One of the most distressing thing about Putin’s Ukrainian war and the Republican’s war (and yes, many of them act like it’s a war) against Democrats is that these wars are distracting us from the all-important struggle of limiting global warming. Limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This was the goal almost 200 countries set for themselves according to the Paris climate accords, which went into effect in 2016. I know Putin and many Republicans think that fighting Ukrainians or Democrats is more important, but the future will prove them wrong.
So far, in the six years since 2016, the world is failing to live up to its commitments to fight climate change, “pointing Earth toward a future marked by more intense flooding, wildfires, drought, heat waves and species extinction.” One major reason for this failure was the Trump presidency (Jan. 2017-Jan.2021). As the Scientific American journal phrased it in November 2020, “U.S. Exits Paris Climate Accord after Trump Stalls Global Warming Action for Four Years.”
In July of 2022, western Europe and the USA experienced record-breaking, climate-change related to heat waves, wildfires, and drought. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that “half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires.” He added, “No nation is immune…we are failing to work together as a multilateral community.” By late October, the dangers of “failing to work together” were even greater.
Among major nations, China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses (the chief cause of global warming), broke off climate-warming negotiations with the U.S. in August after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. By late October, Russia (along with the U.S. the largest per capita greenhouse-gas emitter) was increasingly alienating itself from the West by its increased use of rockets and drones to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. And not even a glimmer of hope for peace talks was anywhere evident. Moreover, the continuing Russian aggression was sparking global warming higher in all sorts of other ways.
In the U.S., polls were indicating that Republicans were increasing their odds of gaining control of the House of Representatives and maybe even the Senate. Although Republicans were not solely responsible for our country’s political polarization, they (especially the supporters of Trump, who dominated the party) were its main cause. And every indication is that their control of Congress, or even just one of its two houses, would be a major setback in the battle to limit global warming.
The greatest U.S. step forward in that battle over the last six years has been 2022’s enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). But, reflecting the continuing influence of Trumpism, climate denial, and fossil-fuel lobbyists, no Congressional Republicans voted for the IRA.
As I have been pointing out since 2009, Republicans have overwhelmingly been predominant in the global-warming-denier-modern-day-rebranded Know Nothings. And 2022 polls continue to demonstrate that Republicans are much more hostile than Democrats to legislation that would slow down the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
Putin and U. S. Republicans have each chosen the wrong enemy to fight. They should both be battling global warming. But instead Putin harms both Ukrainians and the environment by continuing his foolish war. And Republicans war with Democrats over all sorts of issues while favoring policies that will just hasten climate-change disasters. As Pete Seeger sang in the early1960s, “Oh, when will you ever learn?”