One of the constant elements of warfare is its degrading effects on the environment. Many writers blame this destruction of the environment on inadequate standards in the international law of environmental warfare. To remedy this shortfall, the international law of environmental warfare should be categorized as either passive or active environmental warfare. Active environmental warfare requires the intentional "use" of the environment as a weapon of waging armed conflict. Passive environmental warfare includes acts not specifically designed to "use" the environment for a particular military purpose but that have a degrading effect on the environment. Passive environmental warfare violates international law only when it produces effects that are widespread, long-term, and severe. Active environmental warfare against the sustainable environment that is not de minimus violates international law per se and should not require environmental damage to reach the standard of widespread, long-lasting, and severe to be considered a violation of international law. A well-recognized differentiation between active and passive environmental warfare will help solidify the standards of state responsibility and provide increased protection for the environment.
Eric T. Jensen,
The International Law of Environmental Warfare: Active and Passive Damage During Armed Conflict,
38 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vjtl/vol38/iss1/4