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General News    H3'ed 3/17/22

Tomgram: Engelhardt, Cold War II or World War III?

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De'jà Vu All Over Again
"Such Consequences That You Have Never Encountered in Your History"


He's our very own emperor from hell, an updated version of Nero who, in legend, burned down Rome on a whim, though ours prefers drowning Washington. Why, just the other day, Donald Trump and you knew perfectly well who I meant bent the ears of 250 top Republican donors for 84 minutes. Among other things, he assured those all-American (not Russian) oligarchs and let me quote him in the Washington Post on this that "'the global warming hoax, it just never ends"' He mocked the concept of sea levels rising, disputing widely held science. 'To which I say, great, we have more waterfront property.'"

Admittedly, he's talking about flooded property, including possibly whole cities going underwater in the decades to come, but what the hell! Yes, indeed, he was the president of the United States not so long ago and, if all goes well (for him, not us), he or some doppelganger, could win the Oval Office again in 2024, ensuring the arrival of that new, all-too-wet waterfront property. And yes, he offered up that little gem about the 9,000th time he's called climate change a "hoax" (sometimes blaming it on China) just as a new scientific report came out suggesting that, if things don't improve in fossil-fuel-burning terms, up to half of the Amazon rain forest, one of the great carbon sinks on Earth, could be transformed into savanna. To quote the Washington Post again:

"The warming consequences of suddenly losing half the rainforest would be felt thousands of miles away and for centuries into the future, scientists warn. It would mean escalating storms and worsening wildfires, chronic food shortages and nearly a foot of sea level rise inundating coastal communities. It could trigger other tipping points, such as the melting of ice sheets or the disruption of the South American monsoon."

Hey, Donald, what could possibly go wrong on this all-too-embattled planet of ours?

Of course, at this moment, three of the four largest greenhouse gas emitters, Russia, the U.S. (which is now allowing more drilling for oil and gas than even during Trump's presidency), and China, are locked in what could only be thought of as a deadly embrace over Vladimir Putin's disastrous invasion of Ukraine. And the grim war the Russian president launched seems likely to guarantee yet more fossil-fuel use on a planet that needs so much less of it, even as he also put the issue of nuclear war back on the table for the first time since the Cold War ended. How appropriate, if you're heading into Cold War II to once again raise the possibility forget about the next Chernobyl of turning World War III into a nuclear one.

At this point, if you don't mind a genuine understatement, what a strange planet we now live on.

World's End, Property of"?

Once upon a time, whatever your religion, Armageddon was the property of the gods; until August 6, 1945, that is, when a lone B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay (named after its pilot's mother), dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, essentially obliterating it.

Thought of another way, however, we humans took the power to end the world (at least as we've known it) out of the hands of the gods in the nineteenth century when the fossil-fuel based industrialization of Planet Earth began in earnest in Great Britain. In other words, credit our cleverness. In the space of a mere 200 or so years, we've developed two different ways of devastating or even ending our life on this planet. Consider that a genuine accomplishment for humanity.

As it happens, recent nuclear and climate-change news should have brought that reality to mind again. But before I even get to Vladimir Putin, the invasion of Ukraine, and the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), let me mention that, more or less any week, there's a new study (or two or three) of our climate future suggesting ever more extreme peril for us in the decades (or even months) to come: ever fiercer droughts, intensifying heat, more extreme wildfires, more melting ice, and ever rising sea levels.

Of course, like the rest of us, you already know that story, right? And of one thing you can be sure, the next scientific study, whatever it is, will only offer yet more extreme climate news (with the rarest of exceptions). In fact, I had barely begun writing notes for this piece when that IPCC study arrived on the scene with, of course, the latest round of dreadful news about where we're heading to a potentially "irreversible" hell in a handbasket, natch. U.N. Secretary-General Antà nio Guterres called it a "code red for humanity," lamenting that the evidence it details was unlike anything he had ever seen on the subject and describing it as an "atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership."

Damning indeed on a planet where, even before the Ukrainian nightmare, it was obvious that key leaders were doing anything but greening this world fast enough for the health of humanity. And that, of course, is just the background against which all of us now operate, whether we think about it or not and in the midst of events in Ukraine, it's not being given much thought at all on a planet going to" well, why insult "the dogs"?

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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