How Acts of War Undo Efforts to Reduce CO2 Emissions

How can the goal to reduce carbon emissions be achieved if armed conflicts continue to contribute emissions and cause setbacks in economic developments. Various societal and environmental destructions happen during armed conflicts, which bring in new sources of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

When environmental governance collapses, any attempts or efforts to address environmental issues are limited or restricted. What’s even worse is when some of these issues remain even after the armed conflict has ended; particularly in ungoverned areas and where weak institutions allow unsustainable activities to carry on.

A Cursory Look at the Direct Impact of Wars on the Environment

Oftentimes in a conflict, storage and transportation infrastructures, as well as oil fields and depots are targets of destruction, as what had happened in Iraq, Syria, Colombia and most recently in Ukraine. This is chiefly because oil infrastructure is utilized as a fiery weapon, which generate huge amounts of emissions. The pollution and emissions can have a long lasting effect, as exemplified by the quickly melting Tibetan glaciers caused by the deposited soot.

Other targets of warfare include vegetation, the destruction of which also contributes to carbon emissions. In the north east, Israel’s protected aread lit up after incendiary kites landed.

Wars Also Bring On Indirect Emissions

A lot of indirect emissions are produced by active conflicts, albeit difficult to gauge. The most significant indirect emissions come from the energy used to deliver humanitarian aid and in rebuilding the destroyed infrastructures.

Citizens need fuel, but the energy infrastructure and markets greatly affected by conflicts, are struggling to keep up with the high demand amidst a low supply. As a consequence, people resort to other efficient alternatives even if actually harmful and less sustainable. Continued use of non-clean energy is likely where the population has limited understanding of global warming and its effect on climate conditions, much less on how polluting practices increase carbon emissions. This has been the case in countries like South Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and the DRC.

Moreover, delivering water, shelter, and food to victims of war, use fuel in order to carry on. Actually, the humanitarian sector shows a large amount of carbon footprint since fuel use in war torn areas is very high. Statistics reveal that in 2017, fuel use amounted to about $1.2 billion or 5% of the aid expenditure just to power up generators and to provide electricity for logistics. The indirect emissions produced by humanitarian activities are therefore relatively high.

Nevertheless, development and humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR are making progress in shifting to clean energy as a means of addressing the issue. The UN Refugee agency has already saved around 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide during 2019. However, as armed conflicts continue to transpire, the direct and indirect carbon dioxide emissions tend to undo previous efforts .