There are a few genuinely upbeat news stories when it comes to this planet and people trying to figure out how to save us from ourselves and our fossil-fuel addiction. This at a moment of record global surface temperatures and record ocean heating when, despite the Paris climate accord of 2015, carbon dioxide from those fossil fuels is once again entering the atmosphere in record amounts. Take little Costa Rica, where Claudia Dobles, an urban planner who just happens to be the wife of the country’s president, has launched a model national decarbonization plan aimed at fully weaning that country off even the slightest reliance on fossil fuels by 2050. Or consider Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, whose mayor, Frank Jensen, is working to make it “carbon neutral” by 2022. Or think about the scientists now exploring far more controversial and futuristic geo-engineering schemes to try to deal with a world that could, in the decades to come, run amuck in global-warming terms — including the possibility of spraying planet-cooling aerosols like sulfur dioxide (in imitation of the gases emitted by volcanoes) into the atmosphere to reverse the effects of global warming.
Of course, while all of the above are hopeful, none of them offer full-scale solutions to a crisis that threatens to quite literally sink not just cities, but potentially civilization itself. As it happens, there is an obvious solution to the climate-change crisis staring us all in the face, one that TomDispatch regular Dilip Hiro (author of a particularly timely new book, Cold War in the Islamic World: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Struggle for Supremacy), brings up today. Forget Costa Rica, Copenhagen, aerosols, even that climate accord. Forget Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Forget it all. On a planet that’s teetered at the edge of one kind of nuclear holocaust or another since mid-last century, there’s always the possibility that nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, so often near, or in, conflict, could go to war and it might prove to be the war to end all wars.
At any moment, as Hiro explains, some act of terror could set them off in a way that would lead to the planet’s first actual nuclear war. And here’s the thing: scientists believe that such a war in South Asia could not only kill millions in those two countries, but throw enough smoke and soot particulates into the atmosphere to cause a global nuclear winter. In that case, it’s estimated that somewhere between one and two billion inhabitants of this planet could die (mainly due to crop failures and starvation). But one problem created, another solved: climate change would, at least for the immediate future, be a thing of the past (as would a significant part of humanity). With that in mind, read Hiro, and think about a species that might have to rely on nuclear war to solve its problems.