What If A Small Car Were To Consume 414 Liters Of Fuel Per 100 Kilometers, It Would Have To Refuel Every Ten Kilometers, War & Armaments


Then there would hardly be anyone who wanted to buy this car. Not in times when climate protection is playing an increasingly important role.

And yet there are vehicles with such an average consumption – a Leopard 2 tank, for example. The tracked vehicle symbolizes two of the world’s largest pollutant emitters that do not appear in the Paris Climate Agreement and are not required to report by the IPCC: war and the armaments industry.

War & Armaments, Ambitious climate targets and armament hardly go together. The manufacture of weapons, vehicles, jets and ships causes greenhouse gases, military vehicles swallow enormous amounts of fuel in practice and use, maintenance is costly, and ammunition is a truly disposable product. How much CO2 the business causing is difficult to quantify. States and corporations hide behind a lack of reporting requirements and the protection of national security.

The numbers and data are hidden in statistics that you have to laboriously collect to get at least an idea. One thing is clear: In 2018, the global military budget was 1.82 trillion US dollars – so every 47th dollar spent worldwide goes to the military.

Manufacturing emissions

In response to a request from the left-wing parliamentary group in December last year, the federal government stated that it could not quantify the emissions for Germany.

Kristina Juhrich, an expert at the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) for emission situations, refers to the 2018 UN energy statistics, where at least some emission figures can be found. According to this, 32,000 tons of CO are generated in the production of weapons in Germany2 an, 8700 tons are produced in the manufacture of combat vehicles.

War & Armaments, That is only a fraction of the 805 million tons of CO2-Equivalents that Germany reports every year. But the energy statistics ultimately also show total emissions from countries, not from products. Manufacturing emissions are therefore hidden in other economic sectors.

Combat aircraft, for example, fall under the category of aircraft and spacecraft construction. Total emissions: the 193,000 tons of CO2. Firearms and artillery appear in the “Repair of metal products” and “Installation of machines and equipment” categories. The emissions for electricity and heat are reported under energy. The basic material of many weapons, the “emission-relevant” steel, is recorded in iron and steel production, which recently accounts for more than five percent of German CO2Emissions.

Restrained arms companies

The arms industry seems uncomfortable with the topic. In response to an inquiry from this newspaper about the energy balance for the construction of a Eurofighter, a spokesman for the Franco-German manufacturer Airbus only said that the production standards would be adhered to.

Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH announced that all partners – Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo – have committed to reducing the impact of operations and supply chains on the environment. The weapons company Heckler & Koch also does not give a number.

War & Armaments, Only Rheinmetall, a manufacturer of tanks, has something tangible, at least one figure: According to this, CO2 emissions from electricity and heat in 2016 were around 750,000 tons of CO2. However, this includes the production of auto parts, which makes up 40 percent of group sales.

A look at international data shows that Germany is a rather small light. The SIPRI comparison of the armaments companies with the highest turnover lists the largest German arms company Rheinmetall in 22nd place. The industry leader Lockheed Martin alone had twelve times higher turnover in 2018 and probably produced many times more CO2.

It is very similar with data that could provide information about the fuel consumption of tanks, aircraft and other things. In the Rheinmetall sustainability report: no information on the consumption of the Leopard tank. The consumption of a Eurofighter? There is no general answer, says Airbus.

According to the manufacturer, the Eurofighter fleet has completed well over half a million flight hours in the past ten years. The portal does the math: One flight hour corresponds roughly to what a German causes in terms of climate-damaging CO2 per year.

But here, too, the Federal Republic is a little light with 141 Eurofighters: According to the US military portal Global Firepower, the US Air Force alone has 5200 fighter and combat aircraft. Russia and China also pilot several thousand fighter jets. Then there is the global arsenal of tanks, attack helicopters, rocket launchers and other armored vehicles.

Foreign assignments are not recorded

As far as the balance sheets of the military are concerned, there is one big but anyway: only domestic emissions are recorded – if at all. The Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg) informs WELT: “Emissions from international deployments of the Bundeswehr under NATO or UN mandate are not recorded in the German emissions inventories”, they would be noted as “not estimated”.

War & Armaments, The reason: lack of information on the quantities of fuel used. NATO exercises and rotations should also be booked under “NE”. In this way, the emissions generated worldwide during missions abroad end up undetected in the biosphere.

The USA is likely to be the frontrunner in emissions in the armaments sector. They account for more than a third of the global military budget, and in 2019 the Americans were militarily active in 80 states. Some researchers therefore consider the Pentagon to be the largest single emitter in the world.

According to a study by the non-governmental organization Oil Change International from 2008, the Iraq war alone is said to have caused so much annually that only a good 50 states exceeded the output of this one operation.

According to the NGO, the Iraq war alone will generate 141 million tons of CO2Caused emissions in four years. That’s the equivalent of 25 million additional cars on America’s roads over a year.

Largest single emitter

A study by Brown University also caused a stir. A team of researchers put the US Department of Defense’s carbon dioxide emissions between 2001 and 2017 at 1.2 billion tons. In 2017 it was 59 million tons. That is more than what developed countries like Sweden cause. If the Pentagon were a state, according to the study it would be the 55th largest emitter in the world.

It goes on to say: “With a share of 77 to 80 percent of the total energy consumption of the US government since 2001, the US Department of Defense has been the largest consumer of fossil fuels.” This fuel requirement has remained constant for years at a good 85 million barrels (159 liters), as published by the ministry annually.

When asked, the US embassy referred to statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to him, his country uses “all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently”.

In the international climate discussions one will “continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model”. In addition, the US has reduced its total net emissions between 2005 and 2018 by ten percent, according to the US embassy.

Like a natural phenomenon

Nothing is known precisely about the Russian arms emissions. The fact that, as the researchers at SIPRI list, they are responsible for a good fifth of all arms exports worldwide gives an idea. And China is second in military spending with 250 billion dollars, but is still considered a developing country before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and therefore does not have to provide any data.

Saudi Arabia, India and France each invest over $ 60 billion each year in tanks, missiles and jets. According to the conflict barometer of the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research from March 2020, the armament is used in 15 wars, 23 limited wars and 158 violent conflicts worldwide.

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