Ongoing wars and environmental hypocrisy – Opinion News



Written by Dr. Ajay Lele

Various human activities are known to be the main causes of climate change. For decades, humans have been found to be contributing to climate change by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas), destroying forests, and manipulating wetlands for so-called development. In a limited sense, war also contributes to climate change.

This was recently recognized after the 1991 Gulf War. During the war, approximately 600 Kuwaiti oil wells and facilities were set on fire. There was an intentional oil spill into international waters. The conflict also involved the use of a significant number of bombs and missiles, causing pollution and having a significant impact on the local environment.

Today, there is a growing understanding that war is not just about human (and animal) casualties and damage to critical and other infrastructure. The environment is a casualty of war that is not publicly known. War is known to cause many short-term and long-term environment-related disasters. They contribute to the contamination of freshwater sources, damage (burning) of forests and crops, and soil contamination. It’s time for states to realize that going to war is actually a disaster for the environment.

The United Nations (UN) attaches great importance to the protection of the environment and recognizes this work as an important part of its conflict prevention and peacebuilding strategies. Without lasting peace, the entire environmental ecosystem will be under stress, leading to global warming and climate change. Against this background, on November 5, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed November 6 of each year as the International Day for the Prevention of Environmental Exploitation in War and Armed Conflict. Various United Nations agencies carry out programs on war-related issues affecting natural resources. There are several direct and indirect sources of emissions during and after conflict. Usually, the United Nations organizes several programs on November 6 every year to raise awareness about these issues. Most of the time, the United Nations releases a specific theme on this topic every year. Surprisingly, on November 6, 2023, we did not see any activity highlighting this issue. This UN silence is incomprehensible to aristocrats, given that it is known to have an impact on the regions where the ongoing wars, Russia vs. Ukraine, Israel vs. Hamas, are being fought.

Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine and its response has led to widespread environmental destruction. Most likely, this could cause long-term and irreversible harm to the environment. Approximately 12,000 square kilometers of nature reserves in Ukraine are now active combat zones.Beyond the loss and damage to human life, rare endemic and introduced species, and bird and animal populations have suffered significant losses. Some ongoing efforts at environmental forecasting, such as pre-war conservation projects in Ukraine, have been hit hard. According to some estimates, it may take more than 15 years for Ukraine’s nature to recover (but not completely) after the end of the war. More than 2,000 rockets and bombs may have exploded in Ukraine so far. (According to the Department of Defense, this figure was 1,200 until July 2022). Explosives, toxic clouds, and fires have caused chemical pollution that has also affected the region’s soil.All of this is causing significant damage to human and environmental health.. More importantly, any miscalculation/accident regarding the safety of nuclear reactors can lead to serious environmental disasters.

The current environmental disaster in Gaza is linked to the decomposition of bodies and the spread of dangerous chemicals from airstrikes. Currently, ground avoidance poses additional challenges. The United Nations estimates that more than 30% of Gaza’s houses and other concrete structures are already reduced to rubble. When a bomb or missile explodes, it leaves a lot of soot in the air, and fragments of various metals and materials add to the long-term pollution. Although the war is being fought over a small area of ​​land, the effects will still be felt throughout the region, and even Israel may face some environmental challenges.

Why are great powers like the United States and the European Union making so much noise about issues related to climate change, yet today they only support these wars and don’t care about the possible environmental impact? That’s ironic. Unfortunately, there is little discussion of the environmental impact of these wars. On November 6, the United Nations lost an opportunity to “name and shame” various world powers for their complete disregard for the potential environmental costs of these conflicts.

The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) will be held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023. The conference will be held in the Middle East, a region whose topography, terrain and weather patterns have been severely affected by past and present wars. In fact, COP28 will provide an opportunity to discuss this issue in more detail.

The author is a consultant at MP-IDSA, New Delhi.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproduction of this content without permission is prohibited.

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