11 November 2022

World’s military emissions estimated to exceed these of Russia

On the 10th of November, the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) and Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) published their report ‘Estimating the military’s global greenhouse gas emissions’, comparing the military carbon footprint on a global scale. A lack of reporting and significant data gaps means it is inherently difficult to estimate the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the world’s militaries. Nevertheless, the available data indicates that if the world’s militaries were seen as one country, it would have the fourth highest carbon footprint.

CEOBS and SGR have used an innovative new methodology to provide updated estimates for global and regional military GHG emissions. This methodology takes the operational GHG emissions per head of active personnel as a starting point, making a division between ‘stationary’ emissions, from military bases, and ‘mobile’ emissions, from the use of aircraft, marine vessels, land vehicles and spacecraft. After using available data on the total stationary military emissions from the UK, US and Germany as a starting point, a ratio of mobile to stationary emissions is established based on a range of factors concerning the type and frequency of military activity. Global emissions are calculated by multiplying the average stationery and mobile emissions with the number of armed personnel for each country.

Using this methodology, CEOBS and SGR find that the total military carbon footprint is approximately 5.5% of global emissions. This would mean that military emissions would exceed total emissions from Russia. These estimates underline the urgent need for concerted action, both to robustly measure military emissions and to reduce the related carbon footprint – especially as these emissions are very likely to be growing in the wake of the war in Ukraine. On the emissions related to this conflict another report was launched during COP27.

A problem with estimating military emissions is the lack of publicly available data that only partially is related to strategic consideration of not unveiling energy use, and thereby magnitude and locations of military activities. However, this is incompatible with decarbonization objectives. Militaries need to find ways to report emissions using consistent, unambiguous, and robust data collection methodologies – and accelerate action to reduce them, as we have also argued for in a contribution to the World Climate Security Report.

The full report by the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) and Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) can be found here.


Photo credit: AvgeekJoe/Flickr