Time is Running Out

At a time when the world and humanity are facing the risk of an imminent climate change disaster and clamouring the urgent need to safeguard our homeland, is there no voice of reason among the caucus of world leaders to end the senseless and Pyrrhic folly in Ukraine?

By Mrinal Roy

The annual report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released last week ahead of the COP27 summit in Egypt from 6-18 November gives details of climate indicators such as temperatures, ocean heat, ocean acidification, sea level rise, sea ice glaciers and extreme weather. It warns that the extreme consequences of global warming are appearing faster than expected. Time Is running out to avert a harrowing future for people across the planet. It could soon become much harder to cope.

The hikes in the atmospheric concentration of all three greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, were higher than the average increase over the past decade. Concentrations of carbon dioxide rose to 415.7 parts per million, a level not seen since at least three million years ago when Earth was much warmer.

Why the war in Ukraine is also a make-or-break moment for climate change. Pic – TED Ideas

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that the continuing rise in concentrations of the main heat-trapping gases which are now all at new record levels shows that the world is facing the threat of an imminent climate change catastrophe. He called for an urgent transformation in energy, industry and transport systems away from fossil fuels and added that ‘the needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible’. The report thus aims at spurring world leaders to urgently take the potent remedial actions needed to cap global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. According to the WMO, there is a 50:50 chance of average global temperature reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the next five years and the likelihood is increasing with time.

Many scientific reports estimate that temperatures could rise by 3°C in the next thirty years, which would cause sea levels to rise all over the world. To make us aware of the climate emergency we find ourselves in, scientists have portrayed how some iconic places on our planet could look like in the aftermath of extreme climate change conditions if we do not act now. Will world leaders finally wake up to the crying urgency of safeguarding planet Earth for the young and future generations?

Senseless war

The senseless and protracted war in Ukraine is also having an adverse impact on the world’s response to climate change. It distracts the world leaders’ attention and focus away from drastically cutting down carbon emissions, taking robust actions to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius and accelerating the replacement of highly polluting coal and fossil fuels by renewable and green energy.

Instead, tens of billions of dollars of advanced weaponry provided to Ukraine by the US, the EU and NATO countries are inordinately prolonging the war amid more and more demands for more arms by Ukraine. For its part, Russia is mobilizing more troops and raining precision strikes of missiles and drones on military and communication installations, hydroelectric plants and other critical energy and water infrastructure across Ukraine thus depriving people of vital utilities ahead of winter. The war has also divided and polarized the world.

The collateral victims of this endless war in Ukraine as well as climate change driven extreme weather conditions, more destructive storms, torrential rains, floods, landslides, forest fires and higher temperatures are people.

Escalating food and energy prices, rising inflation and the erosion of purchasing power caused by the war in Ukraine have resulted in unprecedented difficulties and distress among people. According to UNCTAD, billions of people face the greatest cost of living crisis in a generation. It adversely affects lives and livelihoods and hobbles prospects of a rapid socio-economic recovery in the aftermath of Covid-19. The IMF has forecast that global growth will fall from 6.0 percent in 2021 to 3.2 percent in 2022 and 2.7 percent in 2023, which, with the exception of the global financial crisis and the worst phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, is the weakest growth rate registered since 2001. Global inflation is forecast to rise from 4.7 percent in 2021 to 8.8 percent in 2022.

Human distress

According to a report published last week by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), almost half of UK adults are struggling to pay their energy bills and around 30% of people paying rent or mortgages also said that they have had difficulties. About 60% of those who do not own a home said that they struggle to pay their energy bills, compared with 43% in the case of homeowners. Similarly, more and more Australians are giving up their pets as with rising cost of living and food prices, people are forced to choose in priority to feed and assure the wellbeing of their children and family.

EU citizens are already feeling the chill as they head into winter facing the throes of the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. A vast array of measures have been taken by EU countries to save energy use. People have been asked to turn off lights and cut down nonessential energy use. In France homes and offices are heated to a maximum of 19°C and advertising lighting is switched off at night. In Germany which is highly dependent on Russian gas and oil, cities across the country have dimmed their lights, limited the lighting time of public buildings and monuments and switched off brightly lit billboards. Christmas lighting will be significantly reduced in EU countries..

In contrast, arms manufacturers and oil companies are having a field day. The profits at world’s seven biggest oil firms such as Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil soared to almost £150bn this year amid growing calls to tax such colossal windfall gains in a context of widespread cost of living crisis in the world.

The war in Ukraine and falling purchasing power are also dampening sales and adversely affecting stock values. After enjoying a surge in demand and high growth during the pandemic, Amazon is one of many leading high tech companies that are facing significantly lower demand. In a context of rising inflation and interest rates, Amazon has struggled to contain costs. Last week, Amazon shares dropped by 17% after the company predicted weaker holiday sales, wiping out $190 billion from Amazon’s value.

In the light of such human suffering and economic turmoil, how can the US and NATO countries, Ukraine and Russia, the main protagonists of the war in Ukraine remain blind to the distress and hardships endured by their own citizens and people across the world and doggedly pursue their anachronistic geopolitical war games? How can they not be alive to the dire socioeconomic impact of the war on the world economy and people across the world.

Scale and cost of war

The U.S. has been by far the largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine and provided as at September $15.2 billion in weapons packages. However, according to recent press reports, the U.S. and Europe are running out of weapons to send to Ukraine. It takes time and financing to replenish stockpiles of advanced weaponry and missiles. Military experts from the U.S. National Defense University are worried as the normal production level for artillery rounds for the 155 millimetre howitzer, a long-range heavy artillery weapon currently used on the battlefields of Ukraine, is about 30,000 rounds per year in peacetime. The Ukrainian soldiers use this amount in roughly two weeks. This showcases the scale and enormous cost implications of the problem faced by the West.

The war support budget is therefore a costly drain on scarce financial resources at a time when the US, the EU and the world have to grapple with the dire socioeconomic impact of the war, deteriorating economic fundamentals, existential hardships faced by people at large as a result of inflation and the continuous erosion of their purchasing power.

At a time when the world and humanity are facing the risk of an imminent climate change disaster and clamouring the urgent need to safeguard our homeland, planet Earth, is there no voice of reason among the caucus of world leaders to end the senseless and Pyrrhic folly in Ukraine to in priority focus potent world actions on expeditiously tackling the throes of climate change?


Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 4 November 2022

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