There are only a limited number of disasters that will make headlines and websites around the world – there is a war going on in Europe, after all – so it is likely that the new report from the UN on climate change will not get the attention it deserves.
That’s a shame.
The greater danger is that the war could also set back efforts to slow the Earth’s warming.
The UN report is chilling, a document of how climate change is no longer a future consideration, but a current and devastating reality for much of the world’s population: rising heat is killing crops, puts millions of people at risk of malnutrition, while millions more struggle to find water or are displaced by the increasing frequency of floods, forest fires and other extreme weather events . Livelihoods and lives are vulnerable.
“Almost half of humanity lives in the danger zone – now,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement accompanying the assessment. “Many ecosystems are at the point of no return – now.”
This means there is an urgent need for the world to focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels and building up the stockpile of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, using nuclear energy to facilitate the transition. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has focused much of the world on or we are going to get oil and gas, and not on how to stop use them so much.
Russia, after all, is the world’s second-largest oil producer, and revenues from its oil and gas industries help fund President Vladimir Putin’s war. Nations are looking elsewhere for their short-term fuel needs. The US oil industry (already the world’s largest producer) is pushing for permission to start pumping even more fuel to make up the shortfalls. There is even talk of turning to Saudi Arabia for help, despite the continuing fallout from the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
When war breaks out, other priorities are quickly pushed aside.
It is understandable, but the existence of the crisis in Ukraine will not make the climate crisis go away. Indeed, they are inseparable.
“Yes, the war in Ukraine is extremely important. But it is not happening in isolation from the climate crisis,” he added. Wolfgang Blauco-founder of the Oxford Climate Journalism Network, wrote Monday morning on Twitter.
If we’re smart, war will actually help start a the green revolution, which would solve several problems at once, including strengthening national security. Countries that don’t need oil or gas are clearly less vulnerable to disruption and blackmail from authoritarian warmongers like Putin.