From greenhouse gas emissions stemming from rocket attacks to the threat of "the ultimate environmental crime" of nuclear war, U.S anti-war and climate action groups on Thursday told President Joe Biden and members of Congress that the long-standing call for peace talks in Ukraine is "all the more urgent" as the damage the Russian invasion has done to the planet so far becomes clearer.
CodePink led more than 2,300 "people of conscience" and groups including Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, and Extinction Rebellion DC in a letter to Biden saying that "based on climate justice reasons alone," the U.S. government can and must use its power to ensure that peace talks between Russia and Ukraine happen swiftly.
The groups detailed a number of harmful effects the war has had on the planet in its first 14 months, including the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which the United Nations Environment Program said may have caused the largest-ever single leak of methane, the potent greenhouse gas that can trap 87 times more heat than carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere.
On a day-to-day basis, the war is contributing to further fossil fuel emissions as hundreds of thousands of soldiers, their munitions, and people who have been forced to flee their homes make millions of trips across Ukraine. The conflict has also had a considerable impact on public health as communities face the long-lasting byproducts of war even after soldiers retreat from their cities and towns.
"As the fighting has now gone on for a year with no end in sight, Ukraine braces itself for further disruption of local ecosystems, forest fires, blackened trees, air pollution, sewage leaks, and chemical contamination of rivers and groundwater in Ukraine," said the groups in the letter.
"If any leader of a nation is even remotely serious about protecting the sanctity of life, they would push for a cease-fire and use their influence to establish peace talks."
Lennard de Klerk, a Dutch carbon accounting expert who is preparing a report on the war's climate impact that's expected to be presented to the U.N. in June, toldTime in February that the carbon footprint of the conflict in its first year was an estimated 155 million metric tons—the equivalent of the Netherlands' yearly output—due to explosions, the reconstruction of buildings, transportation, forest fires, and other factors.
The Thursday letter also points out that Western sanctions on Russian oil have led the U.S. to increase its energy exports to Europe, doubling liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from 2021 to 2022 and sending 1.75 million barrels of crude oil across the Atlantic Ocean daily—a 70% increase from 2021.
CodePink reported that when organizers delivered the letter to congressional offices on Thursday, they encountered Capitol Hill staffers who "were unaware of the deadly environmental consequences of militarism and active war."
"We will continue to educate, organize, and disrupt until not only the connection is made but action is taken to save people and the planet," said CodePink organizer Teddy Ogborn. "War can no longer be a policy option for nations. If any leader of a nation is even remotely serious about protecting the sanctity of life, they would push for a cease-fire and use their influence to establish peace talks."
The more than $100 billion the U.S. has spent on aid to Ukraine in the last year—and billions more spent by European countries—has come with an opportunity cost, said the groups, as the Global South has been left waiting for wealthy countries to fulfill "their 2009 promise to invest $100 billion a year to help poorer countries adapt to climate change."
"Now the world is looking to the wealthier nations for a loss and damage fund," they wrote. "Instead of pouring our resources into war, we should be investing these resources into seriously addressing the climate crisis."
The letter was delivered to the White House and Congress a day after CodePink co-founder Diane Wilson received the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work to hold petrochemical giant Formosa Plastics accountable for illegally dumping toxic waste on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
During the award ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., CodePink organizer Olivia DiNucci walked onto the stage as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addressed the crowd. DiNucci carried a sign that read, "War Is Not Green," while other activists chanted: "Stop the war in Ukraine. We need peace talks."
"It's a huge hypocrisy to have Nancy Pelosi speak at an environmental ceremony," said DiNucci. "Pelosi voted for almost a trillion-dollar Pentagon budget. That money should go for climate justice. The people awarded today represent communities that have been devastated by our war machine."
Prior to the event Pelosi had explicitly told CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, "We don't need peace talks. We need victory."
U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency documents leaked earlier this month showed that American officials believe that "negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023 in all considered scenarios."
"We must stop this madness before it's too late!" said the groups in their letter on Thursday. "For the sake of future life on this
planet, we urge you to initiate peace talks to end this war now."
Update: This article has been adjusted to correctly identify some of the backers of the letter.