COP26, the biggest “gig” for climate change is here with new promises to once again leave 3 major questions unanswered:
- Q1: Are we taking a full account of all the emitters in the world? Are we turning a blind eye to the largest polluters?
- Q2: If yes, can we archive the Net Zero targets? What’s the arbitrage cost for developing nations in this miscalculation?
- Q3: Can countries’ CO2/GHG emissions be only measured domestically? What about sovereign’s intl. CO2 footprints?
Staying Sober, Sound & Sensible
Nobody with a single nerve, sanity, trace of humanity and sincerity can deny that we must act fast & collectively to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. Having said this, you will have a hard time finding a single politician with audacity, sincerity, and single nerve of courage to call out some of the biggest emitters globally. God forbid, as votes certainly matter more than Mother Earth, and sounding “truthful and courageous” can come with a heavy electoral cost at the next ballot box.
So let me elaborate: As it stands and while the whole world is pointing fingers at U.S and China as the two largest emitters, this comparison is massively skewed and inaccurate. The balance sheet of CO2 emissions has overlooked some major gaps/facts:
- We have fully forgotten to measure the CO2 footprint of U.S wars, invasions & occupations
- Should we add these emissions to the ledger, United States will be hands down the largest polluter on the planet
- Not to ignore the footprint of 21 European members of NATO from what used to be a squad of 28 before Brexit
China’s footprint has to be accounted, measured, held accountable and shouted out and held responsible. Yet for all focus on China’s rise with one foreign military base in Djibouti, the 750+ bases of U.S around the world do eclipse it on any given day.
Here is simple glimpse to some of the missed outliers in Net Zero narrative – think Iraq & Afghanistan over 40 years combined:
- Mobilization of hundreds of thousands of young men and women millions of kilometers away
- In Iraq alone United States has deployed 150,000 troops with 5 tours each/20 years = 750K deployed
- Transportation of thousands of hardware, tanks, airplanes, armoured vehicles and military equipment
- Deployment support construction, fuel, catering, logistics to engineering to sustain the forces
- These assets guzzled millions of litres of fuel & jet fuel for four decades (20 years in each country)
- Million homes, factories, bridges, infrastructure and refineries made from are all destroyed and demolished.
- Studies confirm that if cement was a country it would be the 3rd largest emitter after U.S and China
- At the same time civilian airlines had to avoid these geographies consuming much higher levels of jet fuel
- The Scope 3 emissions of continuous push-back & insurgencies and the ongoing daily destruction & carnage
- The emissions that are yet to follow to reconstruct the ruins of these nations as a result of wrong policy decisions
We fail to ask ourselves why do we put young women & men, the nations’ healthiest and finest in harms way in the 1st place? To sacrifice their precious lives in thousands, bringing thousands back disabled, scarred, traumatized, only to leave megatons of undeclared CO2 emissions in the atmosphere? The tragedies imposed on civilians in these occupied countries are no less heart wrenching. According to BBC Persian* during the 20 years of war in Afghanistan every 5 hours a child was killed or disabled!
Climate Change & Mother Nature will swallow island nations around the world, as such we should worry less about China’s runway in South East China sea as rising oceans don’t have a bias on what they will swallow on their rising paths. What we have to gravely be worried about are the rising drumbeats of a new Manufactured Cold War that can soon turn into a Hot War with China to simply wash away not only the marginal positive steps/actions that will be announced in Glasgow but most of humanity with it. The armed forces are vital to mitigate the climate change not to be deployed in policy adventures to accelerate it.
We can’t control what we don’t measure. Repeating Net Zero is a good feel mantra, a façade and a policy distraction from the real task at hand. Santa Claus can’t bring Net Zero down the chimney, because his waistline has bulged as a result of undeclared CO2 emissions of arbitrary wars and occupations. Coexistence & Climate both start with C. Yet the C of Conflicts is the Critical-missing Constant for reducing CO2 emissions!
Watch my exchange with Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac at The RSA https://bit.ly/3m7aUFr (min 47:20 to the end) on why we must measure the CO2 emissions of wars.
Does anybody have the Courage and the Calculator to help with the math?
Ali Borhani FRSA #TheNetZeroOutlier is the Managing Director of 3Sixty Strategic Advisors Ltd. It is the readers’ responsibility to verify their own facts. The views and opinions expressed in this article/commentary are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other individual, agency, organization, employer or company.