“Hell on Earth” Used to Be a Bold Metaphor. Now It’s Our Potential Future.

Recent weeks have seen a reenergized right-wing Supreme Court struck downA New York law that restricts the carrying of concealed weapons is nearly 100 years old. on abortion. The January 6th Committee has been showing graphic televised detail on how our previous president tried to subvert 2021’s election. The inflation continues to run wild; gas prices have risen to new records; the brutal war against Ukraine continues neverendingly; the Biden administration appears increasingly hapless; and, the president himself seems ever older and less on the target. In sum, our world seems to be in headline-making disorder, while our fate here in this country — thank you, (in)justices Alito and Thomas, not to speak of The Donald and crew! — remains remarkably up for grabs by the worst of us all.

There’s so much heat, in other words, that we seem endlessly in the fires of this political moment. It’s hardly surprisingly then if, talking about heat, by far the most significant story of our time, undoubtedly of all time, is barely on our radar screens. I mean, let’s get one thing straight, if you hadn’t quite noticed: you and I are already on a different planet. And no, I’m not thinking about being in a new cold war, or Donald Trump and the last presidential election, or Ron DeSantisAnd the next one, and even the latest roundThe never-ending Covid-19 pandemic.

I’m talking about being on a planet already overheatingNot only politically or militarily but also in the most literal sense. I’m talking about climate change, of course. And don’t think I’m just focused on the future over-heating of this planet either. What I mean is the present, which is very tangible. I’m talking about a country, the United States, that, with heat domesOver significant partsIt has also been breaking heat records like crazy recently. Phoenix (114), Tucson (1011), El Paso (107), Las Vegas (104) and all other cities. set June heat recordsBirmingham, Chicago and Little Rock were also included, as was Jackson, Memphis, Shreveport and Nashville. That’s just to start down an ever-lengthening, ever more broiling list, even as the Supreme Court just acted to ensureOur atmosphere will continue to be impacted by ever more greenhouse gas emissions.

Only recently, itself undoubtedly a first, the National Weather Service Prediction Center warned 100 million Americans — and that’s not a misprint — from the Gulf coast to the Great Lakes and east to the Carolinas that they should stay indoorsdue to a dangerous heatwave. And, lest you think I’m ignoring the Southwest and West, let me add that those regions are now in the third year of a megadrought unlike any in at least 1,200 years. Take, for instance, these two record-setting mega-fires in New Mexico that just won’t stop burning two months later (with the main Western fire season still ahead). And don’t forget those record 500-year-floodsYellowstone National Park is also affected by this overheated season, sudden rain deluges, and melting of mountain snow.

And yes, I’m thinking about an Arctic that’s heating (and melting) seven timesIt is faster than any other country on the planet. I’m thinking about a China that’s grappling withRecord heat waves and catastrophic flooding. I’m thinking about a Japan experiencingIt was the worst heatwave ever. I’m thinking about a spring heat wave in India that produced its warmest MarchSince records were first kept there, broiled much South Asia; and according to scientists, is now 30 times more likelyIt is possible for the same thing to happen again than once. And don’t forgetThe region also experiences record rainfall and floods.

I’m also thinking about a scorched Horn of Africa that’s living (or dying) through a devastating drought. I’m thinking about a provincial capital in southeastern Iran where the temperature recently hit a record 126 degrees Farenheit. I’m thinking about heat waves in southern Europe that arrived historically early — in the case of Spain, record-breakingly so.

And that’s just to start down a longer list. And mind you, what I’ve been describing here is a nightmare of heat wavesAnd other forms of extreme weather that’s just beginning and that, barring surprises, will only grow ever more severe in the decades to come. We’re talking about parts of this planet potentially becoming uninhabitable and undoubtedly turning hundreds of millions, possibly a billion or more of us into climate refugees on the road to… well, hell.

What If American Democracy Was History?

I’m also talking about a country where, in elections this November and in November two years from now, American voters could easily seal not just our own fate, but much of the world’s. We could ensure at least six more utterly fossil-fuelized years in which the globe’s second-largestEmission of greenhouse gases (and historically) the greatestTrumpian embrace (of all time) would be shared by the two of them, similar to the one currently envelopingThe Supreme Court and many other lower courts, thanks toThe former president and Mitch McConnell. We could, in other words, guarantee that nothing — not a single thing — would be done nationally to offset the overheating of this ever more tormented planet of ours.

There would also be other problems if the Republican Party controlled Congress and the presidency. For one thing, consider it possible that, in a distinctly Triumpian fashion, its leadership would take a shot (and yes, it would probably be from an AR-15) at turning our former president’s mad theories about the American electoral system into a potentially autocratic reality. American democracy would be history at that point. Then, turn up the heat!

Or, welcome to America, Vladimir Trump! (Or Vladimir DeSantis! Or, you can fill in the blank yourself!

Hell on earth? It was once a metaphor for extreme situations. Increasingly, though, it’s becoming an ever more accurate description of our lives on this planet and something we would have to get used to. It’s not possible for many people to imagine such a future.

