Climate pollution from US military and Alberta’s oilsands industry: reports

The Alberta Tar Sands ecocide is by any measure a criminal assault on Earth. This devastation is actively promoted by Conservative and Liberal governments and by the previous Alberta NDP government. 

Photo credit: US  Navy (left) and Pembina Institute (right)

The United States military is one of the world’s largest climate polluters — emitting more than entire European countries like Sweden or Norway. That’s according to a new report that estimates the U.S. Department of Defence’s worldwide emissions at nearly 60 million tonnes (MtCO2).

Here in Canada, Alberta’s oilsands industry emits even more climate pollution than that.

I’ve put together a few charts to illustrate both the scale and emissions trends from these two enormous climate polluters.

Current climate pollution

U.S. military

A new report out of Brown University, “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War”, digs into the climate pollution from the U.S. Department of Defence (DOD). This includes the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and other defence agencies.

The report highlights just how massive and globe-spanning the U.S. military is: “The United States spends more on the military than any other country in the world, certainly much more than the combined military spending of its major rivals, Russia and China. Authorized at over $700 billion [per year].”

The report calculates that the worldwide emissions from the sprawling U.S. military were 59 MtCO2 in 2017. That’s the black bar in my chart below. It includes emissions from fighting wars and other “overseas contingency operations.”

Climate pollution from US military and Alberta oilsands


Around a third of its emissions come from roughly 500 military installations, which include more than half a million buildings around the globe.

The lion’s share of its emissions, however, come from the energy used to carry out its operations. As the report notes: “With an armed force of more than two million people … and the most advanced military aircraft the DOD is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum.”

All told, the U.S. military currently burns 100 million barrels a year. That’s roughly two million litres every hour.

Around 70 per cent is jet fuel for bombers, jet fighters, cargo planes and other support aircraft. These aircraft burn gallons of this fossil fuel per mile.

Much of the rest is diesel for vehicles. In just one example, the report notes that the U.S. Army alone has around 60,000 HUMVEEs that burn one gallon every four to eight miles.

Alberta oilsands industry

Now let’s look at the climate pollution from Alberta’s oilsands industry. That’s the orange bar on the chart. This one part of this one province’s oil and gas sector emitted 78 MtCO2.

There are more than 160 countries that emit less climate pollution than Alberta’s oilsands industry.

As you can see, that is one third more than the emissions from the entire U.S. military. In fact, there are more than 160 countries that emit less climate pollution than Alberta’s oilsands industry.

The oilsands emissions data comes from Canada’s most recent National Inventory Report (NIR). The NIR shows that roughly half of these emissions came from burning fossil methane (aka “natural”) gas to generate the heat needed to extract bitumen via the “in situ” process. The other half of emissions was split between mining bitumen and upgrading it.

So far, we’ve looked at current emissions. The long-term trends that got each to this point are just as eye-opening.

My next chart tells that tale.

Climate pollution from US military and Alberta oilsands 1990 to 2017


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