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[[File:BrennendeOelquellenKuwait1991.jpg|thumb|right|Kuwaiti oil fires set by retreating Iraqi forces during the Gulf war caused a dramatic decrease in air quality, causing respiratory problems for many Kuwaitis.

As well as the cost to human life and society, there is a significant environmental impact of war. Scorched earth methods during, or after war have been in use for much of recorded history but with modern technology war can cause a far greater devastation on the environment. Unexploded ordnance can render land unusable for further use, or make access across it dangerous or fatal.

Issues[edit | edit source]

Agent Orange[edit | edit source]

Agent Orange is the code name for an herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military in its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War. An estimated 21,136,000 gal. (80 000 m³) of Agent Orange were sprayed across South Vietnam,[1] exposing 4.8 million Vietnamese people to Agent Orange, and resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.[2]

Atomic bombing in Japan[edit | edit source]

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the first use of an atomic weapon and it had a devastating effect on the built environment and on human life.

The bombs killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945,[3] roughly half on the days of the bombings. Amongst these, 15 to 20% died from injuries or illness attributed to radiation poisoning.[4] Since then, more have died from leukemia (231 observed) and solid cancers (334 observed) attributed to exposure to radiation released by the bombs.[5] In both cities, the overwhelming majority of the dead were civilians.[6][7][8]

Depleted uranium munitions[edit | edit source]

The use of depleted uranium in munitions is controversial because of numerous questions about potential long-term health effects.[9] Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal.[10] It remains weakly radioactive because of its long half-life. The aerosol produced during impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites or can be inhaled by civilians and military personnel.[11] In a three-week period of conflict in Iraq during 2003, it was estimated over 1000 tons of depleted uranium munitions were used mostly in cities.[12] The U.S. Department of Defense claims that no human cancer of any type has been seen as a result of exposure to either natural or depleted uranium.[13] Yet, U.S. DoD studies using cultured cells and laboratory rodents continue to suggest the possibility of leukemogenic, genetic, reproductive, and neurological effects from chronic exposure.[9] In addition, the UK Pensions Appeal Tribunal Service in early 2004 attributed birth defect claims from a February 1991 Gulf War combat veteran to depleted uranium poisoning.[14][15] Also, a 2005 epidemiology review concluded: "In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU."[16]

Fossil fuel use[edit | edit source]

With the high degree of mechanisation of the military large amounts of fossil fuels are used. Fossil fuels are a major contributor to global warming and climate change, issues of increasing concern. Access to oil resources is also a factor for instigating a war.

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) is a government body with the highest use of fossil fuel in the world.[17] According to the 2005 CIA World Factbook, when compared with the consumption per country the DoD would rank 34th in the world in average daily oil use, coming in just behind Iraq and just ahead of Sweden.[18]

Gulf War[edit | edit source]

During the first Gulf War the Kuwaiti oil fires were a result of the scorched earth policy of Iraqi military forces retreating from Kuwait in 1991 after conquering the country but being driven out by Coalition military forces. The Gulf War oil spill, regarded as the worst oil spill in history, was caused when Iraqi forces opened valves at the Sea Island oil terminal and dumped oil from several tankers into the Persian Gulf.

Some American military personnel complained of Gulf War syndrome, typified by symptoms including immune system disorders and birth defects in their children. Whether it is due to time spent in active service during the war or for other reasons remains controversial.

Intentional flooding[edit | edit source]

Flooding can be used as scorched earth policy through using water to render land unusable. It can also be used to prevent the movement of military personnel. During the Second Sino-Japanese War dykes on the Yellow and the Yangtze Rivers were breached to halt the advance of Japanese forces. Also during the Siege of Leiden in 1573 the dykes were breached to halt the advance of Spanish forces. During Operation Chastise in Germany during WW2 the Eder and Sorpe river dams were bombed flooding a large area and halting industrial manufacture used by the Germans in the war effort.

