Anggrita Desyani Cahyaningtyas

Published: June 13, 2024

War takes a massive toll on lives. In Gaza alone, more than 35,709 people have been killed since October 2023. Sadly, those who survive may face an even worse fate than those who perished. Reports highlight the collapse of the health system, forced starvation, and widespread displacement. Many humanitarian experts now describe Gaza as a ‘hell on earth.’

What’s more enraging is that all of this is man-made. Billions of dollars are allocated for destruction and making the land uninhabitable—money that could feed millions or support efforts to combat the climate crisis. War doesn’t just kill people in the present; it also destroys our future by wasting resources and causing lasting devastation.

Billions of dollars are allocated for military actions in Gaza, with estimates reaching nearly $60 billion.

The resources exist to make the world a better place, but they are directed toward conflict instead.

War is accelerating climate change by wasting resources and driving up emissions. 

Modern life inevitably produces carbon emissions from cars and electricity. However, war exacerbates the crisis by releasing far more emissions than usual.

Ironically, Gaza—where residents lack access to fuel or electricity—now sees massive emissions released due to ongoing conflict.

More than half of the buildings in Gaza were destroyed or damaged beyond repair. This includes homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, Byzantine churches, shops, universities, heritage and archaeological sites, civilian infrastructures, etc. This makes Gaza “inhabitable”, as described by experts including United Nations’ undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths.

Rebuilding Gaza means emitting massive warming gasses in the future. A UNEP and Yale Center for Ecosystems+Architecture report found that the buildings and construction sector is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for 37% of global emissions.

With more than 50% of buildings destroyed, how much is the climate cost of rebuilding Gaza?

Before Israel’s current military aggression, Gaza relied on solar energy to meet its energy needs, overcoming the limited 6-8 hours of electricity provided daily by Israel and Qatar.

Hospitals, wastewater plants, and industrial estates utilized solar power, but Israeli strikes have damaged these infrastructures. This has escalated Gaza’s energy crisis, forcing people to depend on blocked fossil fuel supplies and resort to cutting firewood, further depleting the already arid land.

The carbon emissions from the bombardment and future redevelopment of Gaza are so immense that sequestering them would require growing hundreds of millions of trees—a nearly impossible task given the current rate of global deforestation.

On top of this, Israel has systematically uprooted millions of olive trees, which have been vital for both the environment and the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians since 1967. The extent of tree destruction in the ongoing military aggression is unknown, but the shift to using firewood for cooking is exacerbating tree-cutting in the already arid region.

It’s important to remember that while scientific solutions to climate change are vital, they are not the only answer. The devastation in Gaza, involving some of the wealthiest and most scientifically advanced nations, underscores a critical point: our greatest challenge is not a lack of knowledge, but a matter of conscience.