War in Ukraine: Climate protection is one of the main victims

A burning Kuwaiti oil field behind an abandoned Iraqi tank after Operation Desert Storm. Image: National Archives of the United States

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reactions show how the international community fails to address global challenges

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe is witnessing a war between the states of the region for the first time since the end of World War II. The Balkan wars of the 1990s, which terrorized Europe and caused the deaths of over 200,000 people, have been attributed, rightly or wrongly, to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resurgence of old inter-ethnic conflicts.

The question of why Putin decided to invade a neighboring country that did not directly provoke Russia will certainly be debated in the years to come. However, there is no doubt that NATO’s eastward expansion since the 1990s was a factor behind Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Security, rather than conquest of foreign territory, is the main focus of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Be that as it may, it is undoubtedly an unwarranted act of aggression. The Russian invaders destroyed entire cities and committed atrocities that must be classified as serious war crimes, although it is highly unlikely that Vladimir Putin himself will be tried for war crimes, as the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not try in absentia.

The war in Ukraine is also affecting the entire world system: food and fuel prices are skyrocketing. In many countries of the world, this is leading to a destabilization of the political situation.

Europe’s attitude towards defense spending has changed dramatically, the warmongering of the United States is again at its peak, and even China is showing its geopolitical ambitions by supplying missiles to Serbia, a traditional Russian ally.

Last but not least, the war in Ukraine is pushing climate protection off the agenda, even though most countries are already failing to meet their climate goals.

For starters, the US administration of President Joe Biden has decided to resume drilling for oil and gas on state-owned land, despite the campaign promising not to allow new oil and gas drilling.

This is said to be an adequate response to the high gas prices that are a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But the fact is, Biden never delivered on his promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the Biden administration granted more oil and gas drilling permits in 2021 than Donald Trump in his first year in office, according to data analyzed by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Biden has also pledged to restore US credibility on climate change. But the US Congress only approved a fraction of the amount the President pledged this year in public funding to help developing countries with climate action.

We also need to remember that greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2021 as economies are recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And in late February, just days after Russia launched its attack on Ukraine, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new scientific report pointing out that many of the effects of global warming are irreversible and for many people won’t be. more to deal with.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, announced shortly after the Russian invasion began that it would build two LNG terminals to replace Russian gas with fossil fuels from other countries. It is an investment in fossil fuels that is difficult to reconcile with the country’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045.

Greece, a country severely threatened by climate change, is also stepping up efforts to develop gas resources to reduce dependence on Russian energy.

This move has attracted strong criticism from environmentalists. With the country having at least 600 billion cubic meters of estimated natural gas, however, environmental concerns will take a back seat.

Further evidence of the short-term thinking prevalent around the world is the nuclear renaissance after the war in Ukraine. The dangers associated with nuclear power plants suddenly no longer play a role.

This trend continues even as nuclear power is much more expensive than onshore solar or wind power, according to UMass-Amherst economist Robert Pollin in the magazine. Dollars and sickle stressed out.

Ultimately, the Russian invasion of Ukraine again raises the question of why the international community continues to set wrong priorities.

At a critical time in history where cooperation and solidarity are urgently needed to address the greatest threat to global civilization, global warming, we must recognize that myopia is a feature of contemporary capitalism. That the struggle for state power and hegemonic ambitions is uninterrupted. That greed for profit dominates at the expense of the general public. And that the primitive instinct to wage war is still effective in the 21st century.

At the same time, citizens are concerned about the state of our world. Over 90% of people in the European Union consider climate change a serious problem and even 94% of them are concerned about protecting the environment.

In Europe, climate change continued to be perceived as the greatest threat, even when the majority in other parts of the world considered the spread of infectious diseases to be more dangerous.

In the United States, however, the situation is very different. There, only four out of ten adults view the climate crisis as a serious threat. And while Americans support action to combat global warming, only 31% support a complete move away from fossil fuels, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

However, we must not forget that the United States plays a special role in terms of climate protection, but also in other areas such as quality of life and workers’ rights. According to the Climate Change Performance Index 2022, the four leading countries in climate protection are Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The United States is in 55th place, with very low scores for greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy.

Indeed, the US has been slow to make progress on climate change because powerful vested interests have disproportionate influence on decision making, the Green Party is irrelevant, and the unions are extremely weak. When it comes to enforcing a national policy on sustainable development and labor rights, US trade unions play almost no role.

The fact that the International Trade Union Confederation has ranked the United States as one of the worst countries for workers shows how weak unionization is in the United States.

The highly undemocratic nature of the US political system must be at the forefront of any analysis of why the richest country in the world is lagging behind on climate change, or even why the Biden administration has broken its climate commitments. .

However, this is not due to a lack of serious proposals to combat climate change; there are many serious plans. For example, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) have developed programs for the transition to a green economy for several states in the United States, including California.

More recently, they focused on a study that drafted a climate stabilization program for South Korea and shows how the country can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2030. 2050.

In summary, Russia’s war in Ukraine is a tragedy of global proportions. It is destroying an entire country and has triggered food, energy and financial crises, UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted at a news conference in New York presenting the results of a strategy paper published by the Global Crisis Response Group.

Climate protection is also one of the main victims of the war. As Guterres pointed out in a recent video speech at a conference hosted by the magazine economist organized in London, “short-term action could create long-term dependence on fossil fuels and close the window of opportunity to reach the 1.5 degree target.”

This assessment should alarm all reasonable and concerned citizens. The world is on a catastrophic path of global warming. And the time to change things is running out.
(CJ Polychroniou)

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