Trump, Putin and friends are wasting precious time tackle our biggest threat

Oct 12, 2019 by

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” is an oft-quoted aphorism from the King James Bible. It basically means that there are enough problems in the present that one should not only avoid adding to them, but not worry too much about the future. It’s also dangerously wrong in the 21st century. As awful as the present is, the future could be infinitely worse if we fail to focus on it adequately.

Of all the many offenses of the global plutocratic, nationalist, and ethnic supremacist movements headed up by men like Trump, Putin, Modi, Bolsonaro, Salvini, Orban, Netanyahu, and Boris Johnson, perhaps the greatest is that they are wasting precious time we do not have. The world is facing a series of technological crises bearing down on us like bullet trains, while these venal leaders and their culturally frightened supporters concentrate on ephemeral ethnic advantage-seeking and maximizing the wealth of those who already have so much money they don’t know how to spend it. Yes, they are cruel. Yes, they are greedy. Yes, they are bigoted. Yes, they are inflicting needless cruelty upon millions of people. But they are also recklessly preventing us from solving catastrophic developing problems that desperately need solving.

The foremost of these, of course, is climate change. Every new report indicates that the climate crisis is developing more rapidly than scientists’ previous median predictions. Every year the necessary decarbonization horizon to prevent catastrophic warming advances closer. Every year we learn of new cascading and disastrously catalyzing effects, from methane release to rainforest fires to plankton die-offs. Solving this problem would be one of the greatest policy challenges in world history even if every single major world leader were devotedly committed to the task and had the power to rein in recalcitrant fossil fuel interests. The scientific challenges are vast. The political challenges are perhaps worse. And our time is running very short. In this sense, it’s not just that Trump, Bolsonaro, Putin, and friends are exacerbating the problem to enrich their friends and preserve industries that disproportionately benefit older white men. It’s that they are standing in the way of defusing the climate bomb as the clock continues to tick.

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