Russia Versus Ukraine: Conflict Versus Climate

June 15th, 2022 - by Dr Stuart Parkinson / Scientists for Global Responsibility


The Russia-Ukraine War and the Climate Crisis

Dr Stuart Parkinson / Scientists for Global Responsibility

(June 11, 2022) — Dr. Stuart Parkinson summarises the ways in which the Russia-Ukraine war is fuelling climate change both on and off the battlefield — putting the 1.5C temperature target in jeopardy.

This PowerPoint presentation was given at a meeting of European Network Against Arms Trade campaigners on 11 June.

Direct Effects on Carbon Emissions

  • Before war: Russia 3.1% of world military spending; Ukraine 0.3%
  • War is increasing military carbon emissions
    • Large increases in oil consumption of military vehicles
    • Large increases in production of military equipment
    • Some increases in energy consumption on military bases
  • Carbon emissions due to destruction/ damage to buildings, land • Fires of combustible materials in cities, esp. fuel depots
    • Burning/ damage to forests and other ecosystems
    • Degradation of soils
  • Very little data available
  • Military spending stats from SIPRI (2022)
  • Combat planes have especially high fuel consumption
  • Fuel consumption for all vehicles increases substantially during ‘combat operations’
  • Large fraction of military production taking place in NATO countries
  • Data – before war, no publicly available data on Russian military carbon emissions, partial/ unclear data on Ukraine
  • Examples of available data, including from other wars/ militaries:
    • Peace‐time fuel consumption of US armoured vehicle is about 10 times that of average car; for US combat plane, it is about 100 times larger; in war‐time, this grows considerably (Parkinson, 2020)
    • When Donbas war begin in 2014, incomplete data indicates Ukraine military carbon emissions rose 400% in 1y (UN FCCC, 2021)
    • As ‘Global War on Terrorism’ ramped up, more complete data shows US military emissions rose by 35% in 4y up to 2004 (Crawford, 2019)
    • US data from the Iraq war shows that military equipment was used at between 6 and 10 times the peace‐time rate (Stiglitz and Bilmes, 2009: 42)

Pollution from conflict will poison Ukraine for generations.

Indirect Effects on Carbon Emissions

  • Major increases in military spending in NATO countries
  • Germany announced €100bn rise in military spending – 60% larger than entire annual military budget of Russia
  • Military spending is carbon intensive
  • Increases in oil & gas prices
    • Increases in oil & gas production outside Russia • Improvements in energy efficiency
    • Increases in renewable energy production
  • Reconstruction (post‐war); increased health care for injured • Lower political priority for international climate action
    Indirect effects likely to be larger
  • In 2021, NATO military spending was over 55% of global total (SIPRI, 2022)
  • By end of March 2022, at least eight NATO countries had announced plans to increase military spending (SIPRI, 2022) with Germany announcing €100bn increase (The Guardian, 2022)
  • Carbon emissions from reconstruction will be especially high if high‐carbon concrete used
  • Increased health care for injured veterans, civilians, refugees

Energy Policy Changes So Far

  • Some positive steps on energy efficiency and renewables
  • In general, negative policies dwarf positive policies
  • Research just published: Climate Action Tracker (2022)
  • Changes in energy policy alone could put Paris target of 1.5C out of reach

Don’t Forget threat of Nuclear War…

  • Russia has made nuclear threats – NATO has 3 nuclear‐armed members
  • Nuclear war can cause catastrophic climate change through ‘nuclear winter’ effect
  • Multiple nuclear explosions can lead to intense ‘fire‐storms’
    • Smoke injected high into atmosphere above rain clouds
    • Spreads out, blocking Sun’s rays
    • Catastrophic cooling ® crop failures etc ® mass starvation etc.
  • Nuclear winter effects can be caused by:
    About 100 Hiroshima‐sized weapons
    • About 40 UK Trident weapons
  • For more discussion of the recent research, see: Nature (2020); SGR (2015)

Campaign Work

  • Raise awareness of how militaries and war fuel climate crisis • Russia‐Ukraine war is key threat to 1.5°C target
  • Support climate campaigners on green policies
  • Support anti‐nuclear campaigners on disarmament policies
  • Lobbying on climate & military:
    • Improved data reporting on carbon emissions from militaries/ war • Military emissions in national carbon reduction targets
    • Target UN climate bodies, especially UN FCCC Secretariat and IPCC • New report out on 20th June on lobbying
  • Scientists for Global Responsibility military & climate outputs:


  • Climate Action Tracker (2022). Global reaction to energy crisis risks zero carbon transition.
  • Crawford N (2019). Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War. Brown University, USA.
  • The Guardian (2022). Germany to set up €100bn fund to boost its military strength. 27 February.
  • Nature (2020). How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet.
  • Parkinson S (2020). The carbon boot‐print of the military. Responsible Science, no.2.
  • SGR (2015). UK nuclear weapons: a catastrophe in the making?
  • SIPRI (2022). Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2021.
  • Stiglitz J, Bilmes L (2009). The Three Trillion Dollar War. Penguin, UK.
  • UN FCCC (2021). Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data ‐ Detailed data by Party. (Search terms: Ukraine; all years; 1.A.5 other; aggregate GHGs; kt CO2e)