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Gaza War Fuels Climate Crisis: “Massive” Carbon Emissions from Israeli Bombing

StoryJanuary 11, 2024
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Israel’s military assault on Gaza is not just a humanitarian disaster but also generating massive amounts of planet-heating emissions and exacerbating the climate crisis. The carbon emissions from Israel’s bombs, tanks, fighter jets and other military activity in the first two months of the war were higher than the annual carbon footprints of 20 of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations, according to researchers in the United States and United Kingdom. That is “a really conservative estimate,” says Guardian reporter Nina Lakhani, who reported on the new study. We also speak with Hadeel Ikhmais, head of the climate change office at the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, who says the climate impacts of the war are in keeping with Israel’s destruction of Palestinian land, water and other natural resources over many decades.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: In an exclusive story this week, The Guardian's climate justice reporter Nina Lakhani revealed that, quote, “The planet-warming emissions generated during the first two months of the war in Gaza were greater than the annual carbon footprint of more than 20 of the world's most climate-vulnerable nations,” end-quote.

The report is based on new work by researchers in the U.S. and the U.K., and they say even this impact is likely an underestimate. The analysis includes carbon emissions from fuel for aircraft, tanks and other vehicles, as well as emissions from making and exploding bombs, artillery and rockets. It also showed that U.S. cargo planes flying military supplies to Israel accounted for nearly half of all the carbon emissions.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined in New York by Nina Lakhani, senior climate justice reporter for The Guardian. Her story is headlined “Emissions from Israel’s war in Gaza have 'immense' effect on climate catastrophe.” Also with us, in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, is Hadeel Ikhmais, who’s featured in the report, is the head of the climate change office at the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, their office based in Ramallah.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Nina Lakhani, lay out exactly what you found.

NINA LAKHANI: So, the researchers in the U.K. and U.S., what they did is, it’s the first attempt to calculate the carbon impact, the greenhouse gas impact, of the war in Gaza. And so, information about militaries and about war is very hard to come by, because governments don’t release this data themselves. So, what they did is, for the first 60 days, they looked at all the publicly available information that they could corroborate, including Hamas rockets, the air missions, the ground attacks in Gaza by Israel. And what they calculated is like a really conservative estimate of the carbon dioxide emissions just in the first 60 days.

What they also did is they looked at sort of — you know, gave us a snapshot of the occupation. So they looked at the carbon impact of the Hamas tunnels, which have been constructed since 2007, 2008, and Israel’s iron wall, and they also provided an estimate of the reconstruction costs. So, the conservative estimate they’ve used is that 100,000 buildings have been destroyed in Gaza so far, and the amount of carbon dioxide that will be generated through the reconstruction of those buildings, if that is allowed to go ahead in the coming years.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Hadeel Ikhmais, you spoke to Nina for this Guardian report, and you told her — and I’m quoting — “Among all the problems facing the state of Palestine in the coming decades, climate change is the most immediate and certain — and this has been amplified by the occupation and war on Gaza since the 7 October.” So, Hadeel, if you could lay out what were the climate crises that Gaza was confronted with, that Palestine was confronted with, that have now been exacerbated by this now almost three-month-long war?

HADEEL IKHMAIS: Well, we’ve done, through the last years — before even becoming a party to UNFCCC in 2016, we’ve made a lot of research and a lot of studies to find the climate scenarios. And after joining the UNFCCC and ratifying and signing Paris Agreement, Palestine had three very worst — we call them the bad, the worse and the worst scenarios of climate action in Palestine, regarding the heat waves, the droughts, the high unprecedented temperature, the dryness in the rainy season, and also all this fluctuality of fluctuations in the rainfall, in the temperatures, in the increasing of the heat and warm periods, and the decreasing in the colder periods. All of this will make a transformation to the way of life of the Palestinians, from securing the water and also the food security, because Palestine is an agricultural country which relies on the agriculture sector, mainly the olive and livestock, as the first income.

