Climate Collapse or Nuclear Winter, Take Your Pick

Photograph Source: Jeanne Menjoulet – CC BY 2.0

One of the many lousy effects of the Russia/Ukraine war has been on the climate. Because Biden made the idiotic choice of sanctions over negotiation, the price of oil skyrocketed. This could have been avoided. But Washington scoffed at Moscow’s oft repeated, over decades, and finally written, security concerns. And here we are. A horrible war and climbing inflation.

The price of gas soared due to Biden’s sanctions. That’s because Russia is one of the world’s biggest energy exporters. Sanction Russia and you have to find new sources of oil and gas or pay through the nose. And most rational politicos do not want to tell their people they have to choose between buying an iPhone and filling their car’s tank with gasoline.

So the hunt for more fossil fuels is on, with American right-wingers screaming that we need to drill and frack more and bashing anyone who objects on environmental grounds. How does this bashing go? If you support renewables over more fossil fuels, you are a left-wing, Marxist Democrat inflationary fool. That’s what our homegrown reactionaries say. They claim renewables jacked up prices at the pump. This is hogwash, because it’s sanctions on Russia that did that. But that won’t stop the nonsense from being repeated ad nauseam. And though there’s usually a lag time of a few weeks before such imbecilic hyperbole taints the mainstream media, now with inflation being very real and very dramatic, expect to see the “ditch renewables at once” rash break out any day, on the face of the body politic.

Don’t rely on Biden to cure the infection or rush to the rescue of wind and solar. The president who tried to palm off the pathetic lie that astronomical prices at the pump were Putin’s fault, pivoted to desperately courting Venezuela for its oil: “Oh, just forget about our sanctions that killed over 40,000 of your citizens, ignore the failed assassination attempt on your president, never mind about your funds that our attack dog, the UK, snatched from you in an act of brazen larceny and skip the ferocious propaganda war we’ve waged against your country – this is the U.S. empire calling and we need your oil!”

Not surprisingly, right-wing morons in congress who’ve been thoroughly propagandized into a stupor of brainlessness objected to Washington courting Caracas. But Biden needs oil! And there has to be lots of it, so it can be cheap. Next up, Iran! Another official enemy is expected to save the hapless Democrats’ bacon. So Washington has negotiated like mad to reinstate the nuclear pact, which would enable it to drop sanctions, without losing face – always THE critical consideration – and buy cheap Iranian oil. Well, I guess something good will come of cuckoo-bird U.S. economic policy: one les nuclear-armed state.

But wouldn’t it just have been simpler for Washington to swallow its pride, promise publicly what it says privately, namely that Ukraine will never join NATO, restate the obvious, that Crimea is, as it was for centuries, Russian, and that the Russian Ukrainians of the Donbass have a right to life, which can only be insured by a measure of independence? If U.S. rulers had done that, it would have been no skin off their noses, the Dems wouldn’t be looking at a November electoral wipeout due to oil-based inflation and those of us concerned about a rapidly warming planet – where capitalism’s jones for fossil fuels has made the Arctic 50 degrees hotter than it should be in March and the Antarctic 70 degrees hotter – could advocate for a switch to renewables without rightist stupids foaming at the mouth about price inflation and green energy, while centrists chant “Putin’s prices!” and not even braindead Amuricans, who want a no-fly zone over Ukraine, believe them.

Because the climate is getting worse. And it’s doing so terrifyingly fast. In a generation, we, homo sapiens, could face ruin of our own making. Mindful of this, some people still keep sounding the alarm. One is Lloyd Alter, whose new book, Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle, came out before Washington turned up its nose at Moscow’s request, thus setting us all on a possible path toward something just as bad, or worse, than climate collapse, namely nuclear war.

Alter’s book reminds readers that just because we got distracted doesn’t mean the earth stopped overheating. We still burn fossil fuels prodigiously, and that could kill lots of us in the not-too-distant future. Our oligarchs who benefit from our oil and gas addiction bank on the mirage that climate collapse won’t affect them in their posh New Zealand bunkers. They’re mistaken, but who cares about them? This problem is global and there’s no escape. A solution must be found. Alter believes that means downsizing our individual carbon footprints.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I profoundly disagree with this book’s thesis that ordinary people are to blame for global warming. I blame Exxon, BP and all the other thieving fossil fuel polluters. That said, it’s undeniable that Alter makes one of the most convincing cases around for the critical importance of reducing consumption. It’s hard not to support that, especially if you never liked conspicuous consumption anyway, or even just the consumer culture. Most of it is so unnecessary, especially for those of us proles who focus our purchases exclusively on what Marx termed use-value.

Alter provides a how-to for those who want to stop contributing to the climate collapse. Those of us who already shop for little besides fruits and vegetables, and drive and fly as rarely as possible, will still find valuable advice in his book. But most of all, it serves as a reminder that the problem has not vanished just because we became riveted in terror at the millions of American halfwits clamoring for boots on the ground in Kiev, which would abruptly terminate human civilization once and for all. Or as we listened in shock to Biden’s demented call for regime change in Russia, the most heavily nuclear-armed nation on the planet. Biden’s lunacy moved us closer to the atomic Armageddon his witless policies already summoned quite visibly onto the near horizon. With that reality front and center, it’s hard to re-focus and remember that the earth is burning and our haughty corporations are the cause.

As the Dems stampede to whatever country can turn on the oil spigot they turned off for the worst of all possible reasons, it’s good to remember that our future depends on NOT burning oil and gas. Rightwing Republicans and slightly less rightwing Dems have forgotten that – if they ever believed it, which is doubtful. But a grim future on a hot planet looms. That is, of course, if the geniuses in Washington don’t bring on nuclear winter first, with their high-handed arrogance that they could drive a nation armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons into a corner and then, somehow, expect to survive it.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Hope Deferred. She can be reached at her website.