Climate Corner: Climate, war and existential threats

Oct 29, 2022

Aaron Dunbar

Jeffery Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, was recently a speaker at the Athens Democracy Forum in Athens, Greece. When comparing the primary forms of government among major world superpowers such as China and Russia, Sachs made a point to note that “You can be democratic at home and ruthlessly imperial abroad. The most violent country in the world since 1950 has been the United States.”

Here he was promptly cut off by the moderator, but was nonetheless greeted with applause from the audience.

I first became involved in climate activism for a very simple reason. The climate crisis was, without exaggeration, the single greatest existential threat being faced by humanity. It was the issue upon which all other issues hinged, ranging from racial justice and immigration, to healthcare and class inequality, and so much more. A stable society, essentially, is dependent on a stable environment.

And while I still absolutely believe all of this to be the case, it is now undeniable to me that the imminence of the climate crisis has, at least temporarily, been overshadowed by a danger far more immediate and destructive, which doesn’t seem to be attracting even a sliver of the attention of those professing to be the most dedicated to protecting our biosphere- namely, the threat of nuclear war.

Early this month, President Biden finally admitted (albeit to donors behind closed doors, rather than to the general public), that the world is now at its greatest risk for nuclear armageddon since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

One might hope that, given such a grim assessment, the U.S. might show some glimmer of an interest in seeking a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, rather than pumping an endless torrent of military aid into what U.S. officials have essentially admitted is a proxy war against Russia. An act which, it’s worth noting, Vladimir Putin has been quite emphatic about considering an act of provocation on our part.

Instead, the U.S. has now deployed the Army’s 101st Airborne Division to Europe for the first time since World War II, and is “fully prepared” to enter Ukraine and attack Russia, should the situation escalate.

A minuscule smattering of Democrats, who would falsely declare themselves to be the more anti-war party of America’s political system (in reality, no actual anti-war movement exists in America), did feebly sign onto a letter urging President Biden to pursue a diplomatic solution to the war.

Said letter was released this week, was met with an avalanche of criticism from the majority of the Democratic Party, and was then promptly retracted when progressives went scurrying back on the issue with their tails between their legs, as is so often their preferred tactic when pretending to take on the corrupt establishment.

It shouldn’t need to be reiterated at this point just how unfathomably, viciously destructive the use of a singular nuclear weapon would be. I shouldn’t have to paint a picture of the thousands upon thousands of instant deaths at the moment of impact, the horrific cancerous after effects, or the lands made uninhabitable by these instruments of sheer destruction. But apparently, those respectable types pursuing “U.S. interests” on our behalf seem to have forgotten these risks- or, more than likely, they simply do not care.

America’s participation in this war has never been about saving the lives of Ukrainians, despite politicians, media outlets, and the military industrial complex manufacturing the public’s consent by exploiting the genuine, humanitarian impulses of everyday people. Our warmongering military officials, all the way up to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, have explicitly stated that their intention in being involved in Ukraine is simply to try and weaken Russia. Biden’s comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis behind closed doors make it abundantly clear that the risks of further pursuing this goal now vastly outweigh whatever supposed “benefits” our warlords might once have hoped to gain.

No human being who is concerned about the climate crisis should remain silent on this issue. Our unhinged military’s neverending bloodlust and these psychotic games of nuclear chicken are as great, if not greater threats than the heating of our planet due to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, these hegemonic shows of force are only likely to grow more intense and more dangerous as the planet warms, and geopolitical tensions are amplified. We must rise up against the lifelong conditioning and propaganda of American empire that have left us silent on matters of war and nuclear destruction, much as we’ve done against the onslaught of disinformation from the fossil fuel industry, if we are to leave this planet in a habitable state for future generations.


Aaron Dunbar is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.