Photo credit: Flickr user thw05
What's the greenest way to kill another person? What's the most ecologically sound way to wage war? How do you slaughter your enemy without blasting the environment?
They may sound like cheeky questions, but in the likely event that we transition to green before we end war, they are questions that need to be answered. Even if it's possible to totally end war, it will probably come at the end of the barrel- weapons aren't going away any time soon.
Agent Orange continues to wreak havoc on parts of Vietnam. We shoot bullets made of depleted uranium, a dense metal made from old nuclear rods that can cause cancers and other illnesses. Our machines of war- the tanks, jets, and ships used by the worlds armed forces- are gas and diesel guzzlers, chugging it by the billions of barrels.
If humanity is going to wage war (or wage peace through mutually assured destruction) we should at least do it without messing up the planet. The pollution that drops along with bombs goes up into the same atmosphere we all breathe, the bombing side included.
So it's helpful to at least study the environmental impact of the various ways we kill each other. A recent article in the journal Energy & Environmental Science lays out the numbers for a nuclear war. It's not pretty.
... a very limited nuclear exchange, using just a thousandth of the weaponry of a full-scale nuclear war, would cause up to 690m tonnes of CO2 to enter the atmosphere – more than UK's annual total.
There would be a temporary period after the blast where the soot created by the explosion would offset the massive dump of greenhouse gases generated, but that would quickly fade away after a few years- eyeblinks in the long timescale of climate.
A full-on nuclear war, besides being a massive tragedy on a scale we haven't seen, would put so much CO2 into the air that any survivors would be left to dealt with a post nuclear landscape ravaged by a bevy of global warming disasters.