A November 2022 article in Nature argues that the world’s militaries are largely spared from emissions reporting, and this must change. Failure to do so is to create systems in which the mitigation measures of each country become mere guesswork.
Many powerful economies around the world are increasingly committed to increasing their military might. Every day news comes to light of missiles or other weapons being tested somewhere in the world. One such test was recently conducted by North Korea.
Decarbonize the military
An investigation published in this regard in the journal Nature has shown that on a global scale, armies are emitting greenhouse gases on a large scale, although nobody knows exactly how much they contribute to global emissions, It is estimated that the total emissions by the military could be as much as five percent of the global emissions.
If viewed, emissions from the military can be compared to the shipping and aviation industries, whose emissions equate to around 2-2 per cent of total global emissions. In such a situation, the big question for researchers is whether these emissions from the military should not be part of global carbon reporting.
Analyzes of fossil fuel consumption suggest that the world’s militaries could emit around 450 million to 2.2 billion metric tons of CO2eq per year. This estimate could be low, in fact, as other emissions from energy supplies, raw materials, supply chains, equipment manufacturing, and warfare could more than triple the estimates.
US has 42 metric tons of carbon dioxide per soldier
In this study, giving the example of the US military, it is written that the US military is the largest military in the world in terms of spending and if it were a country, then the per capita emissions they would make would be the highest in the world. Which is equivalent to 42 metric tons of carbon dioxide per soldier.
Similarly, for every 100 nautical miles flown, the US Air Force’s F-35 fighter jet emits as many emissions as an average UK petrol car in a year. Significantly, the F-35 fighter jet emits the equivalent of about 2.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide in a one-nautical-mile flight.
Similarly, each year, the use of jet fuel by the US military produces emissions equivalent to those from some six million US passenger cars. Not only this, the study has shown that the US military alone emits more greenhouse gases than many countries, including Peru, Singapore and Switzerland.
The researchers also cautioned that, in the absence of accurate calculations of emissions from military activity, these figures may be higher than expected, due to carbon emissions from warfare with other energy supplies, raw materials, and supply chains and equipment manufacturing.
The world’s armies are major emitters of greenhouse gases. Estimates range from 1% to 5% of global emissions, comparable to the aviation and shipping industries (2% each).
Absence of malice
Without international agreement on accountability, reporting requirements, leadership, or the will to act, monitoring and reducing military emissions are low priorities. Only a handful of forces, including the UK and US, have published strategy papers on climate action. In the 27 member states of the European Union, only 10 militaries note the need to mitigate greenhouse gases, of which only 7 have established targets.
Why start now?
Russia’s war in Ukraine has again drawn attention to the role of fossil fuels in financing conflict as a target and tool for political coercion. The Ukrainian government is calculating the financial and environmental costs of the conflict’s impact on the climate, the first time for a conflict-affected state, to be raised at COP27.
Why IPCC and govts are silent?
The short answer, according to research, is politics and lack of expertise. Since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 on national security grounds, international agreements have excluded the military from emissions declarations. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate the emissions being made by them due to the lack of published data.
But this national security argument is no longer rational because emissions can be calculated throughout the global supply chain without compromising intellectual property rights or revealing sensitive information.
Without an international agreement on accountability, the need to report, leadership or the will to act, monitor and reduce military emissions has been given little priority. Today, a handful of armies in the world, such as the US, and the UK, have published their strategic documents on climate action. At the same time, the rest is still far from it.
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