There’s no need to focus on present-day outliers like those 120-degreeThere will be no spring temperatures in India or Pakistan, nor the 126-degree day that Iran experienced in April. Extreme weather of all kinds will just be part and parcel of everyday life. In fact, sooner or later, we’ll have to stop calling it extreme weather, wouldn’t we? It will become more like the weather. Period.

And here’s perhaps the most unnerving thing of all: somehow, in this country, climate change has yet to become a significant part of the national debate or mainstream politics. It’s not a subject Democrats seem capable of running successfully on yet. And that couldn’t be stranger because, barring a nuclear war, it’s our very own apocalyptic future right before our eyes, written not in the stars, but in the very world we’re now living in. What could be more convincing? Except, for the fact that, explain it as you will, it isn’t.

Yes, it was briefly part of Joe Biden’s long-sunk Build Back Better bill (thank you, coal baron Joe Manchin!), but now it’s simply gone. Worse, Biden’s foreign team has been promoting a cold war with China ever since he became president. Its goal is to rally allies and other against a rising China. militarizing the relationship between the planet’s two superpowers. You might think that China and the United States would be the greatest greenhouse-gas producers at the moment. They would naturally want to work together to transform the planet’s energy system. But no such luck. (In fact, when was your last chance to even try?) heard anything about John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special presidential envoy for climate change?)

Then, of course, you can add the war in Ukraine (thanks heaps, Vlad!This is just a fraction of the total. fossil-fuelizingThis planet has even more to offer. putting offsignificant movement towards green and clean energy for a future unknown. Some desperate European countries are even considering alternatives to Russian oil and natural gas. turning back toCoal is the most carbon-emitting of all energy sources. It seems self-evident that an end should be brokered to that war immediately and not just for the suffering Ukrainians in an increasingly rubble-strewn land, or the miserable Russian soldiers fighting the Vlad’s war, but for the rest of us, for the planet itself.

The Greatest Human History Disaster?

Excuse me a moment, but I’d like to scream!

Honestly, don’t expect climate change to be much of an issue, if any at all, in the November election. The Supreme Court’s six conservative justices are not likely to change. working hardto ensure that no future American government is able to take significant action to reduce the effects of global heating.

In short, I’m talking about a planet I didn’t even expect to be living on and one I certainly don’t want to hand on to my children and grandchildren. What in the world did they do?

And it couldn’t be stranger that we just don’t get it. Yes, there are. lots of scientistsAnd a certain numberThere are many young people who have grasped the problem fully and are working hard to overcome it. But this country as a whole (no less the world), not a chance in… yes, I might as well say it yet again… hell.

If we didn’t, we would be mobilizing right now to combat global warming in the same way that President Franklin Roosevelt mobilized for World War II. For the truth is that, if we don’t move so much faster than we are now, the climate, the weather, could indeed prove to be our World War III (and IV and V). It will shame the Russian president if it is. It will be, to use Kurt Vonnegut’s old phrase for World War II, a “slaughterhouse” of a new sort. And yet, logical as it might seem, such a mobilization doesn’t yet appear to be faintly in the cards and, worse still, if American politics follows its present course, it might not be in any imaginable future.

And yet, in the end, that simply can’t be, can it? At some level, it’s just so obvious and not very complicated either. We — and that means much of the planet, not just those of us here in the United States — need to mobilize not against each other for once, but against what’s clearly becoming the greatest disaster in human history.

Take a moment to think about this. Given our history, that’s saying something, isn’t it?

And yet the men — and they were men — I labeled terrarists years ago because they, and the giant oil companies they ran, seemed so utterly intent on devastating the planet (something I called “terracide”) for the most immediate profits and an all-too-high-flying life for themselves still seem to be in the saddle. Yes, in this century, Washington conducted a disastrous 20-year war against terrorism, but never, whether Republicans or Democrats were in office, against this planet’s true terrarists.

They were the subject of my first article almost a decade ago.

“Those who run the giant energy corporations knew perfectly well what was going on and could, of course, have read about it in the papers like the rest of us. What did they do? They put their money into funding think tanks, politicians, foundations, and activists intent on emphasizing ‘doubts’ about the science [of climate change] (since it couldn’t actually be refuted); they and their allies energetically promotedThis became known as climate denial. They sent their agents. lobbyistsAnd moneyThey were allowed to enter the political system to ensure their plundering methods would not be impeded. And in the meantime, they redoubled their efforts to get ever tougher and sometimes ‘dirtier’ energy out of the ground in ever tougher and dirtier ways.”

Truth be told, very little has changed in the past decade. While the huge energy companies in Ukraine prosper, the price of oil rises and the rest continue to swelter.

It’s not that there’s nothing to be done. The price for renewable energy has been falling steadilyfor years. If governments were to put the same attention on changing the energy environment that now goes into wars and the kind of money that now goes into them, would they? goes intoThe Pentagon and its global equivalents, don’t for a second doubt that we could move toward a genuinely renewable world.

We’ve been warned, again and again, by the leading scientists of this planet, that it’s not only getting bad but, unless humanity refocuses in a big-time way, that it’s only going to get so much worse. The question is, when will the suffering of climate change become so severe that it’s too much to ignore? And will it be too late? I hope so!