By Sarah “Steve” Mosko
The US’s Global War on Terror has been raging for 18 years and has already racked up costs of $5.9 trillion federal dollars, over 480,000 deaths due to direct war violence, and 21 million war refugees and displaced persons.
War’s toll on the environment is heavy too. As detailed on the Watson Institute at Brown University’s public website Costs of War, the worst environmental impact of the War on Terror is hastening of global warming. Here’s why.
War’s contribution to climate crisis
With over 500 military bases worldwide, counter-terrorism operations in more than 80 countries, and an armed force of more than two million people, the US military relies heavily on burning fossil fuels and is the largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases (GHGs) worldwide: If it were a country, the emissions from fuel usage alone would rank it the 47th largest emitter.
Our military’s post-9/11 operations in the major war zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria have produced more than 400 million metric tons of GHG emissions (measured in CO2 equivalents), as detailed in a special report from the Watson Institute. This is comparable to the annual emissions of 85 million passenger vehicles.
The Department of Defense (DOD) is already planning for inevitable climate change which it views as a “threat multiplier” of existing security threats. Yet, the DOD turns a blind eye to the military’s hefty contribution to the warming planet.
It’s utterly ironic that, by planning for even greater future reliance on fossil fuels, the military is fomenting the very political unrest that draws the United States into conflicts. Take Syria, for example, where climate change worsened the drought which fostered civil war and mass migration.