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Enviro Eco Nature    H2'ed 11/10/21

Military pollution is the skeleton in the West's climate closet

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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.

Hidden from view

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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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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6 people are discussing this page, with 7 comments


Lance Ciepiela

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The resolution states that the U.S. military has a duty to "monitor, track and report greenhouse gas emissions from all its operations including combat operations, deployments, drone attacks, weapons production and testing, and base construction and functions".

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021 at 9:56:26 AM

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Jill Herendeen

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Always delightful to get articles which address the elephant in the room! Thanks!

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021 at 4:20:32 PM

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David Wieland

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LOL, Jill. Are you saying an elephant skeleton came out of the closet?

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021 at 9:11:55 PM

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one big mastodon, if it really happens

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021 at 5:12:43 PM

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Mohammad Ala

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THANKS for this article.

Worst countries in terms of Greenhouse gas Emissions:

10 Worst Countries for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Since 1990 (msn.com)

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021 at 8:59:10 PM

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David Wieland

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As the end of the article puts it, "little can be done to green our militaries, either substantively or through a greenwashing makeover. The military's rationale is neither to be sustainable nor to be kind to the planet." Why would anyone ever think otherwise? Does the author imagine that any military anywhere has ever existed for any purpose other than to provide military capabilities?

If you want to indulge in imagining some organizations seriously trying to reduce gaseous emissions, imagine the UN climate groups doing such a thing -- instead of wasting enormous amounts of fuel and person-days in annual confabs. That takes some wild imagination.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021 at 9:04:38 PM

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tim mcghie

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If they were really serious about combating global warming(pollution) they would end all wars immediately, or they could just deplete the population down to a number that would allow earth to heal.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 15, 2021 at 10:51:17 AM

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