Sustainability - Governmental Denial

in Oil

"Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today." recorded Ian Sample, science correspondent at Guardian in his report dated Friday February 2, 2007. "Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an Exxon Mobil-funded think-tank with close links to the US Federal administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasize the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered", he continued.

By the by, the UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science.
On September 19th 2006, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member on the Government Reform Committee, has just released a series of emails from the Department of Commerce that suggest that Bush officials "tried to suppress a federal scientist from discussing the link between global warming and hurricanes" In a letter to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Waxman details how CNBC requested an interview with NOAA scientist Tom Knutson in October 2005 -- one month after Hurricane Katrina -- "to discuss whether global warming is contributing to the number or intensity of hurricanes."

I mean, whom are we kidding by doing all this?

None but ourselves. Just for a moment, let us forget about everyone else in this world. How much more does it require to state, masking the truth is only going to kill you, your living parents, children, grand children, and everyone and anyone you hold near and dear to you, enough to care about.

We are all partners in default, within the process of global warming. The Governments responsible should realize that, our unsustainable practices are part and parcel of our daily lives. But we ought to know this fact, that in the absence of some decisive measures on our part, the true cost of our actions will be borne by our own succeeding generations, even starting with ours. As the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon advices, "That would be an unconscionable legacy; one which we must all join hands to avert. As it stands, the damage already inflicted on our ecosystem will take decades, perhaps centuries, to reverse, if we act now."

Effect of War on the Environment:

Dr Stuart Parkinson. Executive Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR), analyzed the relationship between war and environment extremely well.

We all have to agree to three basic truths.

  • Environmental Resources are one of the primary causes of War and Conflict
  • War and Conflict, in turn causes Environmental Pollution hindering Sustainability.
  • Lack of sustainability creates strain on Environmental Resources, leading to war and conflict, to gain access to scarce resources.
This is a cyclical process, one causing the other, and in turn leading to the extinction of every perceivable living being on earth.

To analyze how environment influences Conflict/War, and how that in turn affects Sustainability, let us go through the following truths:

  • The 1960s saw the peak of new oil reserves. The Association for Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO) argues that the peak of annual production will occur within the next few years (or has possibly just occurred), with global demand exceeding production soon after. Prices are likely to quickly rise, and the current price shocks are merely early indication of that.
  • Whatever global oil reserves remain, they are concentrated in small areas - eg Middle East states that hold 65% of reserves - though there is growing concern that they have exaggerated the size of their reserves.
  • Domestic consumption far exceeding domestic production in most major countries
  • Projected growth in consumption is huge
  • With the oil supply concentrated in a politically unstable region of the world and the possibility of demand exceeding supply in the near future - economic problems are likely, increasing the possibility of conflict.
  • We urgently need to move away from our high dependence on oil - even President George W. Bush has acknowledged the need to break "the oil addiction" in his 2006 and 2007 State of the Union addresses

References: Energy Information Administration (2006); ASPO (2006); Nur (2006); Wikipedia (2007b); The White House (2007)

Now let us perceive what war/conflict does to the environment:

During the 1991 Gulf War:

  • Oil well fires - more than 600 wells set ablaze, some burning for 9 months - smoke blocked sun - temperature fell by 10C; approx 1000 people died due to acrid smoke; 300 million tonnes CO2 released contributing to climate change
  • Oil polluted groundwater - 60 million barrels leaked into ground poisoning 40% of groundwater (Kuwait has less water per head than any other country)
  • Oil spills into sea - at least 6 million barrels of oil leaked into sea causing largest ever oil slick - devastated local bird, mammal, fish populations - prawn fisheries decimated
  • Landmines and other UXO, eg cluster bombs - 1.6 million landmines laid by Iraqi forces in Kuwait; approx 5% of bombs do not explode on impact (higher % in desert) - many people killed/ injuries
  • Depleted Uranium (DU) - super-dense metal used in armour piercing weapons - approx 290 tonnes spread across Gulf - source of low-level radioactivity and toxicity
  • Damage to desert ecology - obvious bomb damage, but also movements of armoured vehicles broke up fragile soil surface - approx 50% of Kuwait's land area damaged

References: UNEP (2003); Additional info from: New Scientist (2003); Friends of the Earth (2003); Medact (2002)

Besides, the following figures will give you a better insight as to what armed conflict between governments has and can do to this earth,

  • Oil consumption by military forces
    • USA - 133 million barrels in 2005
      • 2% of total USA oil consumption
      • similar to Sweden's total consumption
      • only 2 out of 56 African countries consume more oil than US military
      • true figure could be as much as double due to accounting errors overseas

    • UK - 7 million barrels in 2004
      • 1% of total UK oil consumption
      • similar to Namibia's total consumption

  • Emissions of CO2 from military forces
    • USA - ~60Mt in 2005

    • 1% of total USA emissions
    • similar to Finland's total emissions

    • UK - ~5Mt in 2005
      • 1% of total UK emissions
      • similar to Senegal's total emissions

  • Large military forces are making a significant contribution to the depletion of oil resources and to climate change - both are likely to increase the risk of conflict which military forces are claimed to be there to prevent!
  • Climate change could increase the risk of conflict, especially in developing countries:
    • Water shortages will increase with rising temperatures (and with population increases) - number of people living in "water-stressed" areas expected to rise from 1.7 billion in 2000 to 5 billion in 2025
    • Sea-level rise and increased storminess will increase risk of flood damage, especially to heavily populated coastal areas - tens of millions more people are likely to be affected by 2080s
    • Disruption to agriculture is likely
    • Together these factors could lead to a large increase in numbers of "environmental refugees"

References: Military consumption/ CO2 emissions figures estimated by SGR based data from DESC (2006) & MoD (2006). Additional info from: IPCC (2001), Karbuz (2006), UNEP (2007)


It is one thing to know the facts as above and recognize the truth that "what we are doing is wrong". Every Government, and every military corporation, need to just not recognize the damage they are doing to this world. They need to accept responsibility. Continuos censorship of the truth, will only push the truth further away, and draw destruction of this world closer.

The government can do a lot of things to make things right, and ensure Sustainability. For starters, they can reduce consumption of fossil fuels, especially oil, and execute and just not lay down policies and measures to support changes, as eco-taxes, carbon trading, regulation, R&D support etc. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change can be strengthened, especially binding targets on the biggest emitters (the largest being the USA) based on "Contraction and Convergence" principles. Global flow of small weapons to poorer countries can be stemmed, since their environmental resources are already under stress and hence conflict is bound to occur. This can be done by strengthening of UN program of action on eradicating illegal small arms, having every country agree a UN arms trade treaty. USA, which has highest levels of small arms in private hands and is world's largest arms exporter, is resisting these efforts. Another great effort every government can take, is reduce dependence on military forces as a way of dealing with international problems. This will also help reduce their carbon emissions!

The first step to Sustainability, needs to be acceptance...acceptance of the responsibility of such ensuing catastrophe, following the current trends of Military action and governmental Denials. The power of corporations, especially military corporations, with their ability to lobby for favorable policies needs to be curbed. Denial is merely cheating oneself, and cheating the world; though the truth still remains. Governments and Military corporations need to ask themselves: "Can we live with the truth, that we have destroyed the world?"

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Dipak Chatterjee has 1 articles online

Dipak Chatterjee is a thought leader, writer, deemed journalist and reporter. Please feel free to contact him at

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Sustainability - Governmental Denial

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This article was published on 2010/04/04