Scientists Are Urging The UN To Make It A War Crime To Harm The Environment

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In a letter recently published in Nature, a group of scientists is urging the UN to make it a war crime to harm the environment during conflict.

Scientists Are Urging The UN To Make It A War Crime To Harm The Environment

In a letter recently published in Nature, a group of scientists is urging the UN to make it a war crime to harm the environment during conflict. The United Nations’ International Law Commission is in talks through August 8, 2019, and the scientists are calling on attending members to build a framework that protects “the environment in regions of armed conflict.”


The petition reads:


“We call on governments to incorporate explicit safeguards for biodiversity and to use the commission’s recommendations to finally deliver a Fifth Geneva Convention to uphold environmental protection during such confrontations. Despite calls for a fifth convention two decades ago, military conflict continues to destroy megafauna, push species to extinction, and poison water resources. The uncontrolled circulation of arms exacerbates the situation, for instance by driving unsustainable hunting of wildlife.”


In spite of where war occurs, it devastates local environments. The United States invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 led to rampant deforestation, polluted water sources, and widespread air pollution. Along with the pollution created by bombs, the US military frequently burns garbage in open pits, releasing harmful toxins into the air, and heavy machinery causes more dust to circulate in the atmosphere.


When the United States attacked Iraq in 1991, bombs containing depleted uranium led to radiation contamination in the soil and water sources, according to the Guardian.


The US military also destroyed millions of acres of forest during the Vietnam war with a toxic substance called “agent orange.” The environmental effects of the bombing campaign are still felt today.


War has also severely endangered animal and plant species. During the Congolese Civil Wars, for instance, animals as diverse as elephants, antelopes, and monkeys were killed and forced to flee their destroyed habitats. Animals often step on leftover land mines even in times of peace. According to Global Citizen, the chemicals used to make weapons can contaminate water sources, and the lawlessness engendered by war can cause destructive activities such as illegal mining operations.


Then there are the contributions militaries make to climate change. The US military burned more oil in Iraq in 2008 alone than the annual amount that would be used by 1.2 million cars. Overall, the US military releases more greenhouse gas emissions by itself than many countries. Armies also regularly torch oil wells to thwart their enemies, releasing immense amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in the process.


The United Nations already urges countries to protect the environment during times of conflict through the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. A United Nations environment resolution was adopted in 2016 as well to promote strong environmental safeguards in war.


If harming the environment was a war crime, most acts of modern warfare would then essentially be forbidden. After all, there is no way to drop a bomb without harming the ground it falls on.

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Thinking Humanity: Scientists Are Urging The UN To Make It A War Crime To Harm The Environment
Scientists Are Urging The UN To Make It A War Crime To Harm The Environment
In a letter recently published in Nature, a group of scientists is urging the UN to make it a war crime to harm the environment during conflict.
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