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War Is Not an Excuse to Ignore Climate Change

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While the Ukrainian people bear the lethal brunt of Russia’s invasion, shock waves from that war threaten to worsen other crises across the planet. The emergency that loomed largest before Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began—the heating of Earth’s climate—is now looming larger still. The reason is simple enough: a war-induced rush to boost oil and gas production has significantly undercut efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

UN Secretary General António Guterres made that clear in an angry March 21st address blasting world leaders scrambling for yet more oil and gas. “Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use,” he said, adding, “This is madness.” He linked obsessive fuel burning with the endpoint toward which today’s clash of world powers could be pushing us, using a particularly frightening term from the original Cold War. “Addiction to fossil fuels is,” he warned, “mutually assured destruction.”

He’s right. In this all-too-MAD moment, we’re facing increasingly intertangled threats of the first order and can’t keep looking away. To achieve mutually assured protection against both global broiling and global war, humanity will have to purge oil, natural gas, and coal from our lives as quickly as possible, a future reality the Ukraine disaster seems to be making less probable by the day.

To Cap Climate Risk, Cap the Wells

When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent the cost of a barrel of oil into the triple digits, the fossil fuel companies and their friends in government, always on the lookout for profitable opportunities amid market chaos, responded predictably.

Oil and gas trade associations in Alaska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas promptly called for even less regulation and more investment in their industry. The Texas association’s president claimed that consumers, now facing steep price hikes at the gas pump, are “feeling the repercussions of canceled pipeline projects, delayed approvals for permits, and the discouragement of additional expansion” and want his industry unleashed. On that point, congressional Republicans couldn’t agree more. In a CNBC op-ed, House minority leader and wannabe speaker Kevin McCarthy called for fast-tracking liquid natural gas exports to NATO countries, issuing drilling leases that the Interior Department has been holding back since last year, and “immediately approving projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline” that President Biden had functionally canceled by revoking a key cross-border permit.

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