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Fight Climate Change, Not Wars


March 5, 2018
Naomi Klein / EnviroNation & Stephen Kretzmann / Oil Change International

In 2009, the Obama administration's climate negotiators in Geneva suggested that Washington might be willing to contribute a paltry $1.4-billion to an international climate change fund. Meanwhile, the cost of the the Pentagon's planned "surge" inside Afghanistan was estimated to cost $30-40-billion. Wars drain money that could be spent helping countries adapt to climate change and shift to green energy. Wars also deepen the climate crisis because they are themselves major sources of greenhouse gasses.

http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2009/12/fight-climate-change-not-wars

Fight Climate Change, Not Wars
Naomi Klein / EnviroNation

COPENHAGEN (December 10, 2009) -- In the US, plenty of bloggers have pointed to the irony of Barack Obama collecting the Peace Prize while he launches a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Here in Copenhagen, the Nobel -- which was awarded in part because of Obama's reengagement with the climate change negotiations -- carries a special set of ironies.

The figure US negotiators are floating for how much Washington will contribute to an international climate change fund is a paltry $1.4-billion. Meanwhile, the cost of the "surge" in Afghanistan is estimated at $30-40-billion. Yesterday I interviewed Kumi Naidoo, the new director of Greenpeace International, and he made this point forcefully:



And the issue is not only that wars hog money that could be spent helping countries adapt to climate change and shift to green energy. Those wars also deepen the climate crisis because they are themselves major sources of greenhouse gasses.

So, in honor of Obama's Nobel, Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International, who is also here in Copenhagen, has pulled together this scary breakdown of the links between war and climate change.

Take a look -- it's just one more reason to bring the troops home.

War and Warming
Stephen Kretzmann / Oil Change International

The connections between war and warming go deeper than as Alan Greenspan put it, the "politically inconvenient" [fact that] "everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil". When we choose to go to war, that choice means money is no longer available for other things, such as clean energy or funding for communities vulnerable to climate impacts around the world. And the war itself, with all its planes, trucks, missiles, and ships, emits huge amounts of greenhouse gases -- that no one tracks.

Fighting wars is mind-bendingly expensive, exceeding the costs of even the bank bailout money. Some key figures:
* Projected Total Cost Iraq War: at least $3 trillion
* Total Obama Admin (FY2010) Defense Budget request: $687 billion
* Additional amount estimated for Obama's Afghan surge: $40 billion

The fact that the Obama administration has already chosen to invest further in war has a rather steep opportunity cost, in addition to its actual cost.

The money that has been spent this decade by the American taxpayer on war could instead, had we wanted it to, funded all the needed global investments in clean energy out to 2030.

The sums being discussed here in Copenhagen are actually much more modest than the trillions spent recently on war. The United Nations recently estimated that $500 billion would be needed (from all the developed world -- not just the US) to help build a global clean energy economy and to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. Oxfam puts it at $200 billion.

Sadly, even these sums aren't on the table. There is an ongoing discussion of just $10 billion in so-called "fast track funding", and of that, the US has pledged "its fair share. Jonathan Pershing, Obama's Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, seems to be arguing that this is only $1.5 billion.

That's right, that would be half of what the Administration just gave Exxon, and a fraction of its ongoing subsidies to fossil fuels.

There is currently nothing, nada, zip on the table for long-term climate finance.

Obama to World: Drop Dead
Turns out that money doesn't actually grow on trees -- it's manufactured in weapons factories.

Emissions from war are more difficult to quantify. On the fifth anniversary of the war, Oil Change International published A Climate of War, a report that quantified the emissions of the war from March 2003 through until December 2007. We used very conservative estimates and left many things out when we couldn't get reliable numbers, and still the number was staggering.

The Iraq war was responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from March 2003 through December 2007. To put that into perspective, if the US military operations in Iraq were ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world's nations do annually. Falling between New Zealand and Cuba, the war emits more than 60% of all countries.

This was a difficult report to write -- because this information is not readily available. The reason the information is not available is because military emissions abroad are exempt from national reporting requirements under US law and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

All these emissions need to be counted, because the atmosphere doesn't care if you're looking for weapons of mass destruction or terrorists, or even fighting the good fight (not that we've seen much of that recently). These are currently completely uncounted emissions. It's a loophole big enough to drive a tank through.

So while President Obama is receiving his Peace Prize for whatever it is he might do someday on climate change, perhaps someone should ask if the emissions from the Afghan surge will swamp the meager reductions that the US has on the table in Copenhagen. But that's not really a politically convenient question, now is it?

Steve Kretzmann is Director of Oil Change International.
Research support for Naomi Klein's reporting from Copenhagen was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.



A Climate of War:
The War in Iraq and Global Warming

Oil Change International

(March 2008) -- On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, this report by Oil Change International quantifies both the greenhouse gas emissions of the Iraq War and the opportunity costs involved in fighting war rather than climate change.

Here are some facts on the war and warming:
1. Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends.

2. The war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003. To put this in perspective, CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US this year.

3. Emissions from the Iraq War to date are nearly two and a half times greater than what would be avoided between 2009 and 2016 were California to implement the auto emission regulations it has proposed, but that the Bush Administration has struck down.

Finally, if the war was ranked as a country in terms of annual emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world's nations do. Falling between New Zealand and Cuba, the war each year emits more than 60% of all countries on the planet.

4. Just the $600 billion that Congress has allocated for military operations in Iraq to date could have built over 9000 wind farms (at 50 MW capacity each) , with the overall capacity to meet a quarter of the country's current electricity demand. If 25% of our power came from wind, rather than coal, it would reduce US GHG emissions by over 1 billion metric tons of CO2 per year -- equivalent to approximately 1/6 of the country's total CO2 emissions in 2006.

5. In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the whole world spent on investment in renewable energy.

6. US presidential candidate Barack Obama has committed to spending"$150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of green energy technology and infrastructure." The US spends nearly that much on the war in Iraq in just 10 months.

In presenting these calculations, we are not suggesting that greenhouse gas emissions are the most important impact of the war, nor the major reason to oppose it. We are not arguing that a more energy-efficient military would be more effective or justified in its actions, nor suggesting that there aren't many things besides clean energy on which the US could choose to spend its money.

Rather, in a process comparable to estimating the true cost of the war in dollar terms, we are simply examining an aspect of the war's impact that has been ignored.

The emissions associated with the war in Iraq are literally unreported. Military emissions abroad are not captured in the national greenhouse gas inventories that all industrialized nations, including the United States, report under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It's a loophole big enough to drive a tank through.

Estimates of emissions stem from fuel-intensive combat, oil well fires and increased gas flaring, the boom in cement consumption due to reconstruction efforts and security needs, and heavy use of explosives and chemicals that contribute to global warming.

These emissions estimates are very conservative. Throughout our research we have erred on the side of caution, and have simply omitted areas where reliable numbers were not readily available (e.g., military consumption of halons or other greenhouse gas intensive chemicals, and the use of bunker fuels for the transportation of troops and equipment to Iraq). We are confident that ongoing research will reveal more emissions.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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