Unveiling the Environmental Damage Of The War Against Palestine

Over 99% of the 281,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide generated in the first 60 days following October 7 can be linked to Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion.

Unveiling the Environmental Damage Of The War Against Palestine

In recent years, the intersection of climate security and conflict has emerged as a critical focal point in global discourse. Climate security, as a concept, encompasses the multifaceted vulnerabilities that arise from environmental changes, posing complex challenges in regions grappling with conflicts. The Middle East, long plagued by geopolitical tensions, finds itself entangled in a dual struggle – one fueled by political strife and another shaped by the environmental consequences that echo through time.

The Palestine conflict, with its historical roots and persisting discord, serves as a poignant case study in understanding the collateral damage inflicted on the environmental stability of the Middle East. The protracted genocide today exacerbates climate vulnerabilities, intertwining the destinies of geopolitical unrest and ecological balance in a region that stands at the crossroads of history and environmental uncertainty.

The Middle East is paradoxically entwined with vulnerabilities exacerbated by climatic shifts. Central to this predicament are specific climate-related challenges that cast a long shadow over the region’s ecological equilibrium.

From 2011-2023, the Middle East experienced severe climate events, including scorching heatwaves and a catastrophic cyclone that disrupted key seaports in Libya, jeopardizing oil exports. Similar to Iraq, where extreme heat led to socio-economic turmoil and protests, Libya faced violence following a deficient flood response, resulting in casualties in the year 2018.

In Syria, the 2011 civil war had climate roots, triggered by a decade-long drought that displaced 1.5 million people, fostering discontent. Iran, once a wheat breadbasket, faced climate-induced protests in 2018 and 2021, demanding better water management. Lebanon saw riots in 2019 linked to climate change, with wildfires exacerbating air pollution and water issues.

Yemen, grappling with extreme poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy, is among the world's most vulnerable to climate change. Its ongoing conflict is intertwined with a severe water crisis, exacerbated by regional droughts. Water-related protests erupted in 2014, highlighting the direct connection between water scarcity, civil unrest, and prolonged conflict.

The Middle East’s climate crisis, beyond its traditional security challenges, intensifies violence, poverty, inequality and migration, jeopardizing both regional and global stability. Food scarcity, migration pressures, and threats to agriculture underscore the monumental challenges posed by the climate crisis in a region crucial to world affairs.

The Palestine conflict which is a persistent spectre in the Middle East, reverberates far beyond its immediate geopolitical consequences. As we navigate through the intricate relationship between conflict and climate security, it becomes evident that the environmental challenges faced by the region are not solely a result of natural forces but are significantly exacerbated by the ongoing strife.

The ongoing conflict in Palestine which is basically a genocide by Israel, serves as an accelerant, amplifying the already existing environmental challenges. The devastation of crucial infrastructure, the cut off of water supplies for Palestinians, shortages in food and the deployment of heavy artillery and unauthorized chemical weapons broaden its consequences to the ecological sphere. The deliberate targeting of water treatment facilities, agricultural structures, and energy production centers has disrupted the fragile equilibrium that has maintained the region’s environmental stability for the past 100-plus days.

A ground breaking analysis indicates that over 99% of the 281,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2 equivalent) generated in the first 60 days following the  October 7 Hamas attack can be linked to Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza. The estimated climate cost of Israel’s military response during this period is likened to burning at least 150,000 tonnes of coal. The study, although potentially underestimating due to its focus on a few carbon-intensive activities, includes emissions from aircraft missions, tanks, vehicle fuel, bomb production and explosions. Nearly half of the total CO2 emissions were attributed to US cargo planes transporting military supplies to Israel. In comparison, the CO2 generated by Hamas rockets fired into Israel in the same period amounted to about 713 tonnes, equivalent to approximately 300 tonnes of coal, highlighting the significant disparity in the environmental impact of each side’s military actions.

Furthermore, the complete blockade on fuel entry into the strip by Israel in October resulted in the complete cessation of wastewater treatment plants. This, in turn, led to the daily discharge of over 130,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea, posing a severe environmental threat.

The climate insecurity stemming from the Israeli genocide on Palestine extends its tendrils beyond national borders, leaving an indelible mark on neighbouring countries and regional stability. This section delves into a comprehensive analysis of the broader impact, exploring how environmental challenges triggered by conflict resonate across various facets of the Middle East.

The interconnectedness of nations in the Middle East renders them susceptible to shared environmental vulnerabilities. The degradation of ecosystems, heightened by the war reverberates across borders, impacting the region’s collective resilience. This interconnected fragility creates a ripple effect, magnifying the challenges faced by neighbouring countries in maintaining environmental stability.

The economic fabric of the region undergoes subtle transformations as climate insecurity takes center stage. Disruptions in agriculture and resource scarcity, induced or exacerbated by the conflict, contribute to economic instability. This can go beyond Palestine and take Iraq, Syria, Lebanon in its wake. The allocation of financial resources to address the aftermath of environmental degradation diverts investments away from sustainable development, impacting the economic trajectory of nations grappling with both conflict and climate insecurities.

The nexus between climate insecurity and public health becomes apparent as environmental challenges unfold. Scarce resources, contamination of water supplies, and the spread of vector-borne diseases amplify health risks. Additionally, the strain on resources prompts population displacement, creating a complex web of environmental refugees and intensifying migration patterns that have far-reaching implications for the stability of the region. Within the North African crescent, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are entangled in water disputes. The influx of migrants, a scenario resisted by Egyptian leadership, will further contribute to heightened chaos in the region.

Climate-induced challenges serve as an undercurrent shaping geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East. Resource scarcity becomes a potential flashpoint for further conflicts, altering power dynamics and alliances. The struggle for control over dwindling resources between the MENA region states can easily become a part of the bigger crisis at hands and amplify existing tensions, potentially escalating into new geopolitical crises with lasting consequences for regional stability.

It is pretty baffling to see this major concern not being voiced by any climate activist of the West, especially soon after COP28. Apart from severely sanctioning Israel and its allies for fueling this war and adding on to the climate frustrations of the region and the world, embedding climate considerations within peace agreements is crucial for long-term stability. 

In charting a course towards resolution, potential solutions emphasize the need for a multidimensional approach that addresses both the immediate impacts of conflict and the underlying environmental vulnerabilities. Recognizing the inextricable link between conflict and climate, these strategies aim to pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient future in regions grappling with the intricate interplay of geopolitical strife and environmental challenges. For a start, acknowledgements are needed; from the failing liberal institutions and their hypocritical values on war standards, climate activists who seem to have become mum and from the Global North, who have not simply failed Palestine but also the climate and the environment.