The global military, climate change and human safety.

Key findings on the destructive merry-go-round of war, devastation and rebuilding:

  • The carbon footprint of the global militaries and associated defence industries is 445 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (2017); this is larger than the annual greenhouse gas emission of the entire country of Italy, and not much smaller than the total GHG emissions by UK (505 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent) and France (482 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent) respectively.
  • The global militaries and defence industries account for at least 1% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, and the figure could be as high as 5%.
  • For comparison, civil aviation accounts for approximately 2.1 % of global GHG emissions.
  • If we rank the world’s militaries together as a single country, they would be the 29th biggest oil consumer in the world, just ahead of Belgium or South Africa. To put it another way, this is half the oil consumption of the world’s 5th biggest economy, the UK or the 6th biggest, France.
  • The total GHG emissions of the nine-year Iraq War (between 2003 and 2011) were approximately 254 million tonnes of CO2That’s slightly more CO2 released than the 14th biggest economy in the world, Spain, in 2016, and only a quarter less than the 6th biggest economy, France.



  • The G20 nations account for 87% of annual $2 trillion military spending. In 2021, the U.S. defence budget was $800bn − more than the next 10 top spending nations combined.
  • G20 military budgets are locked into fossil fuel dependent hardware like tanks, warships and the F-35 fighter jet, which itself drinks nearly 6000 litres (1585 gallons) of fuel per flight hour.
  • The UK MoD is the largest single contributor to GHG emissions within the UK central government responsible for half of the total.
  • According to the 2020 report by Scientists for Global Responsibility, the UK military sector emitted at least 6.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2017-2018.
    • Of these, the report estimates that the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) total direct GHG emissions in 2017-2018 were 3.03 million tonnes of CO2equivalent, similar to the emissions of the UK’s vehicle manufacturing industry.
    • UK military and defence industry combined carbon footprint could potentially be as high as 13m tonnes CO2e (3% of national total emissions).
  • The Costs of War Project (2019) estimated the total US military’s carbon emissions for 2017 to be 339 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, consisting of 59 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted by the Pentagon and 280 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted by the US defence industry.
    • The Pentagon would be the world’s 55th largest CO2 emitter if it was a country, more than many industrialized nations including Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.
    • US defence industry emissions for = 280m tonnes CO2e, higher than Egypt.
  • The US Air Force is the largest user of fuel energy in the US federal government, consuming more than 2 billion gallons of jet fuel per year, and accounts for around 10% of total aviation fuel use in the United States.
  • A modern military typically consumes more than half of its total fossil fuel consumption on aviation fuels (e.g. over two thirds in the UK and around 60% in the USA).
  • Global carbon footprint of the military-industrial complex (i.e. global militaries and defence industries) = around 5%
    • This is higher than carbon emissions from global civil aviation = 2%
    • Transport (including cars, trucks, airplanes, ships and other vehicles) account for 25% of global carbon emissions
    • Agriculture = 10%
    • In other words, the global military-industrial complex carbon foot-print is one half and one fifthrespectively of the global emissions from the everyday activities of food production and transport.





  • The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, with a projected service life up to 2070 and partially (10%) built by Britain’s BAE Systems, has a fuel capacity that at least doubles the F-16’s fuel capacity (3900 litres).
    • Drinks 5,600 litres fuel per flying hour
    • Lockheed Martin expected to sell more than 3,000 F-35s worldwide.
    • Carbon emissions of F35 fighter jet per mission (28 Tonnes CO2e) = One person’s emissions (living in the West) over 2 years


TPNS Value for Money report (2020) looked at various ‘value for money’ comparative examples, including the $2 trillion cost of the Lockheed Martin F-35 weapons system.

The $2 trillion for F-35 could have funded any one of the critical agencies/activities below:

  • Climate finance for 20 years
  • UN disaster response for the next 400 years
  • UN disaster risk reduction for the next 4,000 years
  • Global biodiversity conservation at $100bn per annum for the next 20 years
  • WHO funding at $2bn per annum for the next 1,000 years
  • WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for 2,963 years
  • Global pandemic surveillance and control at $8bn per annum for the next 250 years
  • Money for 4 years to lift the poorest people in the world above extreme poverty (UBI for the 700 million poorest)
  • UN peacekeeping operations at current $4.5bn per annum for the next 444 years
  • UN peacekeeping at $15bn per annum for the next 133 year

Looked at it another way.

