Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bigger threat to democracy – climate change or nuclear weapons? The answer is yes.

“The biggest risk to the world, to me – I know President Obama thought it was climate change – to me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons.”  
“The power of weaponry today is the single greatest problem that our world has, and it’s not global warming like our president said.  It’s the power of weapons, in particular nuclear.”
So says our president-elect Donald Trump.

I am no expert.  I’ll leave the evidence (which is ample) to the scientists and the policy to the politicians, but let’s just suppose that we DO have a problem with man-made climate change.  Assume for a moment that it IS a real thing.  Assume that the overwhelming scientific consensus is correct.  Set aside the questions of the role of government, the EPA, the actions of the Obama Administration, etc.  Basically, assume that everything that our president-elect has to say about climate change – through his tweets, speeches, policies, cabinet appointments – is wrong.  This may be extremely easy for you.  Or it may be extremely difficult.

Why is climate change such a grave threat according to those who affirm it’s a real thing?

It’s a threat to the environment itself, sure.  We see images of gaunt polar bills.  We hear reports of disappearing ice.  Bird and fish migrations are affected, etc.

Is that the sum total of it?  Environmental issues external to the well-being of human beings?  No.  This isn’t just about animals and trees, but about the biosphere that keeps humanity alive.

If the scientific consensus is true, then the food shortages, droughts, floods, catastrophes and the poverty, social instability, and resource wars that are likely to ensue are not only A means, but THE means by which nuclear war becomes a reality.  

The bottom line is this.  It’s a mistake to pit climate change and nuclear proliferation against one another.  It's not one or the other.  Climate change doesn’t reduce the threat of nuclear holocaust.  It raises it.  The terrible threat of nuclear war isn’t opposed or minimized by climate change.  Rather, climate change is the means by which it could come about. 

Even now, as a species, we have the ability to destroy our world many times over.  Reflecting upon the creation of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer is reported to have quoted the Bhagavid Gita: 
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
May his prophecy sober us even as we act to prove it false.  

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