So, all these fluctuations and all these climate scenarios will negatively impacted the livelihood and the basic needs of livelihood in Palestinians in both West Bank and Gaza. And we’ve done assessment to both the high-priority sectors that are vulnerable to the climate action in both West Bank and Gaza. And those are — these are 12 sectors, among them the water and the food security. With occupation, line by line, on the land, in the West Bank and Gaza, will exacerbate the problem by making it very difficult for the Palestinians to adapt and to be vulnerable to these changes — for example, the land confiscation, the water resources restriction, the extraction from the groundwater, the zero shares from the surface waters to the Palestinians —also restrictions —

AMY GOODMAN: Hadeel, Hadeel, I wanted to —

HADEEL IKHMAIS: — also restrictions —

AMY GOODMAN: Hadeel, I wanted to ask you about the impact that comes from Israel’s destruction of renewable energy projects in Gaza. Can you explain what they are?

HADEEL IKHMAIS: Yeah, this is true. And this is very — we’ve been working through the last 10 years on finding energy security resources and water resources from unconventional ways — for example, wastewater treatment, desalination in Gaza, a lot of renewable energy, solar panels — in order to find other resources to Palestinians in Gaza. But with all these — and they are in different shapes. For example, there are big projects, small projects, some entrepreneurship, some small projects for small villages or neighborhoods.

All of these, or basically most of them, were being destructed from the airstrikes and from the war and the last bombardments, among them one big project from the world-funded — from the World Bank and also from the Ministry of Finance in Palestine. Most of these solar panels were destructed. And also, we have another project with the Green Climate Fund, which is the financial arm to the UNFCCC, which is called the water banking, in north Gaza. Also, we don’t know how is the exact damage of this facility, because there is a lack of communication between the technical team in West Bank and Gaza because of the war under, because technical persons and colleagues are under war. So we don’t know how much is the real damage to these facilities. But all the reports from different organizations, from the WHO, from the UNICEF, from a lot of international organizations, show that there are a lot of facilities that have been extremely and mostly damaged because of the airstrikes in different places, regarding to water facilities, water pipelines, energy units, desalination units, wastewater treatment plants, treatment units. All of them were basically partially or completely destructed by the airstrikes.

And all of these things make it very challenging against combating climate change, because we need those infrastructure to be able to have this adaptive capacity, to have water from unconventional resources, energy security, also the health sector that’s been targeted by targeting the hospitals and all the main facilities for treatment, which —

AMY GOODMAN: Hadeel, I wanted to bring Nina in for the last minute and ask you — we just talked about the International Court of Justice and the case that’s been brought before them today. Your recent article on Israel’s intent to flood Gaza tunnels was cited by South Africa in their case today. We just have a minute. Can you talk about this?

NINA LAKHANI: I mean, I think the targeting, it’s been cited as sort of evidence of the collective punishment. You know, there is no life without water and food. And any targeting of water and food resources and supplies, as argued by South Africa, is evidence of genocidal intent.

And, you know, I think just that article and that work and also the work that we’re talking about here regarding the climate impact, you know, it shows that in this situation, the human suffering, the environmental destruction, immediate environmental destruction, and the long-term climate impacts are all interrelated. You know, the carbon emissions may seem very small compared to the global emissions, but they will have a direct impact and an indirect impact on Palestine, on Israel and all of us globally.

And I think that the climate — sort of the carbon analysis of war is something that really hasn’t been thought about. It’s sort of an evolving science and evolving area. But I think, as well as the immediate environmental destruction regarding, you know, what Hadeel has talked about, the sort of targeting of water and food supplies, has to be thought, as — you know, the impact on the global climate is something that we should be thinking about alongside that.

AMY GOODMAN: Nina, we have to leave it there, Nina Lakhani with The Guardian, and Hadeel Ikhmais, head of the climate change office at the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority.

A happy belated birthday to Clara Ibarra! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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