The onslaught on Ukraine has swept the climate issue off the table. The 1.5 degree objective can only be accomplished with a truce.

War and climate change: How the Ukraine war polluting Europe
[War and Climate Change]

War not only results in human casualties but also in damage to both the natural world and the global climate. This is brought home to us in a painful way by the crisis in Ukraine. Because of the invasion by Russia, the already enormous global carbon footprint of the military industry is continuing to expand. This is a consequence of the conflict. The battle that is taking place right now in eastern Ukraine encompasses cities that have coal mines, oil refineries, and chemical facilities. When this fossil infrastructure is bombed, it leaves behind a cocktail of many different hazardous compounds that are very damaging to the environment. At the same time, all of the parties participating in the conflict are investing raw materials and resources in rearmament, which is something that would be required in order to cope with the climate catastrophe.

According to the global CO 2 budget, the human race has less than eight years to bring global temperatures down to the 1.5-degree limit. Because of this, fundamental changes are required across the board immediately. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Transformation (IPCC) report that was released at the beginning of April said that there is a need for "systemic change." The military industry, on the other hand, is not included. There are a total of six results associated with the use of the term "military" across the almost 3,000-page report. One may be forgiven for thinking that the military industry doesn't really have much of a role to play in connection to the climate catastrophe.

The truth, however, is very different: the usage of military equipment is a primary contributor to significant increases in air pollution. There were a total of 36 Russian strikes against fossil fuel infrastructure during the first five weeks of the conflict in Ukraine. These attacks resulted in lengthy fires that released soot particles, methane, and carbon dioxide. On the Russian side of the border, oil infrastructure has also been a target of arson. The oil fields that were destroyed in the second Gulf War, which took place in 1991, were responsible for 2% of the world's emissions in that particular year.

One of the most significant aftereffects of war is the contamination of the air. The duration of the conflict as well as the kind of tanks, aircraft, and trucks that were used all have a role in the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, CO 2 -storing ecosystems are contaminated by pollutants. Currently, representatives of the Ukrainian environmental agency are already collecting water and soil samples in the neighborhood of bombed industrial enterprises. These samples will be analyzed to determine the extent of the contamination.

It is thus possible for the climatic impacts of conflict to reach cataclysmic dimensions. According to research conducted by the group Oil Change International, the conflict in Iraq, which started in 2003 and is still ongoing, has been responsible for the emission of 141 million tons of CO 2 equivalents. As a point of reference, in 2019, just six nations within the EU released more CO2 equivalents, while 21 countries emitted less.

In addition, the rebuilding that took place after the war resulted in a significant increase in emissions. It is projected that this would cause the emission of 22 million tons of carbon dioxide in Syria. Rebuilding Ukraine will also need a significant investment of time and resources. In his remarks at the World Economic Summit in Davos, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine emphasized the need of providing at least 5 billion USD in monthly funding for development. For this reason, every effort should be taken to bring about a rapid ceasefire, both from the point of view of the environment and with the goal of preventing more human suffering.

Emissions from military troops and equipment used during battle are a substantial contributor to the harm that is done on a worldwide scale. In spite of this, the United States government exerted enough pressure to ensure that climate accords, such as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Climate Protection Agreement in 2015, did not include provisions for the military's CO2 emissions. To this far, it has not been a required component, and its data is not gathered regularly nor made public in an open and accessible manner. Because there is a shortage of data as a consequence of this, it is only possible to assess the impacts of the military on global warming in an approximate manner.

A research that was conducted by Brown University's Costs of War project co-director Neta Crawford found that the United States Department of Defense alone is responsible for a greater amount of greenhouse gas emissions than nations such as Sweden and Portugal. Because of this, it is the establishment that emits the most greenhouse gases of any other in the world. It is estimated that the military sector is responsible for around 6 percent of the world's total CO2 emissions.

