the carbon costs of war


Between 156,000 and 200,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed in Gaza in the first 120 days since Hamas’ attacks, sparking a new chapter in the decades-old conflict between Israel and Gaza. This is according to new estimates published yesterday by Queen Mary University of London, which assess the carbon costs of the first half of the recent conflict, now 244 days old.

Rebuilding Gaza’s damaged infrastructure will release between 46.8 million and 60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) – an overall average of 53.4 million tCO2e. The report noted that this “will result in total emissions being higher than the annual emissions of more than 135 countries, putting them on par with those of Sweden and Portugal.”

These figures take into account the necessary steel, concrete and transport of raw materials required for restoration and reconstruction, and assume that each project emits approximately 300 tonnes of CO2.

The bombing has also resulted in huge amounts of debris, which the World Bank estimated in March at around 26 million tons (23,586,803 metric tons). It reported that “cleaning up the rubble alone would cost approximately $327 million and require years of effort.”

By the end of January 2024, according to the World Bank, damage to Gaza’s infrastructure amounted to approximately US$18.5 billion, equivalent to 97% of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the West Bank and Gaza in 2022. Nearly 80% of this damage was concentrated in three areas: Gaza, North Gaza and Khan Younis.

The CO2 emissions from the Israel-Gaza conflict itself are also significant and are estimated to be greater than the annual emissions of 26 individual countries and territories.

The research shows that cargo flights are the largest contributor to these emissions, as they released an estimated 159,107 tCO2e since October 7. Bombing and reconnaissance flights came in second with an estimated 157,410 tCO2e. This was followed by tanks and vehicles with an estimated 91,999 tCO2e.

The report acknowledged the United Nations Environment Program’s latest Emission Gap report, which notes that military emissions are generally “insufficiently accounted for,” but said that “even with incomplete data, researchers have found that military personnel still emit nearly 5.5 % of global emissions. emissions.” It compares this with the contributions of civil aviation (2%) and civil shipping (3%).

Worries around the impact of conflicts on the climate are often “less discussed”, something the report acknowledged: “This omission is understandable as the world remains focused on acute death and suffering. However, military operations remain an under-explored dimension of the climate crisis, which will worsen the suffering of vulnerable communities and the wider region as the impacts of global warming intensify.”

“Rebuilding Gaza: the carbon cost of war” was originally created and published by Energy monitora brand owned by GlobalData.

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