Australian news, and some related international items

War is a climate killer

Conflicts worsen military sector’s already enormous CO2 footprint

War is a climate killer — Beyond Nuclear International

The military already has the largest carbon footprint. Going to war makes it far worse

By Angelika Claussen

War brings death and destruction – not least to the environment and climate. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offers a depressing reminder of that fact, and further increases the military sector’s already enormous global CO₂ footprint. In addition, the eastern Ukrainian cities where fighting is taking place are home to fossil fuel infrastructure such as chemical factories, oil refineries, and coal mines, the bombing of which produces a cocktail of toxic substances that has devastating environmental impacts. Efforts to arm the two sides, moreover, are consuming materials and resources that could otherwise go towards tackling the climate crisis.

Based on the global CO₂ budget, humanity has less than eight years to ensure it still hits its 1.5-degree warming target. To do so, we need to urgently implement reforms in all areas, to bring about “systemic change,” as the IPCC report from early April puts it. The military sector barely gets a mention in this almost 3,000-page document, however, with the word “military” coming up just six times. You might thus conclude that the sector is of little relevance to the climate emergency.

The reality is rather different. Using military hardware results in huge quantities of emissions. In the war in Ukraine, 36 Russian attacks on fossil fuel infrastructure were recorded in the first five weeks alone, leading to prolonged fires that released soot particulates, methane and CO₂ into the atmosphere, while oil infrastructure has been ablaze on the Russian side too. The oil fields that were set on fire in 1991 during the second Gulf War contributed two per cent of global emissions for that year.

While greenhouse gas emissions are one of the most significant impacts of war, the quantity emitted depends on the duration of the conflict and on what tanks, trucks, and planes are used. Another is the contamination of ecosystems that sequester CO₂. Staff from Ukraine’s environment inspectorate are currently collecting water and soil samples in the areas around shelled industrial facilities.

Military emissions

The ramifications for the climate can be catastrophic in scale. According to a study by the organisation Oil Change International, the Iraq War was responsible for 141 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalent emissions between its outbreak in 2003 and the report’s publication in 2008. By way of comparison: some 21 EU member states emitted less CO₂ equivalent in 2019, with only six states topping that figure…………………………………………………..

As the war in Ukraine goes on, the biggest challenge of the 21st century – the climate crisis – has slipped down the agenda. We mustn’t forget, though, that efforts to tackle that crisis can only succeed if all countries – including Russia – work together. The immediate demand is for a ceasefire, followed by measures to build trust, such as international disarmament treaties. Moreover, Russia will need outside help if it is to transition to a climate-friendly energy industry. What’s required is a fundamental socio-ecological transformation, with policy-making dictated by the needs of all. That may seem inconceivable at present, but what’s the alternative? Unchecked global warming would be catastrophic for the planet’s entire population.


February 20, 2023 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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