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Climate change (pt. 2): a world at war

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dana-glacier_350-orgA New Republic article in August from Bill McKibben, environmentalist, author, journalist, and founder of 350.org, put climate change and its challenge in the starkest terms: it’s a world war.

While the national political discourse descends ever further into the gutter, the true crisis that must be addressed—climate change– is getting lost in the sleaze, ignorance and obfuscation.

McKibben puts it succinctly: “It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. And we are losing.”

In the article’s opening paragraphs, he says: “Day after day, week after week, saboteurs behind our lines are unleashing a series of brilliant and overwhelming attacks. In the past few months alone, our foes have used a firestorm to force the total evacuation of a city of 90,000 in Canada, drought to ravage crops to the point where southern Africans are literally eating their seed corn, and floods to threaten the priceless repository of art in the Louvre. The enemy is even deploying biological weapons to spread psychological terror: The Zika virus, loaded like a bomb into a growing army of mosquitoes, has shrunk the heads of newborn babies across an entire continent; panicked health ministers in seven countries are now urging women not to get pregnant. And as in all conflicts, millions of refugees are fleeing the horrors of war, their numbers swelling daily as they’re forced to abandon their homes to escape famine and desolation and disease.

“World War III is well and truly underway. And we are losing.

“For years, our leaders chose to ignore the warnings of our best scientists and top military strategists. Global warming, they told us, was beginning a stealth campaign that would lay waste to vast stretches of the planet, uprooting and killing millions of innocent civilians. But instead of paying heed and taking obvious precautions, we chose to strengthen the enemy with our endless combustion; a billion explosions of a billion pistons inside a billion cylinders have fueled a global threat as lethal as the mushroom-shaped nuclear explosions we long feared. Carbon and methane now represent the deadliest enemy of all time, the first force fully capable of harrying, scattering, and impoverishing our entire civilization.”

His long article is worth the investment of time. For example, using the war metaphor, and likening what was accomplished during World War II, McKibben asserts that “defeating the Nazis required more than brave soldiers. It required a wholesale industrial retooling.” Climate change requires the same sort of industrial retooling if we are to have any hope of success. “Can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?”

The article continues: “Even if every nation in the world complies with the Paris Agreement, the world will heat up by as much as 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100—not the 1.5 to 2 degrees promised in the pact’s preamble. And it may be too late already to meet that stated target: We actually flirted with that 1.5 degree line at the height of the El Niño warming in February, a mere 60 days after the world’s governments solemnly pledged their best efforts to slow global warming. Our leaders have been anticipating what French strategists in World War II called the guerre du longue durée, even as each new edition of Science or Nature makes clear that climate change is mounting an all-out blitzkrieg, setting new record highs for global temperatures in each of the past 14 months.”

In this war that we don’t really know we’re fighting, or not fighting very effectively, McKibben says, “Physics is fighting hard, and we aren’t—winning slowly is the same as losing.”

Image: Dana Glacier, CA; Credit: 350.org/David Gilbert

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Written by William DiBenedetto

10 October, 2016 at 7:00 am

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