by Sheila D. Collins,

NWNWimageThere was something surreal about the president announcing that he had just launched a heavy airstrike against militants in Syria – in effect, plunging the United States further into an unending quagmire in the Middle East – on the same day that he went to the UN to claim that he was serious about tackling climate change. It is as if climate change and war were distinct ontological categories when in fact climate change is both a catalyst of conflict and a result of it. Competition over resources – land, water, energy – has always been the ground of conflicts within and between nations despite the fact that they may be clothed in the trappings of ethnic, religious or national rivalries.

In the decade between 2001 and 2011, global military spending increased by an estimated 92 percent, according to Stockholm International Peace Research, although it fell by 1.9 percent in real terms in 2013 to $1,747 billion. At the same time, according to the draft of a new study from the International Peace Bureau (1), almost 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent has been released into the atmosphere. According to the Global Carbon Project, 2014 emissions are set to reach a record high. Could there be some connection between rising military expenditures and rising carbon emissions?

The United States and its allies have spent trillions financing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but while the terrible social, cultural and economic costs are publicly discussed, little is said about the environmental costs. Not only is the Pentagon the single largest industrial consumer of fossil fuels, but fighter jets, destroyers, tanks and other weapons systems emit highly toxic, carbon-intensive emissions, not to mention the greenhouse gases (GHG) that are released from the detonation of bombs. How quickly the world forgot the toxic legacy of Saddam Hussein’s oil fires!

And now we have the spectacle of the US bombing oil refineries in Syria in an attempt to cripple the oil revenue stream to ISIS. There has been one study done on the estimated impact of US military GHG emissions from both direct fuel consumption and upstream emissions related to the manufacture of materials and equipment procured for military activities. Tellingly, this impact has been ignored by our media and politicians, leaving the public in ignorance. There ought, in addition, to be a study of the amount of GHG emitted for each ton of explosives that are detonated, but the military sector – with the exception of the military’s domestic fuel use – is excluded from UN inventories of national greenhouse gas emissions thanks to intensive lobbying by the United States at the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. The exclusion of the military sector from national greenhouse gas inventories makes a mockery of the entire UN climate process…

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One thought on “CLIMATE CHANGE: War and climate change – Time to connect the dots

  1. Our Heavenly Father gave us this stunningly beautiful Earth to look
    after, and what did we, ungrateful, arrogant children do with it, from
    time immemorial we tried to ruin it, pollute the water, the air, the soil,
    We caused untold misery for multi millions of innocent people, we
    treated the animals in our care shamefully , and after all these centuries of bloodshed we still haven’t learned anything. What a record. It amazes me that our Lord still loves humankind. Now we are at it again, thinking that violence can solve problems. My government, Australia, is just as bad as the USA, sabre-rattling
    posturing narrow minded politicians, aiming at making political
    mileage. Worse, we are now close to jailing people who don’t agree
    with the government line, it is close to taking away our freedom of
    speech. I pray and pray (I am a secular Franciscan and as such
    Peace and care for all Creation is all important to us) and I ask God
    how long this war madness, this destruction of our beautiful earthly
    home is going to go on. May I ask: does ISIS have actually an
    identifiable leadership? Isn’t there a chance to find out and try to
    organise a dialogue with them?Maybe we could offer to help build
    hospitals, schools, infrastructure, businesses and other positive things. Ask them what they need. But let the talks be led by Muslim
    negotiators, moderate people who are conversant with the true Qu’ran,
    not the distorted version which is used to justify the unspeakable
    cruelty. Let us leave the condemnation to our Lord and try to show
    ISIS that there are peaceful ways to create a peaceful society.
    I am sure many people will think I am a woolly, unrealistic idealist,
    but we have to make a stand for peace or we will destroy the earth,
    we will destroy ourselves.

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