Greenhouse gas emissions by the UK military and its supply chain are up to 11 times higher than admitted by the Ministry of Defence, which produced ‘flawed’ environmental impact reports.
The first independent calculation of its kind has found that Britain’s military-industrial sector annually emits more greenhouse gases than 60 individual countries, such as Uganda, which has a population of 45 million people.
The UK military sector contributed 6.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to the Earth’s atmosphere in 2017-2018 — the latest year for which all data is available. Of these, the report estimates that the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) total direct greenhouse gas emissions in 2017-2018 were 3.03 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The figure for the MOD is more than three times the level of 0.94 million tonnes of carbon emissions reported in the main text of the MOD’s annual report, and is similar to the emissions of the UK’s vehicle manufacturing industry.
The new report, written by Dr Stuart Parkinson of Scientists for Global Responsibility, finds that Britain’s MOD is “misleading” the public about its levels of carbon emissions.
The analysis also uses another method to calculate the UK military’s carbon emissions — based on annual defence spending — which finds that the total “carbon footprint” of the UK military amounts to 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is more than 11 times larger than the figures quoted in the main text of MOD annual reports.
The carbon footprint is calculated using a “consumption-based” approach, which includes all lifecycle emissions, such as those arising abroad from raw material extraction and the disposal of waste products.
The report will raise new questions about the MOD’s commitment to tackling major threats to the UK. The organisation says that its most important role is to “protect the UK” and it regards climate change — which is caused mainly by increased carbon emissions — as a major security threat.
A senior UK military commander, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, said in 2013 that the threat posed to UK security by climate change is just as grave as that posed by cyber attacks and terrorism.
The Covid-19 crisis has led to calls by experts to reevaluate British defence and security priorities. The report cautions that future large-scale military operations would “lead to a large increase” in greenhouse gas emissions, but these do not appear to be considered in government decision-making.
Military activity such as deploying combat planes, warships and tanks, and the use of overseas military bases, is highly energy intensive and dependent on fossil fuels.
For the complete report go to Declassified UK, an investigative journalism organisation focused on UK foreign, military and intelligence policies.
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