  • 20 years’ worth of world military expenditure ($2 trillion in 2020) would procure ALL of the items mentioned.
  • Furthermore, to fund all of this list requires $740bn a year ($500bn of this is UBI for 700m people). This equates to mere 37% of annual global military spending. Take out the UBI, a mere 12% of annual global military spending can fund all the remaining items.


underfunded yet needed more than ever

  • A 2018 study estimated that if the UN had invested $200 billion in peacekeeping operations with strong mandates during the period 2001–2013, major armed conflict would have been reduced by up to two-thirds (relative to a scenario with no peacekeeping operation) and 150,000 lives would have been saved. The actual budget over these 13 years was $59 billion. The researchers conclude that “UN peacekeeping is clearly a cost-effective way of increasing global security.”
  • As of December 2020
    • 10 out of 21 ongoing UN peace operations were located in countries ranked as most exposed to climate change.
    • 6 of the 10 biggest UN peace operations (by total international personnel) were in countries ranked most exposed to climate change.
    • Of a total of 92,159 personnel deployed to UN peace operations, 80 per cent (74,396 personnel) were deployed in such countries.


U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in his Green New Deal offer during the presidential race included this courageous, paradigm-shifting pledge,

Bring together the leaders of the major industrialized nations with the goal of using the trillions of dollars our nations spend on misguided wars and weapons of mass destruction to instead work together internationally to combat our climate crisis and take on the fossil fuel industry. Bernie recognizes that the Pentagon is the largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and that the United States spends $81 billion annually to protect oil supplies and transport routes. We are uniquely positioned to lead the planet in a wholesale shift away from militarism.


Analysis by the Overseas Development Institute found the US should be providing $45-50 billion of international climate finance every year under a “fair share” calculation that includes the size of its economy and historical emissions. The $1bn voted by Congress is just 2% of its fair share.


  • According to “very conservative” estimates published by Oil Change International in its 2008 The Climate of Warreport, the Iraq War was responsible for at least 141 million tonnes of CO2equivalent from the start of war in March 2003 up to December 2007 – 28.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
    • If the Iraq war were ranked as a country in terms of GHG emissions, it would rank above 139 of the world’s countries.
    • And if this annual emissions figure were multiplied by the number of years of the Iraq War, total GHG emissions for the war would be approximately 254 million tonnes of CO2equivalent – more than the 2016 emissions by Spain (the 14th biggest economy in the world), and only a quarter less than France (the 6th biggest economy in the world).
    • At the height of the Iraq War in 2005, the Pentagon alone consumed daily the same amount of oil as the whole of Iraq – consumption that would rank the Pentagon 34th in the world ahead of Pakistan (with a very big population) and Sweden (with an advanced industrial economy).
  • The US coalition dropped 4,000 bombs in Afghanistan in 2017 and more than 7,000 bombs in 2018.
  • The Saudi coalition carried out 19,000 airstrikes, dropping British and American made bombs between March 2015 and January 2019 in Yemen.
  • The US-led coalition (including the UK, France, the Netherlands and Iraq) has launched more than 15,000 airstrikes in Syria – in the battle for Raqqa alone, at least 21000 munitions were dropped – while Russia conducted 9,000 airstrikes between October 2015 and March 2016.
  • During Israel’s seven-week Operation Protective Edge in 2014, more than 6,000 airstrikes were carried out in Gaza, the 3rd most densely populated place on earth.
  • Cement production is one of the largest industrial sources of GHG emissions in the world – contributing an estimated 8% of total global CO2. In the World Bank’s 2017 Toll of War report on the consequences of war in the 10 worst-affected Syrian cities, it was estimated nearly 900,000 housing units were (partially) destroyed in 2017. The cement required to rebuild these units will release approximately 22 million tonnes of CO2.

[1] If not otherwise specified, references for this chapter can be found: &