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The war in Ukraine increases my long-standing doubts about the rationality of political leaders.

I am dumbfounded that Vladimir Putin thinks attacking Ukraine will increase Russian security. I am appalled that Joe Biden steadfastly ignores the possibility of provoking a nuclear war. I am furious that both political leaders put the looming planetary catastrophe of climate change on the back burner.

Indeed, climate change is likely to be the very worst casualty of the Ukraine war.

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is certainly not a radical document. The report is a collaborative project of several hundred climate scientists from almost every country of the world. Its conclusions require a high degree of consensus, and they are also subject to some political censorship. Thus, the IPCC report tends to understate the perils of climate change. Nevertheless, the report includes the following statement:

“Climate change is affecting nature, people’s lives and infrastructure everywhere. Its dangerous and pervasive impacts are increasingly evident in every region of our world. These impacts are hindering efforts to meet basic human needs and they threaten sustainable development across the globe … Climate change impacts all regions of the world with growing challenges for water availability, food production and the livelihoods of millions of people …[I]mpacts will continue to increase if drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are further delayed.”

The IPCC report also emphasizes the critical importance of international cooperation in coping with the dire challenge of climate change. International cooperation is essential for building workable environmental strategies, sharing conservation technology, coordinating ecological actions, providing necessary finance and eliminating climate-annihilating military operations. The Ukraine war, in addition to direct environmental demolition, extinguishes the international cooperation imperative for addressing climate change.

Of course, political leaders are not the only ones afflicted by irrationality. What is the mentality of a public willing to spend billions of dollars to defeat Russians in Ukraine, but remarkably miserly in funding programs to address the climate change crisis?

The military aid the U.S. has already allocated to Ukraine equals about 60% of the entire Russian military budget. Are the American people really more eager to weaken Russia than to save the planet? The Russian attack upon Ukraine is indeed despicable (as are the U.S. provocations which promoted that war).  Yet future historians, if they exist, will surely conclude that the outcome of the Ukraine war is relatively inconsequential by comparison with the outcome of the climate change emergency.

If Russian, American and Ukrainian military leaders were (surprisingly) afflicted by an attack of rationality, they would surely abandon the current policies of prolonging the Ukraine war and instead bend every effort towards reaching a rapid negotiated termination of that conflict.

Otherwise, our putative future historians (if they are able to say anything) will record that climate change was indeed the worst casualty of the Ukraine conflict.

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