A month into the bloody Putin mess next door, I notice that I am getting slightly more accustomed to the grim images flooding the newsreels. The sights of ancient and modern cities in ruins, the scared faces of kids fleeing to the safety of unknown destinations, the determined frowns of soldiers awaiting the next explosions… They keep flashing by but somehow fail to shock me anymore. And life goes on, almost undisturbed, at least in my part of the world. How quickly the madness of war has become the new normal!
Make no mistake, though; the war affects us all, one way or another. Reflecting upon the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine in his first major post-COP26 speech earlier this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres sounded duly preoccupied. His main point was, naturally, to issue a warning about the displacement of the global climate agenda by the present geopolitical crisis.
“Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use,” worries Guterres. “This is madness. Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.”
The madness of war is contagious, it would appear.
Alongside those dismal photos from the war zone, I find myself staring at another disturbing image this week, a cloud of methane in a remote corner of Chinese Inner Mongolia, so powerful that it was visible from space. Detected by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite for the first time earlier this month, the burst of methane near a previously inactive coal mine is a clear indication that China is boosting production of the dirtiest fossil fuel. Of course, it is not a secret that Beijing approved three different billion-dollar coal mine projects only last month. Seeing it evolve in real-time is shocking anyway. According to estimates, a methane release at that rate would have the same climate impact in an hour as the annual emissions from roughly 6,000 cars.
Closer to home, no doubt some of our energy-starved European neighbours, too, are considering an increase in coal-fired power generation. If not, they are certainly less than shy about seeking fossil fuels elsewhere. Importing gas from Qatar or oil from Saudi Arabia is not taboo anymore. And the US, of course, is looking for ways to increase LNG production and surge supplies to Europe in mere months.
This is precisely what Guterres is talking about. “As major economies pursue an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to replace Russian fossil fuels, short-term measures might create long-term fossil fuel dependence,” he warns. “If we continue with more of the same, we can kiss 1.5C goodbye.”
War does affect us all. For my part, I keep hoping that it can also teach us something about the importance of standing our ground, despite the inevitable sacrifices this means. How about showing a tiny bit of that Zelenskyy grit in the face of adversity that we all publicly admire so much?
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
 Courtesy of researchers from Kayrros, a French geoanalytics company, accompanied with all the necessary scientific disclaimers about significant uncertainty because of winds at the time of the measurement.