What Is the Environmental Impact of War?

The ruins of Nagasaki, Japan after the atomic bombing during the Second World War.
The ruins of Nagasaki, Japan after the atomic bombing during the Second World War.

War is a situation in which a disagreement between two distinct groups of people escalates into violent confrontations. During a war, the opposing sides use some strategies to ensure victory. Before the development of modern weapons, one of the approaches that had the most significant environmental impact was the scorched earth policy. After the development of advanced weapons of warfare such as chemical weapons and nuclear weapons, the environmental effects of war increased dramatically. Below looks at the environmental impact of some of the world's wars.

Environmental Impact of War

The Second World War

During the Second World War, a military technology developed at a breakneck pace. Air raids had an extremely destructive impact on wildlife populations as it contributed to the destruction of habitats. Apart from the bombs dropped during air raids, aircraft during World War II were also a significant source of air pollution. The most devastating environmental impact of the Second World War was caused by the atomic bombs used by the American government on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atomic bombs released vast quantities of energy that destroyed the natural wildlife in the area of immediate impact. It is believed that the blast directly affected land animals more than it did aquatic mammals. A significant number of fish died as a result of the atomic blast which had a massive effect on the food chain.

The Vietnam War

The participants of the Vietnam War employed several strategies that had a significant impact on the environment. During the war, the combatants regularly hid in the forests which influenced the decision of the American military to use chemical agents to clear the forests. The chemical agents that the American military employed were extremely efficient as they destroyed the foliage on trees. One of the main chemicals used during the Vietnam War was Agent Orange which apart from affecting the environment also caused congenital disabilities among a significant section of the population. Apart from the trees, the wildlife in the region was also affected to a great extent. Years after the trees were sprayed, they were unable to regenerate.

The Rwandan Genocide

One of the major impacts of the Rwandan Genocide was the massive loss of life as estimates indicated that more than 800,000 people died. Apart from the massive loss of life, the genocide also resulted in massive deforestation. A large number of trees were cut down to provide wood used by the refugees as they fled from their homes. The war also had drastically reduced the population of wildlife within Rwanda's borders.

The Gulf War

During the Gulf War, one of the main participants, the Iraqi military, utilized the scorched earth policy that dramatically affected the land in Kuwait. Apart from using the scorched earth policy, the Iraqi military also dumped vast quantities of oil into the Persian Gulf.

Reducing the Impact of War

Governments and international organizations around the world are working to reduce the impact of war by achieving world peace. To achieve the objective, some organizations have been set up to promote peace around the world.


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