Blunt knife slicing away at climate change amid new cold war
Published: Jun 30, 2024 07:27 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Recently, extreme weather events have been occurring with increasing frequency worldwide. 

Multiple states in the US have experienced extreme weather, such as tornadoes and floods. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 19,444 wildfires across the country, burning 2,161,787 acres of land. It has almost dominated the main news outlets in the US recently.

In Saudi Arabia, extreme heat during the Hajj pilgrimage season led to the deaths of more than 1,300 people.

In China, high temperatures in many regions have exceeded 40 C, causing severe droughts. Some southern areas have also experienced the worst floods in years.

Data from India shows that as of May 2024, about 24.1 percent of the country was affected by drought and the extreme heat during last month's elections claimed dozens of lives.

Climate change, once thought to primarily impact future generations, is now endangering the safety of our own generation, with extreme weather events exceeding the control of any single nation.

The climate change crisis has created a global political, economic and security context that differs from the Cold War era. However, some American strategists still cling to a cold war mindset when viewing the world today. 

During the Cold War, the primary threat came from the confrontation between the two major military blocs, with the potential for an annihilating nuclear war. Today, the threat of climate change to humanity might not appear as immediate as that of a nuclear war. Nevertheless, this universal environmental challenge is akin to a "blunt knife" gradually eroding our existence; it is only a question of time.

However, the current turbulent geopolitical landscape, especially the deep shadow of the new cold war, is severely constraining global efforts to address climate change. 

The world is closely watching whether the US and China can cooperate on the issue of climate change. Together, the US and China account for around 40 percent of global carbon emissions, making the duo's actions crucial to changes in global greenhouse gas concentrations. 

As a result, their cooperation in emissions reduction policies and action plans will have far-reaching impacts on the global economic structure, industrial transformation and technological innovation.

China is striving to mobilize the strength of the whole country to achieve emission reduction targets and actively promote cooperation with the US in this field, despite the US adopts measures to contain China's development, which also includes the containment of China's emission reduction technologies and products.

However, the US' global strategy is becoming the accelerator of this "blunt knife" slicing.

The new book We Win, They Lose: Republican Foreign Policy & the New Cold War, by two American national security scholars, is the latest commentary on this issue. They argue that the US is already engaged in a new cold war with China and needs to adopt a more resolute "we win, they lose" clear strategy to prevail in this struggle against China.

The "we win, they lose" strategy was proposed by the late US President Ronald Reagan during the US-Soviet Cold War, and today, the indirect war between the US and Russia has resumed.

The US prioritizing strategic competition with China has led to its commitments on global issues like climate change and cooperation with developing countries, including China, being viewed as secondary objectives or merely serving the "we win, they lose" strategic competition.

The reshaping of industrial and supply chains by the US and Europe, specifically the restriction on China's electric vehicle sector, has presented fresh obstacles to worldwide environmental preservation and limited the joint capacity to tackle climate change.

Developed countries like the US still have the most powerful resources in the long-term battle against climate change, but now the US is directing these resources toward consolidating its global strategic position, compelling more countries to stand in its trenches and join it in defeating China.

Yes, in the dark clouds of the new cold war, we once again feel the shadow of the nuclear threat looming. Historical experience tells us that cold war confrontation will only exacerbate the nuclear threat. 

In contrast, cooperation on climate change will ultimately help build trust and reduce the threat of a cold war. We are facing a choice. 

Last Thursday, the two-party candidates Biden and Trump engaged in an over-hour-and-a-half debate, but climate change only got a couple minutes of airtime during the CNN-hosted event. 

As Jeff Goodell, the author of the New York Times bestseller The Heat Will Kill You First, put it in on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: "( the debate had ) More time discussing golf than climate. What a world we are living in!"

The author is a senior editor with the People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on X @dinggangchina