This is a very difficult question to answer because there are a great many factors to take into account. The most high-profile environmental consequence of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War was the deliberate sabotage of oil wells in Kuwait by retreating Iraqi troops. The resulting oil well fires were immense, wasting 6 million barrels of oil and filling the atmosphere above the Gulf with 3400 metric tons of soot per day at the height of the disaster. The well fires were set in late February but not fully extinguished until November 1991. However, this is not the only factor to be considered when judging the environmental consequences of war. Numerous other impacts, such as health problems believed to have been caused by the use of munitions containing depleted uranium, have persisted in both wars, and there’s the very significant use of fossil fuels and carbon-intensive operations such as tanks, personnel carriers, jets, ships and other heavy equipment as well as the economic and other resources that go into military operations. The first Gulf War was relatively short in duration, lasting only a few months, while the Iraq War that began in March 2003 is approaching its 7-year anniversary. Although far fewer troops have been engaged in the present Iraq war than in the first Gulf War at its height, in terms of total cost–dollars, fossil fuels, casualties, health care for the wounded, as well as direct environmental effects caused by battles or other disturbances–I think an argument can be made that the present war has been at least as costly.
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