At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the former financier turned philanthropist George Soros warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is threatening to be the beginning of the third world war that could spell the end of civilisation. He also said that while the war in Ukraine continues, the fight against climate change is taking second place. His point moreover was that experts have already told us that we have now fallen far behind where we should be so that climate change is on the threshold of becoming irreversible. That could also contribute to the end of our civilisation.
It has always been expedient for people to use the word ‘perhaps’ when responding to such warnings and Soros happens to be controversial for both his history as a ruthless financier and now this bluntness about what is happening in the world that needs to be turned round. In our heart of hearts many of us would agree with his recent words but some would decry him as one of the root causes of all that is wrong. He is an old man who may not be with us much longer, therefore has nothing to lose by speaking out as he does. Like his words or not, he tends to choose them carefully and is never far from what is actually happening.
In fact, what he did not say we know, even if we are not saying it. The present war has been brewing for quite a while. Russia, at least its president Vladimir Putin, has been tolerated and often pandered to whilst watching and saying nothing substantive about the invasion and occupation of Crimea, the use of political tools to influence elections in ‘democratic’ countries, using bots to crash computer systems and other events that are happening with only a few murmurs instead of open and very vocal opposition and reactions. Putin has been needling NATO for a long time, now he is as close as spitting to move on from blaming NATO to deciding that they are waging war against Russia, thus potentially expanding the war to other states that are NATO members or are closely associated with them. Meanwhile, the war is being used to not refuse corporations’ applications for expansion of carbon fuel and carbon dioxide generating industries.
One way or another George Soros is, at the very least, not far from the absolute truth. Now the UN Secretary General António Guterres has told recent graduates not to take up careers with ‘climate wreckers’, meaning corporations behind the promotion of the extraction of fossil fuels. Guterres said: “You hold the cards. Your talent is in demand from multinational companies and big financial institutions. You will have plenty of opportunities to choose from. My message to you is simple: don’t work for climate wreckers. Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future.” He has become progressively more outspoken on the climate crisis recently, in April telling world leaders that “Our addiction to fossil fuels is killing us.”
Now we have heard the war in Ukraine is badly affecting countries that depend on grain imports worldwide. They are, or were, the eighth biggest wheat producing country in the world. This is where the connection with Soros’s warning about fossil fuels kicks in. Other main wheat growing countries are paying the price for their addiction to carbon dioxide belching fuels that are behind the high temperatures destroying their crops.
India is the second biggest wheat producing country. March 2022 had the highest temperatures since weather records began to be kept about 120 years ago. This spring a cruel heatwave in India and Pakistan caused widespread human suffering and affected global wheat supplies. It has been calculated to be approximately 30 times more likely to happen because of human caused climate change. On 27 April in the city of Prayagraj in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh a temperature of 45.03°C was recorded. Now Jacobabad in the Sindh province of Pakistan, the seventh biggest wheat producer, has just experienced 51°C. Vast parts of their crops are failing; exports have been stopped or restricted in order to provide for those countries’ own needs. Nonetheless, people are suffering, some dying, farmers are giving up and leaving their land or just hanging on to survive.
In Europe, in Spain this May temperatures have soared up to 15°C above average for the season. Some areas reached 44ºC making it the hottest month in a century. Thirteen regions were on alert because of the heat. In Andujar, in the Andalucia region, a temperature of 39.5°C was surpassed by 42.3°C with reported localised 44°C. Two of the region’s provincial capitals, Cordoba and Sevilla, suffered similar temperatures. The State Meteorological Agency, AEMET, warned that those temperatures could provoke storms in five regions. Indeed, recently intense tropical storms have increasingly hit parts of Europe, at present winds carrying Saharan sand are adding to the problems. Crops are suffering badly. Whilst Spain is the eighteenth producer of wheat, that region’s primary crops are dry land farming of cereals, wheat, barley, oats and maize, and sunflowers without artificial irrigation, along with other produce is failing.
Love him or hate him, Soros is right. Ukraine’s wheat exports are being felt by countries who mainly imported from them, but Russia, the world’s third biggest producer is now choosing where to export to. The circle is completed. The temperatures are soaring, pushed up by fossil fuel usage that is going unabated; in fact even increasing in many places, the war in Ukraine is compounding the problem. Alternative sources are suffering heatwaves that kill their crops, so now we are on a countdown to destruction of our world.
Featured image by Markus Spiske on Pexels.