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Could the War in Ukraine Herald a New Dawn in the Climate Crisis?

Putin's invasion has kindled a unity and coordination that is so desperately needed to deal with the climate crisis

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Sunflowers; what a joyous sign of life. In the midst of the darkness enveloping Europe, there is no such joy. Adding to the malaise is the latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides yet another stark reminder of a crisis that will soon overwhelm the entire planet. Understandably the importance of the existential threat posed to humanity has taken a backstep while Ukraine is besieged by Putin’s tyrannical efforts to resurrect a Russian empire long since disintegrated.

But in the darkness, there are seeds of hope. Putin’s diabolical actions have kindled a spirit of unity and cooperation. This spirit may herald a new dawn in dealing with the climate crisis. 

A common thread connecting Putin, Ukraine and the climate crisis is underestimations. The world underestimated Putin’s intentions. He’s always been a thorn in the side of the West, someone who plays by his own rules, but within limits that were considered tolerable. 

Putin underestimated the defiant, brave, inspiring resistance Ukraine would muster against his deplorable invasion. He also underestimated the backlash against him from many NATO and European countries. Meanwhile, NATO and Europe underestimated his blind determination to pursue a destructive course of action against Ukraine, even if sanctions result in economic collapse for Russia.

These underestimations have led to untold suffering, hardship and thousands of deaths. Many more look set to lose their lives in this senseless war. For some, the sanctions against Putin came too late. He felt emboldened by the lack of unity and indecision against his aggressive manoeuvres over the last few months. Had sanctions arrived before the invasion, it may have led to Putin hesitating about the incomprehensible course of action he has taken. 

A lack of leadership

The climate crisis is similar to the current state of affairs in that it continues to be underestimated. When commenting on the latest IPCC report the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said it’s a “damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”

Everyone knows the climate crisis is a problem. Everyone knows the future could be catastrophic. Everyone knows that future could lead to untold misery. And yet, for far too long now, the rhetoric and actions taken to deal with the climate crisis have been vacillating.

The general attitude is that it’s a technical problem that we need to ‘solve’. Worse, the threat posed by a changing climate is exaggerated and not as bad as scientists would have you believe. 

These views and opinions justify the continuation of business as usual, only with slight tweaks. What’s clear from alarm bell after alarm bell is that the challenge we face is becoming ever graver with each passing moment it is underestimated.

Tweaks aren‘t enough. What is required is a radical economic and social transformation that will enable humanity to mitigate against the worst threats of the climate crisis.

We need to treat the climate crisis as a threat to our very existence, our way of life, our freedom, just like Ukraine’s freedom is under threat from Putin’s rogue regime.

A united front

What is encouraging and offers hope is that with a host of countries uniting against a tyrant who seeks to forge an empire of old, a line in the sand is being drawn. The fact that countries like Sweden and Switzerland (who have historically maintained neutrality during war) are condemning this invasion and supporting Ukraine’s defence is remarkable and promising. 

It has to be said that China is not supporting sanctions, even in a time of desperation self-interest has a way of rearing its head. Had they supported economic sanctions it could have been a bitter blow to Russia and its capabilities of waging war in the long term. 

The anti-war protests that have sprung up around the world demonstrate that no one wants the times of old to rear their ugly head. And in uniting so swiftly, the international community has not only condemned this tyrant, but has powerfully shown what can be done when humanity unites and cooperates.

The unity shown against Putin’s invasion is a symbol that this is the beginning of the end of men of his ilk. The world has unremittingly declared it no longer wants the warmongers, the haters, the bullies. Their days are numbered. Good riddance.

Seeds of hope

Once Putin’s threat has been blunted, it won’t be the end. The scars will remain. But the unprecedented unity shown in support of Ukraine shows that humanity can do miraculous things when faced with a common threat.

In the midst of darkness, there are seeds of hope. Hope that each country doesn’t go back to self-serving policies and behaviour, and this period of cooperation flourishes into a new era where the self-serving dinosaurs of old remain a remnant of a time gone by.

If the climate crisis continues to be underestimated in the same way that Putin was, it will be far too late to react when the challenges of a changing climate begin to consume the world.

Maybe, just maybe, the spirit that has arisen in dealing with this megalomaniac will invigorate the climate movement and create effective action. Now is the time to push forward. To rid the world of evil and make genuine efforts to mitigate against the existential crisis that will soon overwhelm humanity. If we can maintain this momentum, those seeds of hope can blossom into joyous signs of life.