End Times for Humanity, With the West Fully Committed to Israel’s Genocide of the Palestinians and to Complete Climate Collapse

A poignant message on the massive March for Palestine in London on November 11, 2023 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been suffering from a state of exhaustion that made me wonder if I had some undiagnosed terminal illness. I’ve been unable to concentrate, and, as soon as I woke up, I was wondering when I could go back to bed again.

Yesterday, the fog finally lifted, and I realized that my exhaustion was almost certainly a result of the dire state of the world right now — primarily related to Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza (still, after the murder of over 37,000 civilians, largely supported by western politicians and the mainstream media), but also to the cascading climate collapse that these same politicians and media outlets don’t want to talk about.

On Gaza, I suspect that my exhaustion was primarily related to an overwhelming sense of futility and powerlessness regarding any hope that the relentless genocide might be stopped. For those, like myself, who have been watching this grotesque live-streamed genocide unfold for over six months — ever since Hamas militants and other Gaza-based militants broke out of the “open-air prison” of the Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed 695 Israeli civilians, 373 members of the military and the police, and 71 foreign nationals — there have only been a few moments when hope appeared to be in the ascendant, and on each occasion the aftermath, when that hope was crushed, has been difficult to negotiate.

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Trying to Stay Sane in a World of Rapidly Accelerating Climate Collapse

Watching a wildfire: how do we deal with the reality of climate collapse and the failure of our governments to take the necessary action to ensure that the planet remains habitable?

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Some days are better than others. Some days, the dread, the anger, the sadness don’t begin until some time after I’ve woken up, but it never takes long, to be honest, until I remember that I’m living in a dying world.

If you think I’m exaggerating, I can only suggest that you’re not really paying attention to what’s happening. For at least 35 years, climate scientists have been warning, based on a forensic analysis of observable reality, that our obsession with burning fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) has been supercharging the atmosphere with greenhouses gases (carbon dioxide, methane and others) that are increasing temperatures worldwide to an alarming degree.

In 1992, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), drawing on the expertise of climate scientists worldwide, first began warning about the danger of ever-increasing greenhouse gas production, but it wasn’t until 2015, in Paris, that they were able to secure a commitment from most of the world’s governments to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”, and to pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

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As the Planet Burns, Why Is the Media Still Downplaying the Severity of Climate Collapse?

A speculative, but not far-fetched image of the reality of climate collapse.

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The world is on fire, like never before. As the author Gaia Vince explained in the Guardian on July 18, “This June was the hottest ever recorded on Earth. July led with the hottest ever day, swiftly followed by a hotter hottest ever day, then the hottest week — and, possibly, the hottest month. A few years hence, during the ceaseless climate catastrophes of the 2030s, as my kids’ generation reaches adulthood, they might ask about that terrifying summer of 2023 when 120,000-year-old heat records were smashed day after day: how did everyone react?”

For the ever-growing number of people who are aware of the scale of the crisis, in which catastrophic climate collapse is happening much quicker than even the most pessimistic climate scientists predicted, our options, sadly, are severely limited.

While brave protestors take to the streets, and interrupt significant events to try and raise the alarm, they face arrest, often through draconian new laws introduced specifically to try to prevent them from raising the alarm, and often face hostility, from mildly inconvenienced drivers, for example, whose disproportionate rage is often genuinely alarming, or from a wide array of ‘commentators’ — some ‘professional’, some not — who seem to regard interrupting a major sporting event for a few minutes, to highlight the suicidal nature of our collective inaction — as some sort of unforgivable crime.

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Have We Already Forgotten About New York’s Apocalyptic Orange Skies, and What It Told Us About the Climate Crisis?

The Empire State Building and New York City’s orange sky in June 7, 2023.

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For a few days, from June 7 onwards, when toxic, apocalyptic orange skies engulfed New York City and Washington, D.C., caused by wildfires in Canada burning on an unprecedented scale, it seemed that the reality of the climate crisis had finally struck home in two of the places that counted most in terms of sounding alarms in the Global North, where so much of the world’s economic and political power still resides, and where people, in general, are largely oblivious to the disasters regularly afflicting the Global South, via unprecedented heat, droughts and flooding.

For the Global North to wake up to reality, climate change, it seemed, needed to arrive on their doorstep, and for a few days the media coverage was suitably sombre, although, even then, as the worst of the pollution passed, the relentless churn of the news cycle returned to its typical dreary pattern of distraction.

Few dwelt on the irony that, as the veteran environmental activist Bill McKibben explained for the New Yorker, the arrival the toxic skies coincided with Joe Biden’s approval — to save the Inflation Reduction Act, “the first truly serious climate bill our government has ever passed” — of “the MVP pipeline, which will carry fracked gas across West Virginia and Virginia”, and which “is precisely the kind of new fossil-fuel infrastructure that climate scientists have repeatedly said we must stop building”, and of “plans for an enormous new oil-drilling complex in Alaska (and liquefied-natural-gas exports), and huge new offshore-drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.”

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The IPCC’s “Final Warning”: Only Rapid, Deep and Immediate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts Can “Secure a Liveable and Sustainable Future For All”

Photos of the climate crisis in 2022: wildfires, floods and drought.

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On Monday, the frenetic gossipy world of nonsense and distraction that, rather sadly and shamefully, constitutes most of what passes for news and culture these days paused for a moment to reflect upon the publication of the most significant document that will be published this year — the latest climate change report prepared by the climate scientists of the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the United Nations body founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide “regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

This latest report — rather functionally known as the ‘AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023’ — is the final outcome of the IPCC’s sixth reporting period, which began in 2017, and which synthesises the findings of three working group reports, published in 2021 and 2022, as well as three special reports, published in 2018 and 2019.

