The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences/EcoIslam (IFEES/EcoIslam), the UK-based charitable organisation dedicated to the maintenance of the Earth as a healthy habitat for all living beings, shares our grief and sadness for the great harm being wrought daily on people, climate and nature in Gaza.
Much of the critical global risks that humanity faces are linked to the triple planetary crises defined by the United Nations (UN) as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. For the inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank, the unrelenting assault by Israel over the last 100 plus days, has now increased the volume of these risks manifold. The pollution of air, soil and water from one of the deadliest and most destructive bombing campaigns in modern warfare is now leading to a linked climate, environmental and health crisis. Lack of access to clean water, breathable air and functioning sanitation, are catalysts for the spread of illness, disease and death. The destruction of habitats is robbing Palestinian farmers and fisherfolk of their source of living. The climate impact of this war, which will include the costs of post-conflict reconstruction, must still be counted.
The scale of the climate impact of this war has produced more planet-warming gases than the annual emissions of 20 climate-vulnerable nations according to a recent study. The study estimated that Israel’s aerial bombardment and military response accounts for over 99% of the 281,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted in the first 60 days of the conflict. This is equivalent to burning at least 150,000 tonnes of coal. Hamas rockets fired into Israel during the same period, generated an estimated 713 tonnes, or the equivalent of burning 300 tonnes of coal. Given the magnitude of destruction of this war, all indications are that the climate costs of any post-conflict reconstruction will be immense.
Experts in mapping damage from warfare have assessed that Israel’s bombing campaign of heavily built-up residential areas in Gaza had, by early December 2023, already exceeded the damage from the allied bombings of Cologne and Dresden during the second world war. The Guardian reports that according to the UN, more than 65,000 residential housing units have been destroyed, with another 290,000 damaged by bombing and fighting. To put this into context, from a conservative estimate this equates to having the homes of more than 600,000 people destroyed in a UK city the size of Glasgow or Bristol, in the space of 90 days.
Whilst the world witnesses the devastation of 1000-pound bombs being dropped in densely populated residential areas, this might make one believe that harm is only visited upon the men, women and children living inside it, environmental pollution is less visible. The human costs are immense and growing. In the first 95 days, over 23,000 deaths, mainly women and children, and more than 50,000 seriously injured have been reported. An estimated 7,000 are missing and presumed dead, their bodies as yet unrecovered from under the rubble. Israel has forcibly displaced over 1.2 million people; and is effectively starving 2.2 million civilians by denying access to adequate food, water and medicine. All of this is happening in plain sight, whilst powerful nations ignore and even block the application of international humanitarian law.
The climate and environmental legacy of this war on the Occupied Palestine Territories is clearly another casualty of war, and one which will have multi-generational impacts for a nation living in one of the most climate vulnerable regions of the world. The truth is each one of us living on this planet will suffer a share of that harm. Humanity can choose to live in balance and harmony with the planet, or we can make choices that wreak great damage, and harm on people, the land, air and seas, and all the creatures with whom we share our world. The IFEES/EcoIslam adds our voice to those calling for an immediate ceasefire to the war in the Occupied Palestine Territories, and for urgent action to work for a peaceful, just and sustainable world. IFEES/EcoIslam hereby calls on citizens and governments to include calls for:
- Immediate provision of access to safe and adequate supply of water, sanitation, food and fuel needed to ensure social, economic and environmental health and wellbeing;
- Actions to halt widespread water and air pollution that is fuelling disease and illness and the prevention of further climate and environmental harm;
- Cessation of efforts to ethnically cleanse and relocate Palestinian people, occupying and seizing their land and other assets, effectively cutting off their connections to the land and seas they depend upon;
- Equitable application of international law, without fear or favour, to bring about peace and sustainability in the swiftest means. To reduce the human misery and the climate and environmental impact which this, and all conflicts, produce; and
- Reconstruction and restoration efforts, that address the climate and environmental impact of this war on the land, water and seas which form the bedrock of the economy and ecology in Palestine.
The calamity of innocent lives lost is obvious to all of humanity. What is less obvious is the environmental destruction and long-term climate harm created by this war. War has always had a visible human, material and financial cost. We now have the knowledge and understanding to shine a light on the hidden costs: the climate and environmental impacts of war that imperil the future of people and of the planet.
As IFEES/EcoIslam we seek to make more citizens aware that the immediate human misery is compounded by the insidious and long-term effects of the climate and environmental destruction being wreaked by wars, literally thrown up into the air by bombs and acquiescence by those who are in a position to influence outcomes. We call for peace, justice and sustainability for Palestine now!