The International Witness Campaign is remembering the last 20 years of the “failed War on Terror”. This decades-long war has seen its fair share of illegality and incompetence by those who’ve waged it. As with all wars, it’s hawks also paid no regard to the huge environmental costs involved.
Now, after these decades of war, the Middle East is facing another security threat: the climate crisis. Indeed, authorities around the world are increasingly recognising the environmental emergency as the greatest security threat we face.
As In These Times recently contemplated, imagine if those who waged the War on Terror had spent the last 20 years fighting the climate crisis instead. The populations targeted in the failed war, and the global community as a whole, would undoubtedly be better equipped to deal with the crisis if they had.
Indeed, there might not be a crisis to speak of if the vast amounts of money spent on the war had been directed to tackling the climate crisis from the start of the millennium onwards.
A number of countries in the Middle East have faced intense temperatures this summer. In July, for example, Iraq saw temperatures of over 51C. In 2016, the country faced heat of more than 53C. As Foreign Policy recently reported, global warming in the region is double the global average. So 2C of global warming by 2050 would mean a 4C increase in the Middle East.
It’s not just intense heat affecting the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region either. The climate crisis is impacting rainfall and water availability. This means that some areas are experiencing increased drought, while others are flooding.
As the International Committee of the Red Cross has pointed out, the War on Terror and previous conflicts have played a role in this environmental situation. It’s regional water and habitat advisor Igor Malgrati said:
In southern Iraq, you have an environment that has been damaged by years of conflict, poor environmental management and weak governance. When you add climate change into the mix, you have the perfect storm.
The Costs of War Project has also asserted that the enduring military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have resulted in “the degradation of the natural resources in these countries and a radical destruction of forest cover”. It said “the animal and bird populations have also been adversely affected”.
The Max Plank Institute has warned that the climate crisis could make some areas of the MENA region uninhabitable in the coming years. A study by researchers from Princeton University earlier this year made similar claims about countries in the tropics. The study’s authors asserted that the world’s temperature increase needs to stay below 1.5C for the tropics to avoid the risk of exceeding a particular heat threshold, known as wet bulb temperature (TW). Because the human body is unable to regulate its own temperature past the TW threshold of 35C, it’s considered, as the Guardian put it, the “limits of human livability”.
As the UN secretary-general António Guterres said in August, greenhouse gas emissions are “choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk”. Meanwhile, the biodiversity crisis, whereby species are disappearing at a rate not seen in history, is devastating the ecosystems on which people depend on for food, water, and much more. These two interconnecting crises are converging too, with horrifying consequences.
Of course, climate change is not news. The oil and gas industry have known about it for decades. Governments involved in waging the War on Terror have long been aware of it too. As In These Times‘ Sarah Lazare wrote, in light of this understanding:
We should have been putting every resource toward stopping climate disaster, rather than pouring public goods into the war effort
Instead, the US ploughed $21tn into “foreign and domestic militarization” over the last 20 years. The UK government, meanwhile, recently revealed that it spent £22.2bn of taxpayers’ money on the 20-year-long invasion and occupation of Afghanistan alone.
In short, rather than investing in averting climate disaster, US and UK politicians chose to wage a climate-destroying war that made targeted populations even more vulnerable to the environmental crises.
The actions of rich nations in general, largely the elite among them, have brought the world to this environmental juncture. And the warmongering decisions these elites have made are a part of the litany of failures that got us here.
Officials from these countries need to address these injustices, and provide reparations for them, as they gather at climate and biodiversity conferences over the coming months.
Featured image via Channel 4 News / YouTube
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?