The International Law Commission (ILC) is in the process of finalizing the principles of “protection of the environment in the context of armed conflict”, which it has been working on since 2013. The Ukraine conflict has raised international concerns about the destructive effects of the environment. Of war.
Although the cost of wars is discussed primarily in terms of human deaths and displacement and to some extent economic losses, there is no doubt that armed conflicts cause enormous damage to land, air, water and forests. , And the country’s wildlife.
Ukraine may have highlighted the damage to the environment globally, but war on the environment is not limited to that area.
Martial codes of conduct around the world were outdated in order to limit and control the war. However, in recent decades armed conflicts have become universally plagued, affecting the civilian population and the supply of natural resources to warring nations and groups. In particular, after World War II, it has become almost impossible to ignore the massive environmental destructive acts of modern warfare.
Huge carbon emissions
Wars consume large amounts of fuel and contribute large amounts of carbon emissions. The use of explosives creates large amounts of debris, causing serious air and soil pollution.
Attacks on industrial complexes or oil facilities are detrimental to air and water quality. Remaining weapons of war, such as landmines, limit agricultural use and pollute soil and water resources.
The conflict in Yemen has directly and indirectly destroyed many agricultural infrastructure, leading to a sharp decline in the country’s food production. Farmers in Lao are still suffering from the 2 million tons of explosives dropped by the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition to the direct adverse effects of armed conflict on the environment, in some cases, the damage to the environment is also done intentionally by the warring parties rather than as an unwanted by-product. Attacks on water and energy facilities pose serious environmental challenges.
In the absence of armed conflict, the preparation for war contributes greatly to the destruction of the environment. Production, testing and storage of conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons produce toxic and radioactive substances, contaminating soil, air and water.
Large expanses of fragile land, marine resources and airspace are being bombed or polluted to prepare the armed forces for war. Military training areas cover 5-6% of the world’s land surface.
Land used for war games is always severely degraded and the tactics of war destroy natural vegetation and endanger wildlife habitat. The bombing range converts land into waste land.
Flying low-level fighter jets is detrimental to human health and the environment. Preparations for war could endanger large areas of land for human consumption, and unexploded ordnance (UXO) can be used to dispose of waste. The U.S. Department of Defense is one of the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases.
Disposal of radioactive waste
Military toxins contaminate water, destroy fisheries, pollute the air, and destroy agricultural productivity. Of all the military readiness actions, the adverse effects of nuclear fabrication and testing are the most serious and lasting.
Although the direct impact of military toxins on the environment is limited and localized, radiation from nuclear waste is a more significant and serious problem. Although nearly eight decades have passed, scientists have yet to find a permanent and safe way to dispose of radioactive waste.
The war caused a great deal of deforestation. In World War II, Japan lost most of its forests. The Indochina conflict of the 1960s and ’70s also destroyed large areas of forest. The bombing and spraying of herbicides destroyed about 2 million hectares of Vietnamese forest.
Armed conflict between Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in large-scale deforestation. Recent wars in Afghanistan and Syria have led to deforestation. The ongoing war in Ukraine has also destroyed a large amount of forests. Loss of vegetation has long-term adverse effects on biodiversity and ecosystems.
Wars between nations and even internal civil wars contribute significantly to the damage to the global environment. Violence and population displacement during the civil war made it almost impossible to develop sustainable agriculture, leading to large-scale deforestation and destruction of wildlife.
Significant environmental footprints
Conflict-induced human displacement can be an important environmental step. Large-scale movement of people led to large-scale greening, erosion and hunting of wild animals.
The number of wars and civil wars is increasing, becoming more deadly. Countries are also spending more resources on their armies as global military spending crosses the 2 trillion mark in 2021. After a gap of almost four decades, the nuclear race is starting again in Europe. There is no doubt that armed conflict, directly and indirectly, contributes to the global environmental footprint.
Last week, on 2-3 June 2022, an important international environmental meeting was held in Stockholm to commemorate the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment and to mark 50 years of global environmental action.
Despite a growing perception of its environmental footprint in recent decades, armed conflict is causing serious environmental degradation and environmental degradation.
While the ILC and the Red Cross are making some efforts to strengthen and enforce laws protecting the environment against armed conflict, the international community still has a long way to go, as the ongoing wars have shown the damage to the environment.