The environment, another victim of war

Of course, the first victims of the war in Ukraine are the Ukrainians. The Russian soldiers, whose brains are washed out by propaganda and who die in this useless war, are also to be pitied.

But the greatest number of victims could be found elsewhere: among the populations who will suffer from climate change. This war forces choices that are bad for the environment. First, those that affect energy. These choices are bad because they redirect considerable sums towards the armament effort, rather than towards the fight against climate change.

1. How will the Russian energy boycott affect the environment?

The end of Europe’s Russian energy supplies will encourage several countries to turn to alternative energy sources. Green energies, which in 2050 should constitute almost all the energy consumed in Europe, are not yet ready to take over. European countries can find gas, oil or coal suppliers other than Russia. However, those who replace Russia will themselves have to build new facilities to meet demand. Hydrocarbons will also have to travel greater distances. Nothing very pleasing from an environmental point of view.

2. How will new facilities harm the environment?

New oil or gas installations are expensive. Their costs are amortized over several years. This is among other things what will happen with the new oil wells off the coast of Newfoundland. These wells will help Europe and other countries get rid of their dependence on Russia, but at the same time the companies that own them will pressure governments to keep their investments profitable. The development of green energies will be slowed down.

3. How do military expenditures and environmental expenditures compare?

In 2020, global military spending reached approximately US$2 trillion. Spending to counter climate change amounted to about $600 billion. The war in Ukraine, in addition to tensions between the United States and China, will greatly increase military spending. It is to bet that several sectors of activity, including the environment, will receive less money because of the war efforts.

4. What will be the long-term consequences of the war on the world economy?

The war in Ukraine will accelerate the de-globalization movement, which is not entirely a bad thing. The COVID-19 pandemic and the rising rivalry between China and the United States have exposed the fragility of global supply and manufacturing chains. These chains are in the process of regionalization. However, the war in Ukraine risks multiplying these chains, simply because the Russian-Chinese bloc and the American-European bloc will want to depend even less on each other than before. Of course, the multiplication of these chains implies an immense waste of resources and the emission of more greenhouse gases.

5. Does war have good sides for the environment?

All is not black in this very dark portrait. The increasingly high costs of polluting energy sources are a boon for green energies. After a period of worsening greenhouse gas emissions, green energy may be able to take over sooner than expected. Similarly, new regional production and supply chains could ultimately reduce total greenhouse gas emissions, since products would no longer have to travel the same distances.

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