Defense build-up bad for the climate

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Norway’s new US-produced F35 fighter jets will contribute to considerably higher carbon emissions in 2030, the government admits, and that’s right when emissions are supposed to be 40 percent lower than they were in 2005. Norway’s gas production can amount to a “climate bomb” as well, according to a new report from a German think tank.

Norway’s first F35 fighter jets landed at Ørland in 2017. By 2030, the fleet is expected to number 52, replacing the current Norwegian F16 fleet of 57. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Torbjørn Kjosvold

Norway is not doing well lately with its efforts to promote an image of being climate- and environment friendly. The state budget presented last week has already confirmed that Norway won’t meet its UN- and EU climate goals for 2020, and is highly unlikely to meet them for 2030 either.

Now comes news that Norway’s purchase of a new fleet of fighter jets from the US will make things worse. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported this week that since they’re much heavier and have much more powerful engines than Norway’s old F16s, they burn 5,600 liters of jet fuel per hour, compared to 3,500 liters for the old F16s.  According to numbers Dagsavisen dug out of the new state budget for 2020, Norway’s fleet of defense aircraft including the F35s will account for 56 percent of the defense department’s total emissions, up from 36 percent today.

When the F35 fleet is fully phased in 10 years from now, carbon emissions generated by the Norwegian defense department’s aircraft, vessels and vehicles will be 33 percent higher than last year. That will make it even harder for Norway to meet its goals for emission reductions at home in Norway, even though military forces generally are granted exemptions for their heavy climate footprints.

‘Big problem’
“It’s a big problem that the military all over the world secures exemptions from reporting the effects on the climate and their climate measures,”  Gaute Eiterjord, leader of the environmental organizaton Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth) told Dagsavisen. “We can’t have that, when all parts of society are supposed to get down to zero emissions by 2050.”

Lars Gemble, communications adviser for the Norwegian defense forces (Forsvaret), claimed there was “broad agreement” that addressing “climate and environmental challenges is among the biggest jobs we face.” He stressed that the defense sector, poised for a major build-up, is phasing out the use of heating oil, for example, and as much F35 training as possible will take place in simulators, not the aircraft themselves. He claimed that the security situation in Norway will determine how much actual flying the F35s will do.

‘Gas no better than coal’
Norwegian government officials were also confronted this week with opposition to their claim that production of Norwegian gas is good for the climate. Both top Norwegian politicians and key players within the oil and gas industry have long justified ongoing exploration and production by claiming that “clean” Norwegian gas can replace “dirty” coal as a main source of energy in Europe.

Newspaper Klassekampen cited a new report from the German think tank Energy Watch Group (EWG), however, that challenges the idea that gas can help lower carbon emissions. EWG, described as an independent network of researchers and politicians, concluded that there’s little if any climate effect from swapping coal with gas. That’s because of all the emissions generated by the production and transportation of gas, while gas produced through fracking generates higher emissions than coal.

The group also pointed to methane emissions from natural gas through the entire production chain. They entitled their report “Natural gas makes no contribution to climate protection.” It also challenges assertions from the Interntational Energy Agency (IEA) regarding the climate aspects of gas.

‘Gas is good’
Norwegian gas promoters were quick to object. Hildegunn Blindheim of the Norwegian employers’ organization within the oil and gas industry, Norsk Olje og gass, told Klassekampen that she could understand the concerns that methane leaks can negate much of the “positive climate effects” of moving from coal to gas.

“But that’s not the reality on the Norwegian Continental Shelf,” Blindheim claimed. She claimed methane emissions from Norwegian production are “much lower” than earlier believed and well below the levels viewed by the IEA as having a negative effect.

“There’s no doubt that Norwegian gas has lower emissions than coal,” Blindheim insisted. “Any other claims are factually incorrect.” She maintained that not only will gas replace coal, it also will play a decisive role in production of climate-friendly hydrogen.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund