War and Climate Change

The global military is a major driver of climate change. At UN level it is exempt from reporting its carbon emissions despite some countries’ militaries being among the largest consumers of fossil fuels in the world. This is a scandal that needs exposing.

These emissions are a direct result of runaway global military spending since the former cannot happen without the latter. Combined, they ensure that international development and human safety is harmed in myriad ways. As a matter of urgency we need this issue addressed as an international development, environment and human safety concern.

25,000 tonnes of munitions were dropped on Gaza in the first few weeks of the war. The carbon emissions from this would equate with the annual energy use of approximately 2,300 homes, or the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from approximately 4,600 passenger vehicles.

In the first weeks of the war, the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA reported Israel dropped 42 bombs every hour on Gaza.

The bulk of the emissions in this war will be from military fuel use – Israeli jet fuel and diesel, from urban and landscape fires caused either by the destruction of buildings or targeted attacks, and from the carbon costs of reconstructing Gaza.

The world’s military forces also use fossil fuels to operate aircraft, tanks and weapons, accounting for approximately 5.5 percent of global emissions. The figure could be higher as defence forces are not bound to report their carbon emissions as it may undermine national security.

In addition to the emissions from weapons, their manufacture also contributes to pollution. Far more emissions come from them during production, for example in creating the metal for their casings.

Reports from Ukraine suggested the fighting there released some 100 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in the first seven months of the war.

Other risks include fires, pulverised building materials that can include harmful substances like asbestos, and pollutants released from facilities containing hazardous materials

Rebuilding war-torn areas that have turned to rubble causes significant emissions. Producing concrete and cement to rebuild generates a large quantity of carbon dioxide, which contributes to the climate crisis.


Military activity and war has a disastrous effect on the environment and is a major contributor to global warming which, in turn, makes armed conflicts more likely. Military forces consume enormous amounts of fossil fuels, even in times of peace.

Shelling and aerial bombardment release greenhouse-gas emissions, cause floods and wild-fires, destroy vegetation, leave devastating pollution with enduring consequences.

Warfare in urban areas causes extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure. Managing debris is energy-intensive. Reconstruction consumes huge quantities of raw materials and generates massive emissions.

We therefore call for:

  • A massive, unilateral reduction in military spending.
  • A ceasefire in all international armed conflicts.
  • A ban on the export of armaments.
  • Treating all attacks on and bombardment of civilian populations as War Crimes.
  • A Just Transition for workers in the arms industry and the military.
  • Support the campaigns of Stop the War and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade

Further reading: Indefensible: The true cost of the global military to our climate and human security…