War’s impact on Climate Crisis

Much more attention is finally being given to the critical impact of war on the climate by both
the Peace Movement and also by the groups dealing with the crises in biodiversity and Climate
Change. This was evidenced at COP28 in Dubai, UAE, in November, 2023, where Peace was
introduced for the first time as a main theme in addressing Climate, and a Declaration was
issued called “Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace”. Since the beginning of the
Russia-Ukraine War, research has been conducted on this war’s impact on Climate, and now
research is studying the impact of the Israel-Hamas War on climate and the environment.

Reports of Research
A. Three physicians in British Columbia have written an article in Canadian Dimension,
January 9, 2024, called It’s time for Canadian environmental groups to talk about war as an act of climate denial.
See article:

Examples in Gaza

1) The article refers to a statement of the Norwegian Refugee Council which indicates
that the lack of access to fuel in Gaza has led to a total shutdown of wastewater
treatment plants. This puts Gazans at great risk of water-borne illnesses, and it dumps
over 130,000 cubic metres of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea.

2) In the first weeks of the war, carbon emissions from the more than 25,000 tonnes of
explosives dropped on Gaza would be the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas
emissions of approximately 4, 600 passenger cars. Since that time, the emissions would
be exponentially greater.

3) Gaza’s potential to be climate resilient and energy independent has been severely
impacted by the bombing. The article points out that before October 7, 2023, 60% of
Gaza’s energy came from solar power. This has been largely destroyed with the bombing
of buildings where roofs held solar panels.

On the same day, January 9, 2024, The Guardian(UK) newspaper published an article
called Emissions from Israel’s war in Gaza have ‘immense’ effect on climate
catastrophe. See article

This research, carried out by three groups of researchers: Benjamin Neimark, lecturer at Queen
Mary , University of London, researchers at University of Lancaster and the “Climate and
Community Project” a U.S. climate policy thinktank, is a first-of-its-kind analysis of data from
this war. They found that 99% of the 281,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxiate (CO2 equivalent)
in the first 60 days of the war could be attributed to Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground
invasion of Gaza. Almost ½ of the total CO2 emissions were from U.S. cargo planes transporting
military supplies to Israel. Hamas rockets fired on Israel during this time period contributed to
CO2 emissions but to a significantly lesser degree.

Since the research was based on only a handful of carbon-intensive activities, the statistics are
likely significantly underestimated. And one of the authors acknowledged that they had only
studied a snapshot of the larger military bootprint of war which would include toxic pollutants
that will remain in the soil, the earth, the sea, and the bodies of the Palestinians long after the
fighting is over. Such long lasting effects have already been documented in other wars such as
in Iraq.
With the destruction of so much of Gaza’s buildings, the carbon cost of rebuilding using
contemporary construction techniques will generate at least 30m metric tonnes of warming
gases. Serious thought will need to be given to a “greener rebuilding” without using cement,
according to Neta Crawford of the Costs of War Project in the U.S. speaking on CBC Radio
program “What on Earth”, January 14, 2024.

The effects of bombing and CO2 emissions have led to rising sea level, drought and extreme
heat, this threatening water supplies and food security. Gaza’s farmland has been devastated.
Unfortunately, data on the full impact of military activity is very difficult to determine as, so far,
nations have chosen not to make reporting of their carbon emissions mandatory. As a result,
data available is incomplete when it goes to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
However, even without complete data, a recent study reveals that militaries account for almost
5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, more than the aviation and shipping
industries combined.
Closely related to this war, we can also consider the immense CO2 emissions from Israel’s
building of an iron wall along the border between Israel and Gaza, and the construction of the
Hamas Metro which is presently being bombed and invaded. These military defenses would not
exist without the threat of conflict and war. Likewise, the massive increase in global military
spending, and weapons construction and supply, all of which lead to huge amounts of
greenhouse gas emissions, are very much out of control.

Conclusion of Studies
Both studies, and the interview with Neta Crawford of the Costs of War Project, point out the
huge emphasis today on military solutions to many issues, including climate change, rather than
on climate change itself and the fact that every nation contributes to it.

Among all the problems facing Palestine in the coming decades, climate change is the most
immediate and certain (Guardian article) according to Ikhmais, the Palestinian climate director.
He says, “The carbon emissions from the military attacks contradict the UNFCCC (UN
Framework on the Convention on Climate Change) and Paris Agreement goal…..recognizing
the environmental impact of war is crucial.”

The Nigerian poet, writer, environmental activist, winner of the Right Livelihood Award and
York University, Toronto honourary degree recipient, Nnimmo Bassey makes a strong
The true environmental impact of war is impossible to quantify because it affects a staggering
array of sectors and every aspect of human well-being. Wars kill people, extinguish biodiversity,
and destroy the infrastructure that could otherwise provide safeguards in the face of extreme
weather events. Warfare is an act of climate denial. (quoted in the article in Canadian Dimension)

All authors agree that the greatest need is to avoid war and work for a world of peace. If we see
National Security referring far more to climate needs than to the possible need for defense, the
number of military bases could be reduced as, in fact, more exist than are needed, according to
Neta Crawford. The bases could be converted to green needs, and the land could be reforested.
Already, in a few parts of the world where there has been dispute across borders, land along
the border has been converted into parks, green recreational areas for all. This choice has been
shown to greatly contribute to peace. Humanity can choose to use a global lens driven by
peace, and a deepening acknowledgment of our interconnectedness across Mother Earth
(article in Canadian Dimension).