons of of native businesses have cited “catastrophic storms, blizzards, and particularly floods to justify why they must obtain an armored automobile,” in keeping with a latest HuffPost investigation. However most departments, in keeping with the investigation, hardly ever use the gear for extreme climate occasions.
In Johnson County, Iowa, for instance, sheriffs have by no means used their military-grade “mine-resistant” armored automobile to help residents throughout blizzards because it was initially procured for in 2014. As a substitute, it has been used to do issues like disrupting Black Lives Matter protests and serving arrest warrants. Throughout the nation, 1033 gear has even been used to dispel protests in opposition to international warming inflicting pipeline initiatives, together with throughout protests in opposition to the Dakota Entry Pipeline.
Regardless of ample examples of misuse, final 12 months Congress tweaked the 1033 Program to present precedence entry for armored autos to police and sheriffs’ departments that claimed to wish them for disaster-related emergencies. Following the racial uprisings of 2020, a nationwide marketing campaign spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed how native municipalities had been abusing the gear and turning communities into “battle zones.” This fall, nonetheless, Congress whiffed on the likelihood to dramatically restrict this system’s energy.
It’s unlikely that an armored automobile will likely be used to suppress racial protests in Surfside Seashore, which is 95 p.c white. However the continued use of the navy program below the guise of combating local weather change leaves many justice-oriented organizations anxious. Advocates perceive the necessity to put together cities for local weather disasters, however many contend areas will likely be higher geared up and extra safely ready if these features had been transferred from police departments to devoted catastrophe response networks that don’t require individuals geared up with weapons or tanks, as outlined in numerous federal proposals comparable to President Joe Biden’s Civilian Local weather Corps or features of the Inexperienced New Deal.
If something, the 1033 program highlights the nation’s weak protections in opposition to local weather change, Lindsay Koshgarian, program director of the Nationwide Priorities Challenge, informed Grist. “It reveals that our funding priorities are all backward and it’s utterly hobbling our potential to do something about local weather change,” she mentioned. “When there are horrible hurricanes, after we want search and rescue operations, or when there are wildfires, now we have navy being deployed as a result of we received’t fund different applications to take care of these items.”
Amongst different issues, Koshgarian and different advocates level out the hypocrisy of this system, particularly utilizing gear that helped gas local weather change to fight its impacts. The U.S. navy is without doubt one of the largest polluters in historical past, emitting extra greenhouse gasses than 140 nations mixed, in keeping with a 2019 examine by researchers at Lancaster College in England. To not point out, yearly the U.S. spends greater than $80 billion to place its navy in oil-heavy areas to “shield” the worldwide oil provide.
“We’re consistently informed we will’t afford a Inexperienced New Deal, we will’t afford the modest half-measures for local weather change which might be within the Construct Again Higher Act,” she mentioned. “However the Pentagon simply received a $770 billion price range to gas its petroleum guzzling.”
Whereas it looks like the Construct Again Higher Act – probably the most complete local weather change spending plan in U.S. historical past – shouldn’t be completely useless but, different components of the nation’s local weather insurance policies want extra consideration, too. The 1033 program is barely anticipated to develop after the withdrawal of the American troops from Afghanistan.