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I'm wondering how much damage the Russian invasion of Ukraine has done to the climate, in particular how many tons of carbon has been released into the atmosphere. I'd be surprised if it isn't substantial, but I don't know exactly how much.

Google yields some results - the invasion certainly wasn't good for the climate. However the results I saw generally focus on how the breakdown in diplomatic relations makes it harder to agree on measures. I'm only interested in the direct impact of the war.

An analysis of the direct climate impact of this war would be ideal. It doesn't have to be this war as well - some estimate of how much carbon is released in any war will also work.

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    $\begingroup$ As an anecdote - during the first Gulf war, when Iraq was shooting scad missiles at Tel Aviv, this reduced pollution, crime rates, and the number of car accidents, since people avoided spending much time away from home. We have also seen similar effects during the Covid pandemics. $\endgroup$
    – Roger V.
    Aug 17, 2022 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ @RogerVadim hmm does people evacuating mean they bring the pollution, crime rates, etc with them to a new location? $\endgroup$
    – Allure
    Aug 17, 2022 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Allure yours is a strange claim (or misinterpretation of my comment). The war might result in more pollution because of extensive use of ecologically unfriendly military equipment. In the same time, it is disrupting many activities that might be polluting. In your example, if you evacuate and leave behind your SUV and tractor, your carbon footprint is reduced. $\endgroup$
    – Roger V.
    Aug 17, 2022 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Allure as for the crime rates due to evacuation/refugees, these might go up, if the refugees find themselves in need. Also, after the war the former combatants, used to killing and/or traumatized by war, might contribute to higher crime rates - as it happened in the USSR and the post-Soviet space after the Afghan war. But these are again highly variable. $\endgroup$
    – Roger V.
    Aug 17, 2022 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ And science.org/doi/pdf/10.1126/science.256.5059.987 on the first Gulf war, although focused on the oil fires. "emissions of carbon dioxide were ∼2% of global emissions". $\endgroup$
    – Fizz
    Aug 17, 2022 at 22:56

2 Answers 2

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Partial answer from an article in Nature: militaries are expensive (in terms of carbon emissions) in general. The numbers are opaque because most militaries don't estimate their carbon emissions. However, two militaries do (the US and UK militaries), and the numbers are severe. The US military's emissions per capita is nearly 3x the US's emissions per capita. The UK military emits less, but it's still >3x the UK's emissions per capita as well.

The world’s militaries are heavy emitters of greenhouse gases. No one knows exactly how much; estimates range between 1% and 5% of global emissions, comparable with the aviation and shipping industries (2% each).

However, the answer is only partial because it doesn't say if emissions increase during a war, and if so by how much.

Edit: now answered by another source.

Ukraine has started to calculate emissions linked directly and indirectly to the invasion launched by Russia on February 24, a first for a country at war. Fires in buildings, forests and fields sent into the skies 23.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, and the fighting itself 8.9 million tonnes, according to the project called the Initiative on GHG Accounting of War.

The displacement of people caused 1.4 million tonnes, said the project created two months into the war, while reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure will cause another 48.7 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

The total comes to nearly 83 million tonnes as a direct consequence of the war, now in its eighth month -- compared to around 100 million tonnes produced from all sources by the Netherlands over the same period, according to the initiative.

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One report, COP27: Russian invasion of Ukraine released 8 million tonnes carbon till September, says report claims 8 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent have been emitted from February 2022 to September 2022.

Of this, 1.4 Mt of GHG emissions has been associated with just the movement of refugees as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

These estimates have considered "troop movements, fuel consumption, and military aircraft and also impact of explosives and ammunition in Ukraine".

At least 6,215 fires spread over a total area of 486,162 hectares were caused by the ammunition and bombs during the seven months of the study period or the first 214 days of the war.

It is claimed that "from February 24 onward, 224,956 explosive devices were fired by Russian troops".

It is also estimated that 48.7 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent will be made during reconstruction.

The war also caused damage to 497 water management facilities in Ukraine. According to a World Bank assessment, it would cost 7.71 billion Euros for the restoration of irrigation, drainage, and hydro-technical structures over a 10-year period.

What no-one has yet mentioned is the amount of carbon dioxide that will be released in the future as a result of replacement armaments being manufactured to replace the ones used during the conflict.

Additional environmental impacts from the war include:

  • Some 30 percent of the country’s protected areas, covering 3 million acres (1.214 Mha), have been ­­bombed, polluted, burned, or hit by military maneuvers;
  • Rare steppe and island ecosystems in the south have been pummeled, threatening endemic grassland plants and insects;
  • Rivers across the Donbas conflict zone in the east are being polluted by wrecked industrial facilities, sewage works, and overflowing coal mines;
  • The possibility of an upsurge in uncontrolled logging of ancient forests in the Carpathian Mountains;
  • The listing of 20 rare steppe species that they believe may disappear due to the war;
  • Peat in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is continuing to smolder as a result of the war;
  • Particularly in the Donbas region, "Many industrial plants are damaged or abandoned; wrecked sewage works gush their contents into rivers; damaged pipelines are filling wetlands with oil; and toxic military scrap is spread across the land ... No one has done any research and probably won’t for many years";
  • A particular concern is the many coal mines abandoned after 2014. With pumping of water halted, they have so far released some 650,000 acre-feet (80.1763 million cubic meters) of polluted mine water into the environment;
  • A few of the flooded mines are radiological hazards. For instance, Soviet scientists carried out a controlled atomic explosion at the Yunkom Mine in Donetsk in 1979. The waste remains underground. Since the pumps were turned off in 2018, the mine has overflowed into nearby underground water reserves used for drinking;
  • Many also fear the long-term toxic legacy of the giant Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, which was bombarded for many weeks before falling to the Russians in May. The works was already a notorious defiler of local soils, air, and rivers. The Russian bombardment could have released tens of thousands of tons of hydrogen sulfide into the Sea of Azov with unknown ecological consequences.
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