Sunset in the Arctic
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World leaders gathered in Glasgow last week for the COP26 summit in a bid to demonstrate how they are belatedly getting to grips with the climate crisis. Agreements to protect forests, cut carbon and methane emissions and promote green tech are all being hammered out in front of a watching world.
Western politicians, in particular, want to emerge from the summit with their green credentials burnished, proving that they have done everything in their power to prevent a future global temperature rise of more than 1.5C. They fear the verdict of unhappy electorates if they come back empty-handed.
Climate scientists are already doubtful whether the pledges being made go far enough, or can be implemented fast enough, to make a difference. They have warned that drastic action has to be taken by the end of this decade to avert climate catastrophe.
But the visible activity at the summit hides a much starker reality. The very nations proclaiming moral leadership in tackling the climate crisis are also the ones doing most to sabotage a meaningful agreement to reduce humanity's global carbon footprint.
A photo from the opening of COP26 showed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit's host, warmly greeting US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But rather than fete them, we should treat this triumvirate as the big villains of the climate talks.
Their armed forces are the most polluting on the planet - and the goal at COP26 is to keep that fact a closely guarded secret.
US expenditure on its military far outstrips that of any other country - except for Israel, when measured relative to population size. Although the UK trails behind, it still has the fifth largest military budget in the world, while its arms manufacturers busily supply weapons to countries others have shunned.
The US military alone is estimated to have a larger carbon footprint than most countries. It is widely assumed to be the world's largest institutional consumer of crude oil.
And emissions from the West's militaries and arms makers appear to be growing each year rather than shrinking - though no one can be certain because they are being actively hidden from view.
Washington insisted on an exemption from reporting on, and reducing, its military emissions at the Kyoto summit, 24 years ago. Unsurprisingly, everyone else jumped on that bandwagon.
Since the Paris summit of 2015, military emissions have been partially reported. But all too often the figures are disguised - lumped in with emissions from other sectors, such as transport.
And emissions from overseas operations - in the case of the US, 70 percent of its military activity - are excluded from the balance sheet entirely.Conflicts and wars
Most of Europe has refused to come clean, too. France, with the continent's most active military, reports none of its emissions.
According to research by Scientists for Global Responsibility, the UK's military emissions were three times larger than those it reported - even after supply chains, as well as weapons and equipment production, were excluded. The military was responsible for the overwhelming majority of British government emissions.
And new technology, rather than turning the military green, is often making things much worse.
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