The war between Russia and Ukraine has put on the table the level of greenhouse gas emissions from the armies, whose calculation is complicated to evaluate, experts explain at COP27.
“It’s a sector with significant emissions and no one has really addressed that issue,” Axel Michaelowa, head of the international climate policy research group at the University of Zurich, said during a discussion.
The displacement of people caused 1.4 million tons, said the project created two months after the war, while the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure will cause another 48.7 million tons of carbon emissions.
Scientists estimate that these emissions are equivalent to between 1 and 5% of the global total, according to a report published earlier this month in the scientific journal Nature. Comparatively, civil aviation and maritime transport represent approximately 2% each.
The most important armed forces are those of the United States. If they were a country, their per capita emissions would be the highest in the world, the equivalent of 42 tons of CO2, according to experts in Nature.
“Politics and lack of experts”
Every hundred nautical miles travelled by the US Air Force F-35 fighter is equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of a car in the United Kingdom, these experts calculate.
Ukraine calculated emissions, directly and indirectly, related to the Russian invasion on February 24, a first for a country at war.
Refugee movements represent the equivalent of 1.4 million tons of CO2, forest fires, agricultural fields or constructions, 23.8 million, fighting, 8.9 million and the reconstruction of infrastructures destroyed during the seven months of the war it would mean the emission of 48.7 million tons, according to the War GHG Accounting Initiative project.
That initiative to account for greenhouse gases from the war was created two months after the invasion of Ukraine.
The total represents about 83 million tons. By way of comparison, the emissions of the Netherlands during the same period amount to one hundred million tons, indicating that group’s report.
“This shows everything we don’t know about other conflicts, past and present. We’ve never had this kind of detail about Iraq, Syria or other wars,” said Deborah Burton of Tipping Point North-South.
“Why are climate experts’ reports and UN climate meetings silent on military emissions?” the authors of the Nature article wonder.
“To put it plainly, the reasons are politics and lack of expertise,” they explain.
The initiative on Ukraine aims to remedy “that kind of blind spot” in calculating all global emissions, necessary to reduce them, explained Lennard de Klerk, a specialist in carbon emissions linked to the private sector and co-author of the study said.
For the authors of the Nature study, military emissions must “be officially recognized and accurately accounted for in national inventories, and military activities must be decarbonized.”
“Military data is generally confidential, but we can obtain second-hand information: when you know which devices operate in a certain area, you can calculate the intensity of the emissions of some type of vehicle,” explains this expert, who estimates the margin of error in 10-20%.
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