As the World Burns

Even before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his war against Ukraine and set off a global scramble for fossil fuels, the battle against climate change was being lost. With national leaders and international diplomacy proving ineffective, is there any hope of saving ourselves?

NEW YORK – It is often said that no one wins a war, just that some lose less than others. Russia’s war against Ukraine promises to be no exception. One clear loser is already evident: the planet.

The war has become the international priority for policymakers and publics. And rightly so: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine threatens a pillar of international order, namely the prohibition on changing borders by force. But the war has also triggered a global scramble for sufficient supplies of energy in response to sanctions against Russian energy exports and the possibility that Russia will cut off supplies. Many countries have found that the easiest and quickest route is to secure greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels.

But even before Putin launched his war, the battle against climate change was being lost. It has been hard to generate any sense of urgency about a problem widely viewed as real (denial of climate science is fading) but seen mostly as something that can be dealt with in the future. Record-high temperatures in Europe and elsewhere, droughts, wildfires, more severe storms, and increased migration may change this perception, but so far, they have not.

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