How war affects climate change and the environment – Advice Eating

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused catastrophic loss of life, widespread displacement and a growing global food crisis.

The conflict has also significantly damaged Ukraine’s natural environment, highlighting the many ways in which the war is destroying biodiversity and contributing to the climate crisis.

Advocates and organizers in Ukraine have documented hundreds of environmental crimes that together, they argue, justify charges of ecocide by international courts. These crimes include attacks on industrial facilities that contaminate groundwater supplies and respiratory tracts, and the deliberate bombing of wildlife sanctuaries and other important ecosystems.

With each additional day of war, Ukraine’s ability to restore its vibrant society and environment dwindles, and its ability to transition to an economy that excludes fossil fuels shrinks.

In recent years, it has increasingly been argued that the climate crisis poses a national security threat that requires military investment. But while a deteriorating environment does threaten people, few things are fueling the crisis like war, which props up the global fossil fuel industry by stalling demand for oil, gas and coal, according to the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS ).

War also inevitably brings destruction, resulting in widespread toxic substances, dead wildlife, and an exhaust-choked atmosphere.

3 key facts about the impact of war on the climate crisis and the environment

  • Militaries consume massive amounts of fossil fuels, which directly contributes to global warming. For example, if the US military were a country, it would have the 47th highest emissions in the world.
  • Bombings and other methods of modern warfare directly harm wildlife and biodiversity. The collateral damage of conflict can kill up to 90% of the large animals in an area.
  • War pollution contaminates water, soil and air and makes areas unsafe for people.

Warfare releases greenhouse gas emissions

The world’s militaries are responsible for an estimated 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and many governments don’t even report data on emissions from military activities, according to the Guardian.

“Those who do this often report partial numbers,” said Dr. Stuart Parkinson, chief executive of Scientists for Global Responsibility, told the Guardian. “Thus, numbers for military aircraft could be hidden under ‘aviation,’ military technology industry under ‘industry,’ military bases under ‘public buildings,’ etc. even the researchers.”

Even in peacetime, militaries consume extreme amounts of dirty energy. The US Department of Defense’s 566,000 buildings, for example, account for 40% of its fossil fuel use. This includes training facilities, dormitories, manufacturing facilities and other buildings at the department’s nearly 800 bases worldwide. In countries like Switzerland and the United Kingdom, among the government agencies, the ministries of defense also consume the most fossil fuels. Other countries with massive militaries like China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Israel don’t report their total emissions, but the pattern is expected to be the same.

As countries around the world spend more money on their militaries, fossil fuel consumption is increasing both with and without conflict. And while simply maintaining a military contributes to climate change, active warfare maximizes that potential.

For example, according to Salon, the US and its allies have dropped more than 337,000 bombs and missiles on other countries over the past 20 years. The jets with these weapons can burn 4.28 gallons of gasoline per mile, with each detonation releasing additional greenhouse gas emissions and destroying natural carbon sinks such as soil, vegetation, and trees.

The broader US “war on terror” has released 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to the Watson Institute at Brown University, which has a greater warming effect on the planet than the annual emissions of 257 million cars.

If the US military were a country itself, it would have the 47th highest emissions in the world, more than the countries of Denmark, Sweden and Portugal combined.

War causes pollution

The environmental impact of war is much more immediate than greenhouse gases warming the atmosphere.

Pollution in particular will be felt immediately by people stuck in conflict zones and struggling with unsafe air, water and soil.

In addition to the non-stop pollution caused by bombs, the people of Afghanistan are exposed to outdoor fire pits used by the army for waste disposal. The resulting fumes from these pits have led to increases in cancer rates among both veterans and locals.

Waste management generally tends to break down during conflicts, and it is not uncommon for households to incinerate household waste and dump human waste into bodies of water and unlined holes.

All tanks and heavy vehicles driving around in conflicts throw up abrasive particles, while discarded ammunition leaks uranium into water systems, according to CEOBS.

According to the United Nations, the power vacuum created by war can lead to illegal competition for natural resources. Examples include illegal logging, deliberately starting forest fires to clear land, and extracting valuable minerals using highly toxic methods.

In Colombia, rebel groups have engaged in illegal mining that has filled water bodies with mercury.

During the Vietnam War, the US Army employed a form of “scorched earth” chemical warfare that ravaged landscapes with substances like “Agent Orange” that still afflict people today.

Warfare in urban areas, like what is happening in Ukraine right now, is causing extensive damage to buildings, roads and infrastructure that can fill the air with debris and debris, making it significantly harder to breathe.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also prompted attacks on facilities that process hazardous chemicals like ammonia, which have threatened the safety of surrounding communities.

In Yemen, Saudi Arabia has continuously bombed infrastructure such as desalination plants, dams and reservoirs, and denied communities easy access to water.

Marine ecosystems are not protected from this pollution. In fact, warships release extreme amounts of waste into water bodies, damaging marine habitats and coastlines.

Even in peacetime, military testing and manufacturing result in widespread pollution. According to CEOBS, the world’s militaries occupy about 1% to 6% of the entire country. In these areas, they are subject to little environmental regulation and experiment with chemicals that are banned in many places.

War destroys wildlife and biodiversity

It has never been calculated how much wildlife is lost in war – the animals killed, the vegetation burned, the endless biodiversity wiped out.

But some of the approaches are overwhelming. According to a study published in Nature, the number of large animals present in an area can decline by up to 90% during human conflict, and even a single year of war results in long-term wildlife losses.

Another study found that Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park lost 95% of its biodiversity after a long civil war.

During the Vietnam War, more than 5 million acres of forest and 500,000 acres of farmland were destroyed. Lush swamplands in Iraq have been reduced to 10% of their historic size after former President Saddam Hussein ordered major rivers to be blocked to quell an insurgency. Afghanistan has lost almost 95% of its forest cover in the past few decades.

And years after a war, landmines can continue to explode and kill wildlife.

Conservationists are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to war to prevent the demise of ecosystems essential to our collective well-being, be they forests, grasslands, or bodies of water. Other peace advocates note that environmental degradation becomes the fuel for more war as it deprives people and the community of essential resources and ways of life.

The climate crisis itself has been called a threat to global security, but ending war and securing peace is the surest way to protect ourselves and the planet.

What can Global Citizens do to help?

Global citizens can urge their governments to seek peace and an end to conflict worldwide by addressing the root causes, while taking steps to phase out fossil fuels quickly and support a just transition that is more focused on people’s well-being than focused on violence.

Here you can become active with us and demand climate protection now.

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