War is Bad for the Environment


I just read a nutty post claiming that Neo-Conservatism is good for the environment [1].

The first bogus claim is that Saddam had WMD and war was required because he was a despot. The fact is that the Iraqi government was always repressive, there are many factions in Iraq that don’t like each other and a repressive government is the only way to keep such groups in a united country. The current civil war in Iraq and the effective secession of Kurdistan (which currently seems to be involved in an undeclared border war with Turkey) demonstrates this. Saddam was always a despot, but he did improve the living conditions of most Iraqis – the best way to avoid a revolution is to convince the majority of the population that things will get worse if there is change. I suggest reading the Wikipedia page about Saddam Hussein [2].

The best information on Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) seems to be on the conservative military analysis site Defense and the National Interest [7]. It covers all the issues related to invading other countries from a conservative point of view. Note that Neo-Conservatives are not Conservatives, the real Conservatives hate the Neo-Cons more than anyone else does.

The amusing statement is made that “apologists claim it was one of the most advanced Arab nations” and then a link is provided to information on Saudi Arabian censorship. It’s worth reading the wikipedia page about the history of Saudi Arabia [3], among other interesting facts “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the country’s television and broadcast facilities and oversaw the development of its defense industry” (does the US army share responsibility for the censorship?). It’s widely regarded that if the US military support was removed then the Saudi government would be overthrown. Referring to Saudi Arabia hardly seems like something you want to do if trying to justify occupying other middle-eastern states.

An unsubstantiated claim is made that under-developed countries produce excess pollution due to inefficient technology. Unlike some people I try to get some facts before posting so I looked up the wikipedia page on CO2 emissions per capita [4]. It seems that the highest ranking first-world country is Luxembourg at #4, the next is the US at #10. The countries on the list that rank higher than the US have a combined population of about 11,000,000 while the US population is 302,000,000 – some quite mental arithmetic suggests that the US produces about 20 times more CO2 than the top 9 countries on the list combined! It doesn’t seem that having the highest technology is helping the US protect the environment, I guess that they just use it to build bigger cars. The next thing I noticed is the countries that are at the bottom of the list – they are the world’s poorest countries. It seems that countries without much money just can’t afford to burn lots of oil, while countries with lots of money can. No real surprises there.

The lowest ranking on the list for a country that is unlikely to be regarded as being in abject poverty is India at position #133. The next lowest is Turkey at position #98 followed by China at #91.

As a final point of reference Switzerland is at position #69 a produces just under 27% the CO2 that the US does (on a per-capita basis). According to the CIA World Fact Book Switzerland has an infant mortality rate of 4.28/1000 and a life expectancy of 80.62 [5], while the US has an infant mortality rate of 6.37/1000 and a life expectancy of 78 [6]. I believe that the infant mortality rate and the life expectancy are the two factors that are most representative of quality of life as they are the easiest factors for measuring the overall health of the population. Being healthy is one of the most important factors in quality of life. It seems to me that by all objective measures the Swiss are doing better than the people of the US, yet they produce less pollution and never invade other countries.

Probably the most ridiculous statement in the post is “see rapidly dwindling resources wasted on jihad and revolution“. A revolution (locals using force to create a new government) takes little resources and most actions that a more simple-minded analysis might call “jihad” takes almost none. Sending an invasion force to the other side of the world and supporting an occupying army for years does however use significant resources, consider that the Hummvee is the least fuel-efficient vehicle on American roads in terms of work done (trucks and buses use more fuel but carry large amounts of cargo or many people), but it’s also the most fuel-efficient vehicle used by the US army in Iraq.

There is the possibility that Jaldhar was attempting satire. If so then I suggest that satire be kept separate from serious web content to avoid confusion about where the satire ends. But if you want some satire about oil then I suggest consulting theonion.com.

Before someone accuses me of being impolite, over a year ago the best estimate for the death toll from the occupation of Iraq was 655,000 [8]. Current extrapolations from the previous medical research suggest that the death toll has now exceeded 1,000,000. Regardless of whether the original post was intended as satire or not, I’m not laughing and I don’t feel the need to be polite to someone who makes excuses for such loss of life.

Finally as a positive suggestion towards the environment (and any other issue that you may want to discuss), I suggest analysing the issues before writing about them and not blindly trusting other people. When you write a post make objective claims with references to back them up. When you read a post consider the points that are made and the references that are cited. Do the references support the claims? Are there other interpretations of the evidence? Are the reference sites reputable?


14 thoughts on “War is Bad for the Environment”

  1. Wasn’t Jaldhar just trolling? There exists a group of people within the DD community who use Planet Debian specifically for this purpose, after all.

    – Chris

  2. Stoffe says:

    Saw that post. I thought it was just plain retarded, but it may have been just a pretty poor troll. Actually I just hope it wasn’t satire, because that would be really embarrassing given how poorly executed it was. Satire is an art and dabblers and amateurs will create nauseous content when they try to hard.

