By Bill McKibben
[New Republic] 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.
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.
World War III is well and truly underway. And we are losing.
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.
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--except that this
time, there will be no winners, and no end to the planetwide occupation
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? Read More