Armed forces have a massive carbon footprint that is absent from global accounting.
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). Yet militaries are largely spared from emissions reporting. This must change, or mitigation measures risk becoming mere guesswork. Military emissions need to be put on the global agenda. They must be officially recognized and accurately reported in national inventories, and military operations need to be decarbonized. That requires more than ‘greening’ military infrastructure or equipment. A concerted effort is needed to reduce military spending on carbon-intensive programmes and equipment. Researchers need to develop transparent frameworks for reporting military emissions, and they must identify data gaps. The 2022 UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (COP 27), and the 2023 conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (COP 28), are opportunities to formalize this change.