A picture taken from Rafah on January 6, 2024 shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip
A first-of-its-kind study by US and UK researchers revealed that 99 per cent of the 281,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions generated in October and November come from the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza which is more than the annual emissions of the 20 most vulnerable climate regions of the world. US supplies to Israel alone caused war carbon emissions equivalent to Grenada's annual carbon emission. AFP News

As the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza enters its fourth month, a study tried to analyse the effects of the war in terms of carbon emissions.

A study done by US and UK researchers revealed that the carbon emissions generated in the first two months of the Israel-Hamas war were higher than the annual carbon footprint of the world's 20 most vulnerable climate nations.

According to the study, in the first 60 days after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 281,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide was emitted. A reported 99 per cent of this emission has been traced back to Israel's bombardment of Gaza in those two months in October and November last year.

Although this first-of-its-kind study is based on a handful of carbon-intensive activities and hence it might underestimate the climate cost of wars yet it shows how we can no longer disregard the climate impact of wars, says experts. The climate cost of the first 60 days of Israel's war on Hamas was equivalent to burning 150,000 tonnes of coal.

The US and UK researchers analysed the carbon emissions from aircraft missions, tanks and fuel used in other vehicles along with bombs, artillery and rockets used in these two months along the Gaza Strip to get the correct estimate of the climate cost. However, it doesn't include methane and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly half of the carbon emissions in Gaza during this time came from US cargo planes delivering arms and ammunition to Israel while Hamas rockets targeting Israel generated 713 tonnes of carbon dioxide which is equivalent to burning 300 tonnes of coal. This study underlined the asymmetry of war machinery and its subsequent effect of it.

The study published on Social Science Research Network vindicates the call for the military accountability of greenhouse gas emissions like those happening during the Israeli invasion of Gaza or the Russian invasion of Ukraine which largely remains unaccounted for in the UN climate action and negotiations for it.

One of the authors of the study, Senior Lecturer Benjamin Neimark at the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) said: "This study is only a snapshot of the larger military bootprint of war ... a partial picture of the massive carbon emissions and wider toxic pollutants that will remain long after the fighting is over."

Earlier studies of this nature have suggested that the actual carbon footprint of such wars could be five to eight times more if war carbon emissions can enter the supply chain.

"The military's environmental exceptionalism allows them to pollute with impunity as if the carbon emissions spitting from their tanks and fighter jets don't count. This has to stop, to tackle the climate crisis we need accountability," Neimark added.

The study pinpoints the US role in carbon emissions in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza as it supplied billions of dollars worth of supplies to Israel to be deployed in the West Bank of Gaza. Until December 4,200 American cargo flights delivered 10,000 tonnes of military equipment to Israel emitting 133,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the burning of 50 million litres of aviation fuel.

The war carbon emissions by the US in Gaza are equivalent to Grenada's annual emissions.

The Research Director of the CCP think tank and a co-author of the study, Patrick Bigger said: "The role of the US in the human and environmental destruction of Gaza cannot be overstated."

Israel-Hamas war fostering future carbon emissions?

The study done by UK researchers at the Queen Mary, University of London and the Lancaster University and the US-based climate policy think tank Climate and Community Project (CCP) shows the impact of war on fast-forwarding the climate crisis which has far-reaching consequences than just emissions from planes and bombs.

Furthermore, it underlines the huge carbon cost of rebuilding the inhabitable Gaza Strip region after the Israel-Hamas war ends. According to the analysis, 30 million metric tonnes of emissions will be generated to rebuild the 100,000 destroyed buildings in Gaza. This estimate is equivalent to the annual carbon emission of New Zealand and higher than emissions from 135 countries including Uruguay, Lebanon and Sri Lanka.

Already severe climate consequences like sea level rise, extreme heat and drought are affecting the people of Gaza, especially children who are said to be more prone to suicidal thoughts because of the war. This has exaggerated the food security and water supply issues along with Israel's denial of humanitarian aid.

This comes at a time when the world has pressed Israel for longer humanitarian pauses through the 2720 Gaza resolution.

The UN special rapporteur for human rights and environment, David Boyd called the Israel-Hamas war a step closer to the climate catastrophe.

"This research helps us understand the immense magnitude of military emissions – from preparing for war, carrying out war and rebuilding after war. Armed conflict pushes humanity even closer to the precipice of climate catastrophe, and is an idiotic way to spend our shrinking carbon budget," stated Boyd.

Speaking about the findings of the new study, Israel's director of Middle East economic relations Ran Peleg said this is the first time such an issue has been raised and they are unaware of how these things are counted.

Meanwhile, the Head of the climate change office at the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, Hadeel Ikhmais said: "We are trying to do our part in the climate crisis but even before the war in Gaza, it is hard to adapt and mitigate when we cannot access water or land or any technologies without Israel's permission."

The Palestinian climate director, Ikhmais, said: "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."

"The carbon emissions from the military attacks contradict the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement goal... recognising the environmental impact of war is crucial," Ikhmais added.

The Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry said that they didn't want the war, it was imposed on them after Hamas attacked Israel and executed many people including children.

Although Israel's defence budget shows the annual carbon footprint of its military was seven million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019, there haven't been any submissions of the war carbon emissions to the UN from either Israel or Palestine in the past.

The Israeli defence budget figure is equivalent to the annual carbon emission of Cyprus and 55 per cent more than Palestine's emissions in 2019.