The Ultimate Twosome, Nukes and Climate Change in 2024

I begin my first piece of 2024 this way: “Honestly, what strange creatures we are. Nothing stops us when it comes to destruction, does it? (And I’m not even thinking about the utter, ongoing devastation of Gaza.)

“I mean, give us credit as the new year begins. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about humanity isn’t our literature, our theater, our movies, the remarkable food we cook, the cities we’ve built, or the endless other things we’ve created. To my mind, it’s the fact that, in our relatively brief time as rulers of this planet, amid a chaos of never-ending wars and conflicts, we’ve come up with not just one but two different ways of doing ourselves (and much of the rest of our world) in.

“And that, to my mind, is no small achievement.

“Go back a couple of centuries and, even amid humanity’s wars and other conflicts, someone suggesting such a possible future would undoubtedly have been laughed out of the room. It took science fiction — especially H.G. Wells imagining the arrival of murderous Martians — to begin to conceive of such all-too-modern, all-too-apocalyptic world-ending possibilities.

“Now, however, there’s no need for fiction at all. There can be no question that, in its “wisdom” (and yes, that definitely needs to be in quotation marks), humanity has indeed come up with two different ways of utterly destroying this planet as a livable habitat.”

In the rest of my piece, I explore the grim ingenuity of humanity in our ability to come up with those two ultimate ways — nuclear weapons and climate change — to do in this planet and how they are (or aren’t) playing out at this moment, concluding, “It would, of course, be a remarkable achievement for us to turn our backs on the possible destruction of this planet. Unfortunately, as we humans continue to fight our wars in a blistering fashion (themselves, by the way, significant contributors to the ongoing blistering of this planet), we seem strangely incapable of facing what we’re doing in an ultimate sense. Yes, our news programs could in recent months make the war in Gaza — distinctly, a nightmare of the first order — the top news story, day after day after day. But somehow, the news about climate change, the slow-motion but devastating blasting of the planet we live on, never seems to get that kind of attention. Even when the top story of the day or week may be record storms, floods, fires, you name it, the link to the heating of this planet is, if made at all, normally only done so in passing.

“And yet that should be the story of all times. We’re talking about the end of the world as we’ve known it. And that should be, but isn’t, the news of our time or of any time.

“Welcome to 2024.”

This piece originally appeared in

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.