During the decade preceding World War II, Winston Churchill was a lone voice raising the threat of German aggression and the rise of the Nazis. He could see the forces of war gathering. We have not learned from history. And we are repeating it. We ignore the warnings of scientists and brush off the empirical evidence. But this is not a time for incrementalism or gradualism. We face an immediate threat. We’re on the verge of World War III, the war on warming.

Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger … The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences … We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now. (Source; Winston Churchill, House of Commons, November 1936).

Video credit: NASA

In his most recent article, Bill McKibben skillfully uses the war metaphor in an attempt to galvanize the American nation for the titanic struggle that lies ahead for humanity. “We are under attack from climate change and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in World War II,” says McKibben.

The remainder of this post consists of excerpts from the article first published in The New Republic. It’s about the war on warming of the planet.

The War On Warming – World War III

In the North this summer, a devastating offensive is underway. Enemy forces have seized huge swaths of territory; with each passing week, another 22,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappears. Experts dispatched to the battlefield in July saw little cause for hope, especially since this siege is one of the oldest fronts in the war. “In 30 years, the area has shrunk approximately by half,” said a scientist who examined the onslaught. “There doesn’t seem anything able to stop this.”

In the Pacific this spring, the enemy staged a daring breakout across thousands of miles of ocean, waging a full-scale assault on the region’s coral reefs. In a matter of months, long stretches of formations like the Great Barrier Reef—dating back past the start of human civilization and visible from space—were reduced to white bone-yards.

Day after day, week after week, saboteurs behind our lines are unleashing a series of brilliant and overwhelming attacks. In the past few months alone, our foes have used a firestorm to force the total evacuation of a city of 90,000 in Canada, drought to ravage crops to the point where southern Africans are literally eating their seed corn, and floods to threaten the priceless repository of art in the Louvre.

The enemy is even deploying biological weapons to spread psychological terror: The Zika virus, loaded like a bomb into a growing army of mosquitoes, has shrunk the heads of newborn babies across an entire continent; panicked health ministers in seven countries are now urging women not to get pregnant. And as in all conflicts, millions of refugees are fleeing the horrors of war, their numbers swelling daily as they’re forced to abandon their homes to escape famine and desolation and disease.

Standing Up to Global Warming

For years, our leaders chose to ignore the warnings of our best scientists and top military strategists. Global warming, they told us, was beginning a stealth campaign that would lay waste to vast stretches of the planet, uprooting and killing millions of innocent civilians. But instead of paying heed and taking obvious precautions, we chose to strengthen the enemy with our endless combustion; a billion explosions of a billion pistons inside a billion cylinders have fueled a global threat as lethal as the mushroom-shaped nuclear explosions we long feared. Carbon and methane now represent the deadliest enemy of all time, the first force fully capable of harrying, scattering, and impoverishing our entire civilization.

World War III - The War On Warming, boomer warrior

Image credit: National Geographic

War as a Metaphor

We’re used to war as metaphor: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer. Usually this is just a rhetorical device, a way of saying, “We need to focus our attention and marshal our forces to fix something we don’t like.” But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.)

It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. Its first victims, ironically, are those who have done the least to cause the crisis. But it’s a world war aimed at us all. And if we lose, we will be as decimated and helpless as the losers in every conflict. But this time, there will be no winners, and no end to the planet-wide occupation that follows.

The question is not, are we in a world war? The question is, will we fight back? And if we do, can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?

The War on Warming — World War III — is well and truly underway. And we are losing.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Time to search for a gas mask!

    ‘When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.’ quote by Winston Churchill.

    I am not a fan of Winston Churchill politics, and his ruthless approach to dealing with the enemy did lead to defeating the Germans, albeit through the loss’s of many lives (often sacrificial). Was it right? Well perhaps the end result was fortunate, but there can be madness in the method!

    I think the signs of an environmental war against us should be seen more as nature trying to defend herself against our own human onslaught.

    Nature is showing her first mass casualties and largely defenceless position against a coordinated human gas attack against her only life supporting atmosphere!

    We are the enemy, and the enemy is within!

    • So well said Colette. We are the enemy within. I’m a big fan of Churchillian quotes. I don’t think that’s even a word.

      ‘When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.’

      I guess we’re our own worst enemy. If we all stood up and accepted our moral obligation, our responsibility to protect the environment, then we would not be in the global warming predicament we’re facing now. We would have taken action by now. But most of us are still waiting for someone to come and save us. But there is no one but ourselves.

  2. No philosophy, religion, ideology or politics were ever able to trigger the responsibility gland in this generation of humans. There’s some evidence that it’s not the one and only generation who failed, it happened before in other ways … they had different sort of intelligence and cultures but the end was always extinction.

    The latest 50 years or so the responsibility issue was invoked by many intelligent people, but none of them were able to provide answers and mobilize those alike for a social and/or political movement.

    Our civilization evolved to a state when the individual survival now is more relevant than the survival of our species. We’re like the rats on a sinking boat. Or like the sperm in a penis.

    Perhaps humanoids don’t have the responsibility gland.

    • Cristian – thank you for your comments and welcome to BoomerWarrior.

      Humanoids are just another species and like millions of other species, we are facing extinction. We do not have the the responsibility gene as you point out. Every day as I work as a climate activist, I come face to face with the lack of reason, the greed, the failure of humanity.

      Unfortunately individual survival is not possible unless there is collective survival.

  3. I appreciate the sincerity and urgency of your articles, Rolly, thanks for all you’re doing. I’d be happy to share info about our carbon recycle/alcohol fuel technologies and project development activity if you’re interested. I’m sure you’d agree we can only document the carbon trainwreck for so long. There’s a need to start laying new track in our communities. As you note, humans seem to be missing a responsibility gene, which is why it’s important for those that truly care to be informed as possible and act responsibly anyway.

    All the best from Montana,

    Jay

  4. Hi Jay – sorry about the delay in responding to your comments. And welcome to BoomerWarrior.

    “We can only document the carbon trainwreck for so long,” is a great observation. You’re right. We can’t wait until everybody is on board to “start laying new track”.

    So please share your carbon recycle/alcohol technologies with me and on my links:

    BoomerWarrior Page: http://on.fb.me/1Jj8Dfq
    Personal Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1nNQpdp
    Twitter: http://bit.ly/1p4Negt
    Linkedin: http://bit.ly/1hb9u87
    Warriors for SEE Justice – Social, Economic and Environmental : http://on.fb.me/1orShaU

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