The impact of Israel’s conflict in Gaza on climate change is significant and has far-reaching consequences.
New research shows that the emissions produced in the first two months of the Gaza conflict were more than the annual carbon footprint of over 20 nations that are highly vulnerable to climate change.
2) emitted by the transportation sector in the United States in 2019 was from the combustion of fossil fuels
In 2019, the transportation industry in the United States released over 281,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, accounting for more than 99% of its total emissions.2
According to a unique study conducted by researchers from the UK and US, it is estimated that a significant amount of damage and destruction, equivalent to the 7 October Hamas attack, was caused by Israel’s air strikes and ground invasion within the first 60 days.
Based on limited carbon-intensive activities, the study suggests that the climate impact of Israel’s military response in the first 60 days is likely much lower than the actual amount. It is estimated to be equivalent to burning over 150,000 tonnes of coal.
The examination, still awaiting peer review, encompasses carbon dioxide discharges.22 emissions generated by war
War produces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from aircraft missions, tanks, and fuel from other vehicles. These emissions also come from the production and detonation of bombs, artillery, and rockets. However, this does not take into account other greenhouse gases like methane. Approximately half of all CO2 emissions caused by war can be attributed to these sources.2
Emissions decreased as a result of US cargo aircraft transporting military goods to Israel.
During the same time frame, Hamas launched rockets into Israel which resulted in approximately 713 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.2
This is equal to roughly 300 tons of coal, highlighting the disparity in the military power of each side.
The information, only given to the Guardian, offers the initial, cautious calculation of the amount of carbon emitted due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. This conflict is resulting in unprecedented levels of human suffering, destruction of infrastructure, and environmental disaster.
Amid increasing demands for increased responsibility regarding greenhouse gas emissions from the military, which significantly contribute to the climate crisis but are typically undisclosed and not factored into the yearly UN discussions on addressing climate change.
According to Benjamin Neimark, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, this research, published on Tuesday on the Social Science Research Network, provides a limited view of the significant carbon emissions and toxic pollutants that will persist long after the end of war. It is only a small glimpse into the overall impact of military operations.
Earlier research indicates that the actual carbon footprint may be five to eight times greater if the emissions from the complete war supply chain were taken into account.
The military’s belief in their environmental superiority allows them to freely pollute, disregarding the impact of carbon emissions from their tanks and fighter jets. This must change in order to address the urgent issue of climate change. Neimark, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Lancaster and the Climate and Community Project (CCP), a climate policy thinktank in the US, emphasized the importance of accountability.
The country of Israel has been heavily bombing Gaza in response to Hamas’ alleged killing of 1,200 Israelis. This has resulted in numerous casualties and damage. The Gaza health authority reports that around 23,000 Palestinians, primarily women and children, have been killed and many more are believed to be dead beneath the rubble. The majority of the population has been forced to leave their homes and are struggling with limited access to food and water. UN agencies estimate that 85% of the population is facing life-threatening shortages. Additionally, over 100 Israeli hostages are being held in Gaza and numerous Israeli soldiers have lost their lives.
2 emissions or temperature targets.
The ongoing dispute is not only causing immediate harm, but it is also intensifying the urgent issue of climate change on a global scale, which extends beyond just CO2 levels and temperature goals.2
Emissions from explosive devices and aircraft.
According to recent studies, the reconstruction of 100,000 damaged buildings in Gaza using modern construction methods will result in the emission of approximately 30 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases. This is equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of New Zealand.2
The amount of emissions is greater than that of 135 other countries and territories, such as Sri Lanka, Lebanon, and Uruguay.
The UN’s expert on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, stated that this study provides insight into the significant impact of military emissions. These emissions come from preparing for, executing, and recovering from war. Boyd believes that armed conflict brings humanity closer to a climate disaster and is a foolish use of our limited carbon budget.
The effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, droughts, and intense heat, are already posing a threat to water and food resources in Palestine. Experts have warned that the environmental conditions in Gaza are now dire due to the destruction and pollution of farmland, energy sources, and water infrastructure, which will have long-term health consequences. As much as 45% of buildings in Gaza, including homes, schools, mosques, hospitals, and shops, have been damaged or demolished, and the construction industry is a significant contributor to global warming.
According to Zena Agha, a policy analyst at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, who focuses on the climate crisis and Israeli occupation, the devastating airstrike in Gaza will have long-lasting effects even after a ceasefire is declared. The remnants of the military action will remain in the land, water, and bodies of the Palestinians in Gaza, similar to the aftermath of war in places like Iraq.
A calculation of the military’s carbon footprint that is not transparent.
The impact of war and occupation on the climate is not fully comprehended. Due to pressure from the US, reporting of military emissions is not mandatory and only four countries partially report data to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which coordinates the yearly climate negotiations.
Based on limited information, a recent investigation revealed that armed forces contribute to approximately 5.5% of yearly greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, surpassing the combined emissions of the aviation and shipping sectors. This puts the military’s carbon footprint as the fourth largest globally, behind the US, China, and India, even without considering emission spikes caused by conflicts.
