Arms conversion for a low carbon economy (Oct 2009)

Presentation by Prof David Webb, Praxis Centre, Leeds Metropolitan University at the SGR conference, 24 October 2009

Abstract: A major aspect of a transition to a low carbon economy is the redirection of our engineering and technology industries. Currently however, defence procurement and the complex web of large and small supporting industries form a large part of the industrial and engineering infrastructure and our economy and the emphasis of our major research and development institutions have come to heavily rely on it. So much so that even at times when international relations have improved to an extent where defence budgets could be radically reduced (such as at the end of the Cold War) we have continued to maintain, and eventually even increase, our levels of military spending. A number of past studies have recommended ways in which we might move our engineering and technology base away from a focus on large scale and/or high tech military projects and towards more socially useful programmes. However, these plans for an arms conversion process have never been taken up seriously by government or industry. We will consider some of the problems associated with this situation and in particular the extent to which our large-scale military industry may monopolise resources and squeeze those available to the smaller and less powerful low carbon sector.

David Webb is Professor of Engineering Modelling, Head of the Centre for Applied Research in Engineering, and Director of the Praxis Centre at Leeds Metropolitan University. He obtained a DPhil in space physics in 1975 from the University of York and, after periods as a post-doctoral researcher at Bell Laboratories and the University of York, joined the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence in London in 1978. He moved to the Computer Unit at Leeds Metropolitan University in 1979 and then into the School of Engineering in the early 1980s. He has published widely on the application of engineering modelling, and on nuclear disarmament and the militarisation of space. He is currently working with colleagues in the Praxis Centre on the study of information and technology in peace, conflict resolution and human rights.

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