The environmental costs of conflict and war


The environmental costs of conflict and war can be farther-reaching and longer-lasting than is immediately apparent. War is accountable for the destruction of landscapes and innumerable environmental impacts such as pollution, displacement of humans, and major shifts in economic and social priorities.

Against a backdrop of armed and unarmed conflict rippling through multiple regions of the world, the lasting impacts of which are as yet difficult to comprehend, this GLF Live brings together Iryna Stavchuk, the Ukrainian deputy minister of environmental protection and natural resources with conflict and peacebuilding expert Moosa Elayah to compare the climate costs across different countries.


Human health and ecosystems in danger


According to the OECD, war has caused widespread and severe damage, with immediate and longer-term consequences for human health and ecosystems. Stavchuk and Elayah elaborate on them:


  • Ukraine’s industrial sites and nuclear power plants are environmentally sensitive areas to war. The Russian military has fired on Ukrainian territory resulting in the destruction of the local environment and pollution of water bodies.
  • Siria has suffered from ecosystem degradation from decades of conflict including severe pollution of water systems from artillery, and air bombs resulting in the detriment of human health. “Conflicts can endanger ecosystems and human health,” Moosa accounts, “they can be complicated and its legacy can take over for years.”
  • Most of the countries that are vulnerable to climate change are located in conflict regions. Environmental issues and disputes over access to resources can also be a driver of conflict. A green economy based on clean energy is key to reducing dependence on fossil fuels such as oil and gas. 
  • Ukraine’s war has disrupted global agricultural exports from Russia and Ukraine, two-grain exporting countries putting food supply under strain worldwide, but especially for the Global South.


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