Since President Trump assassinated Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani via drone-strike on January 3rd, the world has stood still with bated breath. Will war break out between the United States and Iran? If it does, it will certainly destroy lives, properties, and economies. But how would war with Iran affect the environment?
A War With Iran Could Expedite Ecocide
One of the many tragedies of war is the environmental toll it inflicts. And this toll will only be compounded by the constantly rising threat of climate collapse. As the climate crisis becomes more and more dangerous in the 2020s, war (let alone world war) will only expedite its advance.
Much of war’s environmental consequences arise from chemical pollution. Especially in war zones with heavy military vehicle presences, the oil residue will contaminate natural resources. In addition, the uranium found in discarded ammunition rounds can cause radiation, which hurts both plant and human life.
Ramifications of Chemical Weapons
Chemical weapons can also easily produce carcinogenic environments. High radiation levels from chemical warfare can increase the risk of cancer around war zones — alongside poisoning soil, water, and crops.
Not only that, but air force bases can generate toxic fuel spills. These spills contaminate drinking water sources and pollute land and natural resources. Wartime destruction of infrastructure, oil fields, and military bases also cause widespread oil and chemical leaks.
Deforestation Becomes a Bigger Threat
Deforestation becomes a bigger threat during wartime as well. As warfare increases the number of displaced peoples, they often must resort to using timber for warmth in the winter months. Warlords can then take advantage of this demand, furthering deforestation.
To make matters worse, bases will oftentimes purposefully burn military garbage. These ‘burn pits,’ alongside causing long-term health problems, are disastrous for the environment.
And What About Nukes?
A war with Iran, in particular, may promise an added threat. The U.S. has an extensive supply of nuclear weapons at its disposal, although Iran has not pursued a nuclear arsenal. If the U.S. or any other nuclear powers choose to pursue nuclear warfare, the environmental outlook is grim.
Researchers have analyzed the environmental consequences of small-scale nuclear war. Only 100 deployed nuclear weapons would toss so much sun-blocking soot into the atmosphere that the global temperature would lower one degree Celcius.
This may sound like a possible combative to global warming, but the temperature drop would distribute unevenly, mainly targeting inland areas responsible for agriculture. This could cause food insecurity — or nuclear famine — that could reach the whole globe.
If that doesn’t sound too pleasant to you, then you probably won’t like to hear that global precipitation rates would also plummet, as would the security of many food chains.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s Carbon Footprint
All those consequences would certainly create an enormous environmental disaster. Unfortunately, another (even larger) environmental disaster must be considered. That disaster is the astronomical carbon footprint of the U.S. Department of Defense, which would only increase in the event of a war with Iran.
Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. military has emitted around 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. This is a larger figure than the greenhouse gas emissions of 140 nations combined.
And, based off of 2017 estimates, the military has emitted 59 million tons of carbon dioxide. The Department of Defense is also the number one institutional user of petroleum across the globe. Even without a war with Iran, these numbers are unsustainable.
And, in comparison, the U.S.’s climate defense budget is 0.2% of the Department of Defense’s budget.
All these alarming numbers add up to one climate catastrophe. If a war with Iran is imminent, so is further climate collapse.