Oil Change International

Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

Iraq = 25 million new cars, and counting

On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, a new report from Oil Change International, entitled A Climate of War (pdf) quantifies both the greenhouse gas emissions of the Iraq War and the opportunity costs involved in fighting war rather than climate change. Here are some facts on the war and warming:

  1. Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends.
  2. The war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003. To put this in perspective, CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US this year.
  3. Emissions from the Iraq War to date are nearly two and a half times greater than what would be avoided between 2009 and 2016 were California to implement the auto emission regulations it has proposed, but that the Bush Administration has struck down. Finally, if the war was ranked as a country in terms of annual emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do. Falling between New Zealand and Cuba, the war each year emits more than 60% of all countries on the planet.
  4. Just the $600 billion that Congress has allocated for military operations in Iraq to date could have built over 9000 wind farms (at 50 MW capacity each), with the overall capacity to meet a quarter of the country’s current electricity demand. If 25% of our power came from wind, rather than coal, it would reduce US GHG emissions by over 1 billion metric tons of CO2 per year – equivalent to approximately 1/6 of the country’s total CO2 emissions in 2006.
  5. In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the whole world spent on investment in renewable energy.
  6. US presidential candidate Barack Obama has committed to spending“$150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of green energy technology and infrastructure.” The US spends nearly that much on the war in Iraq in just 10 months.

In presenting these calculations, we are not suggesting that greenhouse gas emissions are the most important impact of the war, nor the major reason to oppose it. We are not arguing that a more energy-efficient military would be more effective or justified in its actions, nor suggesting that there aren’t many things besides clean energy on which the US could choose to spend its money.

Rather, in a process comparable to estimating the true cost of the war in dollar terms, we are simply examining an aspect of the war’s impact that has been ignored.

The emissions associated with the war in Iraq are literally unreported. Military emissions abroad are not captured in the national greenhouse gas inventories that all industrialized nations, including the United States, report under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It’s a loophole big enough to drive a tank through.

Estimates of emissions stem from fuel-intensive combat, oil well fires and increased gas flaring, the boom in cement consumption due to reconstruction efforts and security needs, and heavy use of explosives and chemicals that
contribute to global warming.

These emissions estimates are very conservative. Throughout our research we have erred on the side of caution, and have simply omitted areas where reliable numbers were not readily available (e.g., military consumption of halons or other
greenhouse gas intensive chemicals, and the use of bunker fuels for the transportation of troops and equipment to Iraq). We are confident that ongoing research will reveal more emissions (the full version of this report is forthcoming).

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Comments (14)

  1. Oh the irony – trillions spent and massive human rights and environmental violations based on no evidence. But the White House remains unconvinced on the need for action on global warming in the face of a mountain of scientific evidence by the top scientific organizations in the world – including his own National Academy of Science.

  2. JD Howell says:

    The word staggering is used. This would be an understatement if I could think of a word that describes the issue more profoundly. To think that our children’s children’s children could end up like the dumpkoft’s in the movie Idiocracy with Luke Wilson… but consider, doesn’t our current leader seem to fit within the dregs of that movie’s personna ?

    We should and will continue to be ashamed until the leadership and actions of our once great country begin to lead again. I say once great because we cannot consider ourselves great when we’ve made mistakes of this magnitude. The Earth is in the balance and we’re more concerned with our balance sheets. Time to wake up… cultivate minds, trees, peace.

    See you out there, on my bike, of course… JD Howell, Eugene, OR

  3. Kevin Zeese says:

    Great report.

    Both Senators Obama and Clinton are promising thousands of “green jobs” but they are also promising a significant increase of nearly 100,000 troops for the U.S. military. The latter will cost tens of billions. If it comes to a choice of green or camouflage, which will they choose?

    Unless we really end the mindset that got us into war — which in large part requires the U.S. to end its addiction to oil — the U.S. will be seeing camouflage jobs in the military well before we see much needed green jobs of a new energy economy.

