Thirty Months To The Beginning of Extinction

The IPCC's latest report is a grim reminder that the U.S.' response to the Russian aggression in Ukraine threatens the long-term viability of human life on earth.

Thirty Months To The Beginning of Extinction

Edited by Sam Thielman

A water droplet falls from ice. Francesco Vaninetti Photo, via Getty.

SO THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that there's an extremely narrow window in which to rapidly decarbonize if humanity is to avert the worst that global heating has in store. Damien Carrington, The Guardian's environment editor, writes that humanity has "thirty months" before greenhouse gas emissions need to begin falling. That's 2025. An eyeblink.

Underscoring what this means for April 2022, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, warned on Monday that "increasing fossil fuel production will only make matters worse."

Guterres needed to say that because increasing fossil-fuel production is crucial to the U.S.-led coalition against Russia's aggression in Ukraine. To mitigate rising fuel prices resulting from restrictions on and divestments of Russian oil and gas sales—something the European dependence on Russian energy complicates—the U.S. and its partners are doing exactly the thing Guterres says will make matters worse.

As part of a "war footing," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told a Houston hydrocarbon conference last month that "we have to responsibly increase short term supply where we can right now to stabilize the market and to minimize harm to American families." The IPCC would disagree as to whether this course of action minimizes harm to American families. Stabilizing the market is, surprising no one, the priority.

An earlier edition of this newsletter pointed out how the west's drill-baby-drill response benefits charmers like Mohammed bin Salman. But it's also exposed just how unprepared and unwilling the world's institutions are to even deemphasize hydrocarbons. The coalition that opposes the Russian invasion cannot stay united without increased fossil-fuel production to offset prospects for a recession prompted by the removal of Russian fossil fuels from the market. On Earth-Two, this is an opportunity to massively and urgently pivot away from hydrocarbons. But on this earth, the only earth we get, there is no clean energy infrastructure that can be subbed in for Russian oil, because capital so wills it.

While President Biden ramps up oil and gas production, one feature of the Republican response to the Ukraine invasion has been to demand permanent increases. You can bet they will feature in a Republican governing agenda post-November, and perhaps in 2025, the IPCC's time's-up year. Guterres castigated "the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world." Unfortunately, he did not call for the alternative geo-economic model needed to produce a liveable one.

Russia is committing atrocities in Ukraine, unambiguous war crimes. The U.S.-led response, displaying the path dependencies of an obstinate, hydrocarbon-dependent capitalism, actively contributes to endangering human life on earth. The world is again dividing into hardened geopolitical blocs at the moment humanity can least afford it. As we've discussed, none of this is viewed as a danger to "national security" by national-security decisionmakers, even though it endangers Americans as surely as it does foreigners.

As long as it enriches the defense sector that enriches many of those decisionmakers, that won't change. What remains is the overwhelming urgency, for so many reasons, to aggressively pursue a diplomatic end to the Russian aggression and the arduous path to a decarbonized world in 30 short months.

MEANWHILE, THE AMAZON workers of Staten Island won. There are so many jubilant accounts of this extraordinary victory, but these two paragraphs especially burst my heart:

At the bus stop outside the warehouse, a site on Staten Island known as JFK8, they built bonfires to warm colleagues waiting before dawn to go home. They made TikTok videos to reach workers across the city. Mr. [Derrick] Palmer brought homemade baked ziti to the site; others toted empanadas and West African rice dishes to appeal to immigrant workers. They set up signs saying “Free Weed and Food.”

The union spent $120,000 overall, raised through GoFundMe, according to Mr. [Christian] Smalls. “We started this with nothing, with two tables, two chairs and a tent,” he recalled. Amazon spent more than $4.3 million just on anti-union consultants nationwide last year, according to federal filings.

New York City undefeated. They won, they ran out of the NLRB in Brooklyn Heights, popped champagne, hugged each other, passed the blunt. The roll call of heroes of the working class forever include the names Christian Smalls, Derrick Palmer, Karen Ponce, Cassio Medina, Angelika Maldonado, Brett Daniels, Gene Bruskin, Justine Medina, Tristan "Lion" Dutchin, Seth Goldstein and Brima Sylla. Time and again the labor movement has proven that its struggles expand the frontiers of real freedom and real democracy. As Alex Press wrote in Jacobin, "These organizing efforts in Amazon warehouses matter for all of us, existing as we do within a spreading system of surveillance and control pioneered by Amazon."

I'm obviously not a labor reporter and you should read those who are. But we should expect to see a furious counterattack from Amazon, on the union's very legitimacy, alongside and through contract negotiations. Amazon spent over $4 million demonizing the union in general and Smalls specifically, whom it fired, demeaned and had arrested. It did so because it knows its relentless-distribution business model depends on treating people as disposable.

All that is to say this: If you support the Amazon Labor Union, and you're able, FOREVER WARS encourages you to donate to their GoFundMe. This is a material struggle. The only support is material support.

"AS IF WE ARE SUBHUMAN." Via Ishaan Tharoor, the AP had a good piece the other day about Iraqis and Palestinians watching as the U.S. supplies Ukraine with all the means—and the narratives—it has denied them for generations:

On social media, the world has cheered Ukrainians as they stockpile Molotov cocktails and take up arms against an occupying army. When Palestinians and Iraqis do the same thing, they are branded terrorists and legitimate targets.

“We resisted the occupiers, even when the world was with the Americans, including the Ukrainians, who were part of their coalition,” said Sheikh Jabbar al-Rubai, 51, who fought in the 2003-2011 Iraqi insurgency against U.S. forces.

“Because the world was with the Americans, they didn’t give us this glory and call us a patriotic resistance,” instead emphasizing the insurgency’s religious character, he said. “This is of course a double standard, as if we are subhuman.”

Bucha, and not only Bucha, sure looks like war crimes to me. If only the United States of America was part of the International Criminal Court, the forum for investigating and prosecuting war crimes. The only thing America has to lose is its impunity. Which explains why we're not part of the ICC.

SPEAKING OF AMERICAN IMPUNITY, back at Guantanamo Bay the Biden administration sent 48-year old Sufiyan Barhoumi home to Algeria. Barhoumi arrived at Guantanamo in March 2002, just two months after the forever-prison began operations. He spent 20 years inside Guantanamo. He was never charged with a crime.

THIS IS GOING to be the only newsletter this week. I was unexpectedly invited to take part in a panel for a journalism festival that, if you can believe it, takes place in Italy. I've never been to Italy. Outside of this frankly incredible panel—Azmat Khan, The Intercept's Maz Hussain and Alice Speri, and me talking about 20 years of covering the Forever War? C'mon—I don't intend to spend a minute working.

Just putting this out into the universe and seeing if it manifests: if anyone in Istanbul wants to invite me to speak? The answer is yes.