    Nah, it was just retarded, or a retarded troll. Let’s just let it die forgotten.

  3. etbe says:

    Chris: Trolling would probably be a reason for removal from the Planet. Debian is known for tolerating uncommon, unusual, and controversial political beliefs, but trolls eventually get removed.

    Stoffe: I’ve considered writing satire in the past but decided that I’m not skilled enough. A forgotten death is not possible when multiple posts cite it (including mine). Although the author may end up wishing that it had died forgotten.

  4. bi says:

    I want to know where this “blame global warming on Saddam Hussein” talking point came from.

  5. etbe says:

    bi: Well it’s been proven that he had no WMD and there is no evidence that he supported al Quaeda (but lots of evidence that al Quaeda has been strengthened locally and internationally by the invasion). They need to find some excuse for the invasion and occupation (people will think that they are just evil people if they admit that the invasion was for money and they don’t care about the million deaths it caused).

  6. bi says:


    Yeah, I know. But I’m still amazed by the fact that someone actually managed to combine global warming denialism with Iraq War apologetics, to form this masterpiece of bogus.

    And… I thought the neoconservative stand on environmentalism is that Global Warming Does Not Exist, there’s no problem at all, nothing to see here, move on? That the “global warming” theory is a huge leftist plot to destroy Western civilization? Or maybe global warming exists but it started 250 years ago, before the Industrial Revolution? Or global warming does exist but it’s caused by cows, which have existed since times immemorial? Or global warming is man-made, but it’s China’s fault? Or maybe India’s? Or Al Gore’s? Somehow there are people who manage to believe all of this at the same time without having their brains explode.

  7. cate says:

    About Swiss CO2 per capita: this indicator is not so correct, and the Swiss case is an example. Switzerland has not heavy industries (car, steel, …), but Switzerland need to import such goods. The indicator don’t take into account the import (gray CO2 emissions).

    BTW Switzerland have CO2-free electricity production (nuclear and hydroelectric), and some strict environmental policies, but the CO2 per capita is much better that the real (direct and indirect) emissions.

  8. etbe says:

    cate: Good point about the lack of heavy industry in CH. Of course it’s worth noting the immense trade imbalance between the US and China. If you consider the gray emissions then the US would increase as well.

    No matter how you factor in gray emissions etc, I doubt that the factor of 4 difference in per-capita use between CH and US will go away and it seems unlikely that the gap will close significantly.

  9. Adrian Bunk says:

    We in Germany produce nearly twice as much steel per capita and nearly twice as many cars per capita than the USA, and we still have less than half the carbon dioxide emissions per capita than the USA…

  10. Adrian Bunk says:

    Your “The lowest ranking on the list for a country that is unlikely to be regarded as being in abject poverty…” misses e.g. Latvia at #100.

    From the CIA factbook:
    – GDP real growth rate: 11.9%
    – Public debt: 11% of GDP
    – Unemployment rate: 6.5%

    And Latvia is a member of the European Union.

    Or Cuba at #109 that is (according to the CIA factbook) in terms of infant mortality rate (6.04 deaths/1,000) and life expectancy (77.08 years) at the same level than the USA with only 11.3% the CO2 that the US produces (on a per-capita basis)…

  11. etbe says:

    Adrian: Thanks for the information about Germany. Regarding the lowest ranking, I just scanned the list and went on the reputation of the country, there are probably omissions other than Latvia. But the point is that there is currently a strong correlation between economic success and CO2 use. Theoretically it is possible to be carbon-neutral or carbon-negative and still have a strong economy but no-one has done it yet.

  12. Adrian Bunk says:

    An interesting question is the direction of this correlation:

    There are some CO2 emissions required for economic success (or much effort to avoid them), but also the more energy an average person can afford the more energy gets used.

    You can partly construct the order of the CO2 per capita list by dividing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29_per_capita through http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_usage_and_pricing .

    I’m aware that this doesn’t describe everything, and this isn’t meant as an exact description, but as an example the fact that the USA produce between two times and four times as much CO2 per capita than similarly developped central European countries has some relation to the fact that due to higher taxation gasoline is in central Europe twice as expensive than in the USA.

  13. etbe says:

    Adrian: Of course the fact that the public transport system in most of Europe is vastly superior to that of most of the US would have an impact on petrol use.

    I’ve spent reasonable amounts of time in the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Belgium, and France and in the US I’ve been to Colorado, Washington DC, Maryland, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. The difference in the availability of public transport is huge.

    In the European countries I’ve visited I’ve been able to go everywhere I want to go without having any real incentive to own a car. Taxis are cheap, trains go to all major places, buses and trams go to most other places you want to visit, work, or live.

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