By contributing one hundred billion euros to the special fund, Germany is deliberately accepting responsibility for significant climate harm. Additional strain is placed on both financial and intellectual resources as a result of the upgrading. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the 1.5 degree limit will be met. It is easy to see why there is a pressing need for increased protection against the threat of Russian attack. Nevertheless, in the public discussion, a questionable improvement in safety and a reduction in climate protection will need to be evaluated against one another.

Already in 2019, Germany's armed forces have released almost 4.5 million tons of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere, which is a significant amount higher than the domestic air traffic total of 2.5 million tons. The value will continue to rise. With only one tank of fuel, a single F-35 fighter jet that Lockheed Martin has bought would create around 28 tons of CO2 equivalent. As a point of reference, the annual consumption rate that is typical for each individual in the Federal Republic is 11.2 tons.

The profits made from the sale of fossil resources are being used to reinvest in Russia's aggressive military campaign. It was projected that Russia's entire exports of fossil fuels through sea and pipelines will amount to 58 billion euros between February 24 and April 24 of the year 2022. The European Union is responsible for 70 percent of this total, which equates to 39 billion euros, with Germany being the most significant importer of fossil fuels from Russia with an amount equal to 8.3 billion euros. The dependency on fossil fuels is consequently tied to both the current issue with the environment and the war on Ukraine.

However, players in politics and business exploit the conflict as an excuse to put a halt to the required socio-ecological transition. Even if major companies like BP, Shell, and Saudi-Aramco continue to operate in the fossil fuel age despite enjoying unprecedented levels of financial success, the climate issue continues to worsen.

However, the future vision of a climate-neutral war that Stoltenberg and Rheinmetall have proposed, complete with eco-tanks and hydrogen kerosene, cannot be the solution to this problem. The climate catastrophe is not lost on western military, security specialists, or the defense industry; all of these groups are aware of its significance. This is shown by the many different sustainability reports, security measures, and comments that have been released over the last several years. They are adapting to a world that is being impacted by climate change, one in which the demands of expansion and dominance are to be achieved against any and all difficulties.

German foreign policy, in collaboration with the European Union and NATO, is making preparations for a variety of potential future events, such as environmental disasters, wars, and waves of migrants, in order to maintain its operational capacity and safeguard its own security interests. Cynical when one takes into account the fact that those who are most negatively impacted are also the ones who have the smallest impact on global warming and from whom it is now – from the viewpoint of some – to be "protected." This insanity is compounded when one considers that the degradation of the environment caused by armed conflict and competition for resources is a primary contributor to climate change.

In addition, efforts are being made to lessen the degree to which we are reliant on fossil fuels. According to a study that was published by Greenpeace the previous year, the primary objective of the vast majority of EU military actions was to ensure that the EU would continue to have access to its own supply of oil and gas. This perilous link between fossil fuels, the military, and conflict has to be broken as soon as possible.

Armament wreaks havoc on the environment and does not contribute to an increase in safety. Increasing the amount of money allocated to national defense by NATO members will lead to an increase in the quantity of armaments supplied by either Russia or China. In the meanwhile, the total amount spent on armaments throughout the world has already reached a new all-time high of 2.1 trillion dollars.

As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the biggest obstacle of the 21st century – namely, finding a solution to the climate catastrophe – is now receiving less attention than it deserves. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that our success in this endeavor is contingent on the participation of all nations, including Russia. First and first, we need a cessation of hostilities, and then we must go on to confidence-building actions like as signing multilateral disarmament treaties. In addition, assistance has to be provided to Russia so that it can make the transition to an energy sector that is less damaging to the environment. It is necessary to undergo a major socio-ecological shift in which the requirements of all people take precedence above political considerations. At the moment, this seems to be inconceivable. But what are some of the other possibilities? The whole population of the earth would be doomed if attempts to curb global warming were unsuccessful.

The author Dr.  Angelika Claussen is co-chair of the German section of IPPNW (the International Doctors for the Prevention of Nuclear War / Doctors in Social Responsibility eV) and President of IPPNW Europe.

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