ISSN 2330-717X

American Wars And Climate Change – OpEd


The world is fighting the energy problems resulting from the Ukraine war. United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres said that the world is “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe” by continuing to rely on fossil fuels to hasten the catastrophe. The pollution that’s dangerously heating the planet continues to increase.So let this war act as a catalyst  to speed up the goals of Paris deal to keep  temperature rise  low.


Russia-Ukraine conflict will ultimately delay the implementation of the Paris Agreement by a few years by direct delays in the decarbonisation implementation plans of the countries. It is likely to put breaks to the ongoing momentum on climate change action plan by shifting expenditures to defence related weapons and equipment.

The climate change policy of the United States has major impacts on global climate change and on global climate change. This is because the United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases  in the world after China, and is among the highest per person in the world. 

The Paris deal was drafted in 2015 to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.It aims to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2C. The US become the first nation in the world to formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement when President Trump announced the move in June 2017. Most lobbying on climate policy in the United States is done by corporations that are publicly opposed to reducing carbon emissions.President Joe Biden is considering to re-join early.

The US has been the top donor to the Global Environmental Facility, contributing around 21% of its total shares. Cutting in US climate aid will make it more difficult for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change and developed countries are obligated to provide climate financing to developing countries. 

Pentagon: largest polluter and consumer of oil 

Developing countries are criticized for resorting to unfriendly means of energy and not adhering to climate change norms but the US manages to escape such criticism. Waging war requires burning vast volumes of oil producing large amount of greenhouse gasses. ‘Desert Storm’ burnt around 45 million barrels.  The world’s armies consume nearly two billion barrels of oil annually. The Pentagon is the largest consumer of oil. It is claimed that the  US military around the world  is the world’s largest polluter, generating 750,000 tons of hazardous waste each year. 


The US has for decades been directly or indirectly involved in wars  in other countries’ affairs by supporting proxy wars, inciting anti-government insurgencies, carrying out assassinations, providing weapons and ammunition, and training anti-government armed forces, which have caused serious harm to the social stability and public security of the relevant countries.The latest example of the US continued involvement is the  avoidable Ukraine war  being called by the west as ‘Putin’s War’.Some statistics on major US wars:

The Vietnam  War

The war that was never officially declared by the US. A Cornell University study placed the over-all total US cost of the Vietnam war at $200 Billion. Total US bomb tonnage dropped during World War II was 2,057,244 tons and in Vietnam War it was 7,078,032 tons (3-1/2 times WWII tonnage). Bomb tonnage dropped during the Vietnam War amounted to 1,000 lbs. An estimated 3 million people were killed by the war, and over 1 million wounded.

Iraq War

One of the factors contributing to the degradation of the planet is the world’s armies that contribute as much as 10 percent of global air pollution. According to  Human Rights Watch (HRW) US  and allies dropped 61,000 cluster bombs, containing 20 million sub-munitions, on Iraq and attacked Iraq with 13,000 cluster munitions, containing two million sub-munitions during ’Operation Iraqi Freedom’.  At multiple times, coalition forces used cluster munitions in residential areas, and the country remains among the most contaminated to this day. When these weapons were fired on Baghdad  on 7 April 2003 many of the bomblets failed to explode on impact. The US troops’ depleted uranium  weapons, which contain highly toxic and radioactive material, were also first used on the battlefield during this Gulf War against Iraq.

The US dropped 88,500 tons of bombs on Iraq in 1991, destroying 9,000 homes, water systems, power plants, critical bridges and four major dams, destroyed most of its power stations, refineries and petrochemical complexes. According to the Conflict and Environment Observatory, the 1991 Gulf War’s oil fires contributed more than two percent of global fossil fuel CO2 emissions that year, with distant and long-lasting consequences. 

The Afghanistan War

The US  in 2001 sent  troops to Afghanistan to combat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.US and other NATO  countries used large numbers of cluster munitions during the initial stage of the operation. 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 bomblets. The US has dropped 7,423 bombs on targets in Afghanistan in 2019, marking a rise from the 7,362 munitions dropped in 2018, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT). The US also dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on what it said was an ISIS cave complex in remote Afghanistan. The bomb the ‘mother of all bombs’, called the GBU-43/B  to obliterate everything within a 1,000 yard radius.

During the Afghanistan War it is generally agreed that since entering Afghanistan, the US troops caused the deaths of more than 30,000 civilians, injured more than 60,000 civilians, and created about 11 million refugees. The Defense Department’s latest 2020 report said war-fighting costs totaled $815.7 billion over the years. That covers the operating costs of the US military in Afghanistan, everything from fuel and food to Humvees, weapons with ammunition,  tanks and armored vehicles to aircraft carriers. After the US military announced its withdrawal in 2014, Afghanistan continues to be in turmoil.

US having become the first nation in the world to formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017,  now President Joe Biden is considering to re-join. Joe Biden has also promised a rapid transition to clean energy in America but  lobbying on climate policy in the US is done by corporations that are publicly opposed to reducing carbon emissions.America’s shift to renewable sources of energy has been stalled in Congress, largely courtesy of West Virginia coal baron Joe Manchin. 

More than the West, blaming Putin’s aggression for the climate change, US and NATO need to share the blame of instigating Putin to invade Ukraine. The war that was avoidable. Putin’s Russia however, has to answer the world for the prolonged war with massive collateral devastation to life and property. Having said that President Joe Biden need to take the lead, rejoin the world on Climate Change fulfill his promise along with President Xi of China and as for India its efforts on the issue have been appreciated by the world bodies. Foremost is that Russia should put a stop to any further offensive action for the process of negotiations to continue. The world and Europe in particular cannot afford a nuclear catastrophe having experienced the two world wars. A peaceful, neutral Ukraine is the best hope for Europe and the world. 

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

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