During the recent Cop28 conference in Dubai, the pressing issues of the humanitarian and environmental crises in Gaza and Ukraine were discussed. However, despite the inclusion of topics such as war, security, and the climate crisis, no significant actions were taken to address the lack of transparency and accountability in regards to armed forces and the military industry.
The Israeli representatives primarily focused on showcasing their rapidly growing climate technology industry, highlighting areas such as carbon capture and storage, water harvesting, and plant-based meat substitutes. Gideon Behar, special envoy for climate change and sustainability, stated that Israel’s greatest contribution to the climate crisis lies in their innovative solutions.
According to Ran Peleg, the director of Middle East economic relations for Israel, the topic of determining the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by IDF operations, past or present, has not been addressed. This is the first instance in which this matter has been brought up and there does not seem to be any established method for quantifying such emissions.
Hadeel Ikhmais, leader of the climate change department at the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, stated: “We are making efforts to address the climate crisis, but even prior to the conflict in Gaza, it is challenging to adjust and minimize its effects when we are unable to obtain water, land, or necessary technologies without Israel’s consent.”
Both the Israeli government and Palestinian authorities have not disclosed any data on military emissions to the UNFCCC.
2 in 2019
According to a recent study, Israel’s yearly military carbon footprint, not including any conflicts, was approximately 7 million metric tonnes of CO2 in 2019, as calculated using its defense budget as a representation.2
This is approximately equal to the CO equivalent in 2019.2
The combined emissions of Cyprus exceed those of Palestine by 55%.
Researchers were unable to calculate military emissions for Palestine due to Hamas’s unpredictable offensive abilities.
However, the situation in Israel and Palestine was already exceptional prior to 7 October. In Gaza, which is under occupation, the majority of Palestinians were already experiencing severe insecurity in terms of food, water, and energy due to the Israeli occupation, blockade, high population density, and the deteriorating climate crisis. Israelis, on the other hand, have been living under the constant threat of rocket attacks for a long time.
To understand the environmental impact of the heavily militarized region, scientists measured the amount of carbon emissions produced by the walls and tunnels built by Hamas and Israel since 2007.
According to a study, the creation of the Gaza Metro, a system of underground tunnels spanning 500km, resulted in approximately 176,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the annual emissions of Tonga, an island nation. These tunnels were utilized for transporting and concealing various items such as essential resources, weapons, and individuals like Hamas combatants and captives.
The construction of Israel’s iron wall, spanning 65km along the majority of its border with Gaza, includes elements such as surveillance technology, underground sensors, sharp wire, a 20ft tall metal fence, and substantial concrete barriers. This project resulted in an emission of nearly 274,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.2
This is nearly equivalent to the total emissions of Central African Republic in 2022, a nation highly susceptible to climate change.
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The position of the United States in the global sphere is significant.
The United States has a significant impact on military carbon emissions and provides Israel with a large amount of military aid, weapons, and equipment that are used in Gaza and the West Bank.
As of December 4th, there were reports of 200 cargo flights from the US delivering 10,000 tonnes of military equipment to Israel. According to the study, these flights consumed approximately 50 million liters of aviation fuel and released an estimated 133,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is more than the total emissions of Grenada in the previous year.
According to Patrick Bigger, the research director at CCP, the impact of the US on the devastation of Gaza, both in terms of human suffering and environmental damage, is significant.
In addition to Gaza, the US military stated in 2022 that it produced approximately 48 million metric tonnes of CO2.2
According to recent studies by Neta Crawford, who wrote The Pentagon, Climate Change and War, the military’s carbon footprint is significant. This excludes emissions from attacking Islamic State oil infrastructure in 2022 and is actually higher than the yearly emissions of 150 countries and territories, such as Norway, Ireland, and Azerbaijan.
Crawford states that roughly 20% of the United States military’s yearly operational emissions are dedicated to safeguarding interests in fossil fuels in the Gulf region. This area is considered a hotspot for climate change and is experiencing warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world. Despite this, the US and other Nato countries primarily view the climate crisis as a national security threat rather than acknowledging their role in contributing to it.
According to Crawford, the current focus on military preparedness is misguided as it overlooks a more pressing and urgent issue. Instead of investing heavily in the military, we should prioritize shifting resources towards the transition to sustainable energy, which is a relatively easy and obvious solution. Crawford holds the position of Montague Burton professor of International Relations at Oxford University.
In reaction to the carbon analysis, Lior Haiat, a representative for the Israeli foreign affairs ministry, stated that Israel did not initiate this war. It was forced upon us by the terrorist group Hamas, which has caused the deaths of hundreds of people and has abducted over 240 individuals, including innocent children, women, and elderly individuals.
According to Ikhmais, the Palestinian climate director, climate change is the most pressing and certain challenge facing the state of Palestine in the future. This issue has been further exacerbated by the ongoing occupation and war in Gaza since October 7th. He also stated that the carbon emissions from military attacks are in direct conflict with the goals of the UNFCCC and Paris agreement, making it crucial to acknowledge the environmental consequences of war.