The IPCC’s latest report establishes, as its ‘Headline Statements’ summary states, that “Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health”, and that “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

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Climate Change Heroes of 2022: António Guterres, Just Stop Oil, Greta Thunberg and Climate Scientists

The most widely reported climate change action ever? On October 14, two Just Stop Oil protestors, Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland, threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ in the National Gallery in London. Just one video of the action on Twitter, via the Guardian‘s environment correspondent, Damien Gayle, had 50 million views, but did the action help or hinder the message that urgent and unprecedented action is required to tackle catastrophic climate change?

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As 2023 begins, with new January heat records already established over much of Europe, 2022 ought to be remembered as the year that the reality of catastrophic man-made climate change became undeniably apparent, along with the shocking realisation that the degeneration of a balanced atmosphere that is conducive to our continued existence is happening much quicker than expected.

It appears, however, that, despite unprecedented floods, wildfires and droughts, melting polar ice and glaciers, and temperature records being broken around the world (including, for the first time ever, 40°C in the UK), the momentum required to bring about urgent and necessary change to our suicidal economic systems simply doesn’t exist.

As the mainstream media fails to adequately convey the urgency of our plight, and most national politicians also fail to recognise that their only purpose now is to bring to an end the predatory and largely unfettered pursuit of profit that is already making even the short-term security of humanity appear unviable, confronting the crisis has been left to relative handful of people around the world — primarily, climate scientists and environmental activists.

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Cop-Out at COP27: Still No Agreement to Even Reduce the Use of Fossil Fuels, As the 1.5°C Target for Global Temperature Rise Fades Away

A protest by Ocean Rebellion outside the headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation in London on November 21, 2022 (Photo: Guy Reece).

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It’s been a while since I last wrote about the most pressing crisis that any of us have faced in our lifetimes — the ever-increasing fossil fuel emissions that threaten the very viability of life on this extraordinary planet, where, uniquely in the universe, as far as we know, the chemical balance of the atmosphere has allowed an extraordinary abundance of life, including our own, to blossom over tens of millions of years (or, in our case, the last 300,000 years).

In summer, as, for two days, the UK baked in the hottest temperatures ever recorded, I wrote two articles, Our Climate Crisis Paralysis: How, in the Face of Unprecedented Signs of Climate Collapse, We’re Still Being Failed by Politicians, the Media and Ourselves, and “Human Kind Cannot Bear Very Much Reality”, Doing Nothing While the World Burns and Extinction Looms, in which I added my voice to the many other concerned global citizens trying to wake people up to the unique gravity of the crisis we face, whereby the emissions caused through our profligate use of fossil fuels are already beginning to turn the earth from a generally bountiful garden into somewhere inhospitable.

This year really ought to have been a wake-up call — not just because of 40 degree heat in the UK, but also because of similar record-breaking temperatures around the world, leading to rivers drying up, wildfires on an unprecedented scale, and widespread drought, which has involved vast areas of agricultural land being rendered useless.

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Act Now or Face Extinction: My Birthday Present From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

A car driver in California watches a wildfire spread on December 6, 2017 (Photo: Noah Berger/AP).

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Today is my birthday.

59 years ago, in Salford Maternity Hospital, my mother brought me into this world during one of the coldest winters in modern history, believed to have been the coldest since the winter of 1739-40.

59 years on from my birth, as I reflect on all that has happened to me in the 21,550 days of my life — all my struggles, my achievements, my loves, my joys, my sorrows, and my persistent inability not to question what those in authority tell me — and as I also reflect on the political and cultural changes of these many decades, I am struck by how this is all in the past, and how the pulse of life itself, which inhabits a continuous present that so many of us struggle to accept, is now located in a world in which bleak winters, like that of 1962-63, will never happen again.

When we look at why that is, one abiding truth becomes clear. Life on earth is a chemical miracle, one that requires a fine balance between its various components to maintain an atmosphere in which life is abundant. We know of nowhere else in the universe where life teems as it does on earth, and yet, because of capitalist greed and hubris, and a dangerous disconnection from nature, we are undermining the miracle of life, changing the atmosphere, primarily through our use of fossil fuels, into one that that will make the world inhospitable.

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Photos and Report: Extinction Rebellion’s Two Weeks of Timely and Urgent Actions Calling on Banks to End All Fossil Fuel Investments Now

“It’s Happening Now”: Highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis, Extinction Rebellion supporters hold up a banner by Lloyd’s Building on Leadenhall Street in the City of London on September 3, 2021, during their two-week long ‘Impossible Rebellion’ (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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When faced with the gravest existential threat to humanity’s future in our lifetimes — no, it’s not Covid, it’s catastrophic climate change as a result of the actions of humanity — homo sapiens, for all our vaunted ability to think and to understand complex situations, have found ourselves unable or unwilling to deal with it.

Three responses have been dominant over the many decades that this unfolding crisis has been apparent: firstly, denial, propagated by the climate change deniers in the fossil fuel industry and amplified by corrupt media; secondly, a complete lack of interest from those parts of the population (around a third in total) who have become completely disengaged from politics; and thirdly, and belatedly, a recognition of the severity of the crisis, but an acceptance that slowly-awakening politicians making promises about change that will take place decades from now is the best that we can do.

A fourth group is trying to do something about it, through non-violent direct action, to try to raise awareness of the urgent severity of the crisis, and the need for major structural changes to the way humans consume the planet’s resources, unleashing alarming quantities of greenhouse gases — primarily, carbon dioxide and methane — that are causing the earth’s atmosphere to change from one that supports an abundance of life to one that threatens it via increasingly hostile weather conditions, rising tides, melting ice and dying oceans.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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