Testing of nuclear armaments[edit | edit source]

Testing of nuclear armaments has been carried out at various places including Bikini Atoll, the Marshall Islands, New Mexico in the US, Mururoa Atoll and Maralinga in Australia. Downwinders are individuals and communities who are exposed to radioactive contamination and/or nuclear fallout from atmospheric and/or underground nuclear weapons testing, and nuclear accidents.

Specific cases[edit | edit source]

  • 1938 Yellow River flood, created by the Nationalist Government in central China during the early stage of the Second Sino-Japanese War in an attempt to halt the rapid advance of the Japanese forces. It has been called the "largest act of environmental warfare in history".
  • Beaufort's Dyke, used as a dumping ground for bombs
  • Jiyeh Power Station oil spill, bombed by the Israeli Air force during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.
  • Formerly Used Defense Sites, a U.S. military program which is responsible for environmental restoration
  • K5 Plan, an attempt between 1985 and 1989 by the government of the People's Republic of Kampuchea to seal Khmer Rouge guerrilla infiltration routes into Cambodia, resulted in environmental degradation.

War and environmental law[edit | edit source]

From a legal standpoint, environmental protection during times of war and military activities is addressed partially by international environmental law. Further sources are also found in areas of law such as general international law, the laws of war, human rights law and local laws of each affected country.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Agent Orange". United States Department of Veterans. January 9, 2008. http://www1.va.gov/Agentorange/. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  2. The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2008. 'Last Ghost of the Vietnam War'
  3. "Frequently Asked Questions #1". Radiation Effects Research Foundation. http://www.rerf.or.jp/general/qa_e/qa1.html. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  4. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, June 19, 1946. President's Secretary's File, Truman Papers. 2. Hiroshima., page 22 of 51.
  5. Schull, W. J. (1998). "The somatic effects of exposure to atomic radiation: The Japanese experience, 1947-1997". pp. 5437–41. Digital object identifier:10.1073/pnas.95.10.5437. 
  6. The Spirit of Hiroshima: An Introduction to the Atomic Bomb Tragedy. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. 1999. 
  7. Mikiso Hane (2001). Modern Japan: A Historical Survey. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3756-9. 
  8. Trinity and Beyond: The atomic bomb movie. Dir. Kuran, P., Nar. Shatner, W.. 1997. VHS. Goldhil Video, 1997.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Miller, AC; McClain, D (2007). "A review of depleted uranium biological effects: in vitro and in vivo studies.". pp. 75–89. Digital object identifier:10.1515/REVEH.2007.22.1.75. PMID 17508699. 
  10. Craft, Elena; Abu-Qare, Aquel; Flaherty, Meghan; Garofolo, Melissa; Rincavage, Heather; Abou-Donia, Mohamed (2004). "Depleted and natural uranium: chemistry and toxicological effects". pp. 297–317. Digital object identifier:10.1080/10937400490452714. PMID 15205046. 
  11. Mitsakou, C.; Eleftheriadis, K.; Housiadas, C.; Lazaridis, M. (2003). "Modeling of the dispersion of depleted uranium aerosol". pp. 538–44. Digital object identifier:10.1097/00004032-200304000-00014. PMID 12705453. 
  12. Paul Brown, Gulf troops face tests for cancer guardian.co.uk 25 April 2003, Retrieved February 3, 2009
  13. U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense. "Toxicological profile for uranium". http://fhp.osd.mil/du/healthEffects.jsp. 
  14. Williams, M. (February 9, 2004) "First Award for Depleted Uranium Poisoning Claim," The Herald Online, (Edinburgh: Herald Newspapers, Ltd.)
  15. Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (Spring, 2004) "MoD Forced to Pay Pension for DU Contamination," CADU News 17)
  16. Hindin, Rita; Brugge, Doug; Panikkar, Bindu (2005). "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". pp. 17. Digital object identifier:10.1186/1476-069X-4-17. PMC 1242351. PMID 16124873. 
  17. Karbuz, Sohbet (2006-02-25). "The US military oil consumption". Energy Bulletin. http://www.energybulletin.net/node/13199. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  18. Colonel Gregory J. Lengyel, USAF, The Brookings Institution, Department of Defense Energy Strategy, August 2007, [1]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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