War and Global Warming

Image of Explosion

Global warming is receiving increasing attention at home and internationally. Copenhagen’s high profile world summit on climate change in December 2009 is being attended by 192 countries and 100 heads of state who will discuss emissions cuts and financial measures to combat climate change.

While it’s good that carbon emission cuts from industry are being discussed, an item that is not prominent on the agenda is that of the obvious harm that war does to the planet. Fuel-intensive combat, oil well fires, the boom in cement consumption due to reconstruction efforts and security needs, and heavy use of explosives and chemicals all contribute to global warming in a massive way.


Here are some facts on the Iraq war and the impact that this war alone has on the environment:

  • 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.
  • CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road for one year.
  • 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.
  • The $600 billion that the US 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 US’s current electricity demand and cut 1/6 of the country’s total CO2 emissions.
  • In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the whole world spent on investment in renewable energy.
  • US president Obama has committed to spending $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of green energy technology and infrastructure. The US spends that much on the war in Iraq in just 10 months.

In presenting these statistics, we are not suggesting that greenhouse gas emissions are the most important impact of war, nor the major reason to oppose it. But war is a major factor behind global warming. This is an aspect of war that is being largely ignored by the world’s green parties. 

Claudia Saba - IAWM SC