  4. Shan Barclay says:

    Dear No war No warming,
    May peace be with you.

    Thank you for your efforts and for keeping me notified; I am grateful.

    Yours sincerely
    Shan Barclay

  5. Sean says:

    We need to stop the war and save this planet now.

  6. Carroll Childers says:

    Trouble is if the $600 billion had not been spent on the war, it would not have been spent on wind farms either. Doesn’t matter what COULD be done with money; what matters is HOW do we get rid of the current Congress who, as a body of people, are so corrupt that they will not make the right decisions and serve the people who sent them to Washington to do our bidding.
    Example: 90% of Americans are against the illegal invasion across our borders but is Congress taking effective action???????NO they are not. They have incompetent Secretaries is such departments as Homeland Security, Treasury, Transportation, and Defense. America’s goal should be to vote out all incumbent members of Congress and have a more effective vetting process for Cabinet members.

  7. Tanya Kasim says:

    This part reminds me of a song written and performed
    by Prince back in 1993 called “Money Don’t Matter
    Tonight”. There’s a line in that song that says, “Hey
    there/maybe we can find out a reason to send a child
    off to war/So what if we’re controlling all the oil?/
    Is it worth a child dying for?” He then goes on to say
    “Anything is better than picture of a child in a cloud
    of gas.” This is probably off the topic of oil, the
    Iraq war and global warming, but I think Prince’s song
    is relevant to what’s going on today.

  8. How is indeed exactly the question. We need a Separation of Oil and State in this country, and people need to demand that their representatives stop taking oil money. Check out http://www.oilmoney.priceofoil.org

  9. March 20, 2008…

    Headlines
    1. Global warming rushes timing of spring
    2. Reducing carbon emissions could help US economy
    3. Back to 1988 on CO2, says NASA’s Hansen
    4. Icy start, but 2008 may be in top 10 warmest years
    5. Japan to pay billions to cut em…

  10. Lenny says:

    Besides the greenhouse gases ( which is very important ) for ending the war-

    Five year war—Almost 4,000 Americans dead.
    WTC———————2,974 Americans dead.
    We have our own terrorist in the White House.

  11. vamfun says:

    Question? What are the effects of the military/civilian support gasoline demand on the global market price of gasoline? I would guess that the gasoline is being purchased on the open market and therefore competing with Americans for this supply, hence a probable contributor to the current rise in gasoline prices. If the war was not in progress, the peace time maintaince gas needs would still be present but I would guess it would be insignificant to the price of gas. Any comments?

  12. Richard Campbell says:

    This really shows how big a problem the automobile is. Every year around 40,000 people in the US and 1.2 million worldwide die in automobile accidents. In the five years of the Iraq War, the total automobile deaths have amounted to around 200,000 in the US and 6 million worldwide. Add to that the deaths related to air pollution from the automobile and physical inactivity due to overuse of the automobile and you have a tragedy of epic proportions.

    On top of that, arguably our dependency on the automobile and the oil it requires is one of the major reasons why the US is in Iraq in the first place.

    Then there is are the GHG emissions from automobiles which would be around 40 times that of the Iraq War. It is shocking that people are not in the streets protesting automobile use, one of the most destructive activities on the planet.

  13. Ronald  says:

    Seriously., guys! If that one war is halted, and all our troops are called back, that alone would be the equivalent of millions of cars taken off the road. Imagine the kind of pollution those war machines would be doing!

  14. omar says:

    Great job
    thank you for the sorrowful information about the cost of the war and about the warring of the climate change, but I want to add that the matter doesn’t stop. you must look at the other things that come after the war our country “Iraq” is destroyed now and the people still killed. we still live in despair and the people are frightened from killing every time they go outside home or some times even inside their homes. I think we can conclude this disaster in simple words which is:
    THE WAR IS THE END OF THE WORLD
    God be with us all.
    thank you very much

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