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Environmental Catastrophe: The Pervasive Climate Impact of the War in Gaza


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Gaza War Climate Impact

In the shadow of the leaders gathering in Dubai for COP28, a pivotal annual UN summit addressing climate change impact, a devastating narrative unfolds over 2,400 km to the west – the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Beyond the heart-wrenching human toll, experts are growing increasingly alarmed about the environmental repercussions of this conflict and its potential to undermine Gaza's ability to combat climate change. This article delves deeper into seven compelling pieces of evidence, shedding light on how the ongoing bombing campaign not only constitutes a war crime but also poses a severe threat to the climate resilience of the region.

 

1. The Choking Grip of Toxic Air Pollution

The unrelenting conflict has unleashed a torrent of destruction, saturating Gaza's air with toxic smoke from burning buildings and human remains. Nada Majdalani, the director of EcoPeace Middle East, describes the situation as nothing short of catastrophic, asserting that "every aspect of Gaza's environment has been obliterated." This pervasive air pollution not only poses an immediate threat to the health of Gaza's residents but also significantly exacerbates the region's challenges in combating climate change.

 

2. Solar Power Devastation: A Setback for Climate Adaptation

After enduring a 16-year blockade, Gaza turned to solar energy to meet its electricity needs, with around 60% of its energy sourced from solar power. However, the bombings deliberately targeted and destroyed thousands of buildings, many of which were equipped with solar panels. This destructive act not only jeopardizes the well-being of the population but also undermines Gaza's commendable efforts in climate adaptation and the pursuit of clean energy.

 

3. Waterborne Diseases Looming Large

Decomposing bodies and contaminated water supplies stand as ticking time bombs, poised to spark the spread of diseases. The destruction of 44% of gas, water, and sanitation facilities in Gaza during the war further heightens the risk of waterborne diseases. As winter rains approach, the potential for sewage water mixing with rainwater poses an additional threat to public health, with cholera and other waterborne diseases looming large.

 

4. The Hazardous Waste Quandary

Even before the current conflict, Gaza grappled with inadequate sanitation infrastructure, leading to the dumping of untreated sewage into the sea. The total shutdown of wastewater treatment plants due to the blockade exacerbated the crisis, releasing significant amounts of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean. With the destruction wrought by the ongoing war, the accumulation of debris and waste is blocking sewers, creating conditions conducive to standing water and increasing the risk of disease transmission.

 

5. The Fossil Fuel Conundrum: Massive Carbon Emissions

The sheer scale of the conflict demands vast quantities of fossil fuel, contributing to excessive carbon emissions. Preliminary reports suggest that 25,000 tonnes of munitions were dropped on Gaza in the early weeks of the war, leading to carbon emissions equivalent to the annual energy use of thousands of homes or the emissions of thousands of passenger vehicles. The military's heavy reliance on fossil fuels further compounds global emissions, with estimates suggesting it contributes approximately 5.5%.

 

6. Acid Rain Threat: The Consequences of Weapon Use

Accusations of using white phosphorus munitions raise concerns about atmospheric pollution. As Gaza enters the rainy season, fears arise that the rain could turn into acid rain, contaminated with white phosphorus. This poses a direct risk to those relying on rainwater collection for drinking, compounding the water scarcity issues already present in the region.

 

7. Rebuilding Amidst Emissions: The Ongoing Environmental Toll

Reproducing destroyed areas generates significant emissions, particularly in producing concrete and cement. The destruction of residential and non-residential buildings during the war could result in 5.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions. This not only adds to the immediate environmental impact of the conflict but also contributes to the broader climate crisis, underscoring the interconnectedness of armed conflicts and global environmental challenges.

 

Conclusion

The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza is not just a humanitarian crisis but an unfolding environmental catastrophe. The evidence presented not only underscores the immediate and long-term consequences of the conflict on Gaza's environment but also highlights the urgent need for the international community to address both the humanitarian and environmental aspects in the aftermath of this devastating conflict. Balancing the scales between immediate relief efforts and sustainable rebuilding is paramount to ensuring a resilient and sustainable future for Gaza and the broader region.

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