As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, environmental experts and activists are warning of a ripple effect of problems, including long-lasting damage to the war-ravaged country’s urban, agricultural and industrial areas.
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Good morning! This is Vanessa Montalbano, the Climate 202 researcher, writing the top of the newsletter today. Below, a pipeline leak in Texas is estimated to have the same climate impact as the annual emissions of 16,000 cars. But first:
In the days before Russia invaded Ukraine, a leading climate scientist, Svitlana Krakovska, was in Kyiv, racing to finish a landmark U.N. climate report. Then, Russian missiles and bombs started landing in her city. Colleagues offered to help her escape, but she stayed, trying to continue her climate research.
‘Terrible things are going to happen’ to vulnerable nations, said John Conger, a former Defense Department undersecretary. Three years ago, they formed an advocacy group to highlight the threat that climate change poses to national security. Now they have issued a report that says the U.S. has taken strong initial steps but climate change still threatens everything from U.S. military bases to flood- and drought-prone nations. The report urges “climate-informed wargames” and says the U.S. must “incorporate climate change into international military engagements.”
From the dumping of defoliants like Agent Orange on forests in Vietnam to oil wells set ablaze during the Gulf War and the contamination of the aquifers bombed in Gaza, environmental destruction has long been a by-product of conflict. Less talked about is the impact of war and the military on the climate crisis. This is partly because military emissions have been largely exempted from international climate treaties, starting with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
If climate change is a “threat multiplier,” as some national security experts and members of the military argue, how does the US military reduce climate change caused threats? Or does war and the preparation for it increase those risks? In its quest for security, the United States spends more on the military than any other country in the world, certainly much more than the combined military spending of its major rivals, Russia and China.
OVER A CENTURY before we reached the brink of ecological catastrophe, Rabindranath Tagore had a glimpse of where we might be headed. Tagore, an Indian author and cultural reformer who lived during the period of British colonialism, was among the last of a generation able to examine the industrialized world from the outside. He issued one of the earliest and most eloquent warnings about the precarity of a world sustained, like ours today, on the twin pillars of industrial consumption and industrial warfare.
As we observe another anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack, Neta Crawford, political scientist and co-director of the Costs of War project, discusses the environmental impacts of the post-9/11 wars. Although greenhouse gas emissions from war were excluded from country reporting during the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocols, a major consequence of war is increased use of fossil fuels. During this event, Crawford will share her recent research calculating the U.S. military’s greenhouse gas emissions associated with the post-9/11 wars.
Large-mammal populations are ecological linchpins, and their worldwide decline and extinction disrupts many ecosystem functions and services. Reversal of this trend will require an understanding of the determinants of population decline, to enable more accurate predictions of when and where collapses will occur and to guide the development of effective conservation and restoration policies. Many correlates of large-mammal declines are known, including low reproductive rates, overhunting, and habitat destruction. However, persistent uncertainty about the effects of one widespread factor—armed conflict—complicates conservation-planning and priority-setting efforts. Case studies have revealed that conflict can have either positive or negative local impacts on wildlife, but the direction and magnitude of its net effect over large spatiotemporal scales have not previously been quantified5.