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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Dec 2014

Green Challenges for the Diplomat

Bharati Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times   March 25, 2013
First Published: 02:29 IST(25/3/2013) | Last Updated: 02:32 IST(25/3/2013)

Ten years have passed since the United States led the Iraq invasion. We know of the tragic human costs. But what about the environmental costs, that all of us have paid? Our biggest collective costs are those of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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Soldiers and aircraft have been flown in and out, bombs dropped and oil wells torched. Although it is hard to estimate environmental impacts, guestimates abound.

Arc Ecology, a US organization, estimates about 84,000 tons of ordinance dropped and 15,000 oil wells torched, releasing nearly 2.5 crore gallons of oil in the air.

The Guardian proposed a back-of-envelope calculation too. Its data suggested the GHGs were more than everyone in the UK flying to and back from Hong Kong, between once and three times.

Apart from GHG emissions, the air pollution in the region would be extraordinarily high. The brutal health fall out is unimaginable to most urban Indians. Besides, most of it is long terms, so the nightmare is still unfolding. Smaller wars, such as the Sri Lankan government's massacre of Tamil civilians, also contributes to global environmental catastrophe.

As the US prepares for another possible drought this summer, and Europe freezes from unending winter, climate change is undeniable. We're all suffering, sometimes irreversibly.

It is a good time to assess foreign policy through this prism. The decision on Syria is still to be taken. Strategists and diplomats should face up to the challenge of stopping civilian brutalities without endangering the rest of the planet and people.


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