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  • Writer's pictureDoug Hull

Fighting the Climate War

The Humvee. A symbol of American military over-indulgence. Unnecessarily huge, heavy and fuel-inefficient. The US Military operates over 50,000 of them, mostly for tasks that a much lighter vehicle could perform. Many people say that the cost of implementing climate change solutions is too high, but few complain about the cost of the military. Of course a world with no military forces is not realistic in our lifetime, so I have to concede that it is a necessity. But what is the true climate cost of the world's military forces? And why is this so hard to find out?



There is no sign of global military spending decreasing anytime soon, especially with the current climate of war. Predictably the US led global military spending in 2021 with around $800 billion, followed by a lot of daylight, then China in second on $293 billion and India on $76 billion. In terms of carbon emissions, it is estimated that the US military alone contributed around 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 between 2001 and 2017, and it is also the largest institutional consumer of petroleum worldwide. All of the world's militaries are estimated to generate 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions - more than the commercial aviation and shipping sectors combined. And this excludes the carbon emissions related to the impacts of war, like fires, deforestation and rebuilding shattered infrastructure.


But these numbers are all estimates since many of the world's militaries do not declare their emissions. Dating back to the Kyoto Protocol agreement in 1997, the military has been exempted from having to participate in any emissions targets. Even at last year's landmark COP26 conference there was no obligation for military contributions to be included in any targets. Of course the reasoning behind this is understandable. Safety and security are vital in our modern world and should not be limited in any way - just look at the chaos a crazed dictator in a powerful nation can cause. I get it. But as the most polluting industry on the planet, the military should really be obliged to help fight the climate war. I mean, what use is an army if the world ends up a wasteland?


It's not all about trade-offs though because there are major benefits to embracing new technologies... like EV tanks. Yes thats right - electric tanks! The cost of hauling millions of litres of fuel to vehicles at or near the front lines of wars is very significant. Never mind the complex logistics and the risks to those people required to ferry the fuel through dangerous environments. And I am taking a wild guess but I am pretty sure tanks, like Humvees, are not the most fuel efficient vehicles out there. Electric vehicles would solve a lot of those problems - especially on sunny battlefields... like say a desert. They could be self re-charging with built in solar panels. And with improving battery tech they could soon go for days between recharges. And on top of that they are quiet - wouldn't stealth be an advantage? The British Military is leading the way here - hopefully others will follow soon.



For the navy - why not consider ammonia as a fuel, as discussed in a previous blog? The airforce is more challenging, but green aviation is a growing industry - and the military should really be leading the way there too. (More on green aviation in a future blog!)


Of course the military plays a vital role in stabilising our topsy-turvy world and I would not suggest otherwise, but there are some massive benefits to militaries playing a leading role in the green revolution. I have not even mentioned the fact that most wars in recent times have been fought over fossil fuels! Surely a world powered by renewable energy (and maybe the odd electric Humvee) would be a safer one for all of us?


Until next time!


Doug

aka The Regeneralist

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