#NoWar2021 workshop: War a leading contributor to the environmental crisis

Published by Brent Patterson on

Tamara Lorincz and Brent Patterson will be supporting a workshop at the World Beyond War #NoWar2021 virtual conference on June 4.

Some of the discussion areas will include:

1- The military’s carbon “bootprint”

While the United States government does not publish data on military carbon emissions, data on military energy consumption – both fuel consumption of vehicles and energy consumption of military installations – is available.

A study published by Brown University estimated the total carbon emissions of the US military in 2017 to be 59 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The carbon emissions from the UK military has been estimated at 3.2 million tonnes.

Stuart Parkinson of Scientists for Global Responsibility has further estimated that the carbon emissions of the world’s armed forces and the industries that provide their equipment may be about 5 per cent of the global total of emissions.

In 2019, the global total was 36.44 billion metric tons, which would put military emissions at about 1.8 billion tons.

To put that in perspective, Canada emitted about 730 million tonnes in 2019.

2- Contamination from military bases

The study published by Brown University noted above that said the US military had produced 59 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017, further noted that military bases and other installations were responsible for 40 per cent of those emissions.

Furthermore, military bases are simply toxic.

The Canadian Department of National Defence says there are 26 military properties in this country where PFAS contamination is either suspected or confirmed. PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluorinated substances, are linked to causing cancer.

The Environmental Working Group also says that groundwater contamination from PFAS have been confirmed at 328 US military sites and suspected at about 350 other sites.

3- The environmental impact of extracting materials to build war machines

The Conflict and Environment Observatory has noted: “Building and sustaining military forces consumes vast quantities of resources. These might be common metals or rare earth elements, water or hydrocarbons.”

One pertinent example might be that each F-35 fighter jet requires 920 pounds of rare-earth materials for critical components such as their electrical power systems. This can require intensive mining with multiple environmental impacts.

4- The environmental impact of operating weaponry

The Royal Geographic Society study recently noted that the US military, one of the largest polluters in history, consumed 269,230 barrels of oil a day in 2017.

During the six months of bombing that took place over Libya in 2011, the Royal Canadian Air Force burned 14.5 million pounds of fuel.

Tamara has also pointed out that the F-35 fighter jet releases more carbon in one long-range flight than a typical automobile does in a year. The average car in Canada burns about 2,000 litres of gasoline every year releasing about 4,600 kilograms of CO2.

And to look at just one example of war, the armed conflict in Colombia resulted in the loss of 3 million hectares of forest (an area the size of Belgium), the degradation of 1.5 million hectares of land, 4.1 million barrels of oil spilling into soil and water from attacks on pipelines, and 1.75 million hectares of territory sprayed with a carcinogenic herbicide.

5- Strategies for resistance and demilitarization

What can we do to change this?

i- Publish military carbon emission totals: The International Peace Bureau has called for an inclusion of military greenhouse gas emission in climate change regulations. The IPB also says countries need to be obliged, without exemption, to cut military emissions and transparently report them.

ii- Demand a peace agenda at the COP26 climate summit: The anti-war movement could mobilize for the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) that will take place this November 1-12 in Glasgow, Scotland.

iii- Defund the military and redirect spending to address climate change: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has reported total global military expenditures rose to $1.981 trillion in 2020, an increase of 2.6 percent.

iv- Cancel Canada’s purchase of 88 new fighter jets: In 2022, Canada plans to purchase 88 new fighter jets for $19 billion that would have a life-cycle cost of about $76.8 billion. Imagine if that were redirected toward addressing climate change.

v- Connect struggles: The peace and anti-war movement could support Indigenous struggles against oil pipelines including the Secwepemc struggle against the Trans Mountain pipeline on their territories in Canada and the Indigenous struggle against the Line 3 pipeline on their territories in the United States, most notably Minnesota right now.

What else can we think of?

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