Governments around the world are scrambling to shore up economies hard hit by rising oil and wheat prices as a resut of the Ukraine war. Ghana has opened talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency relief after angry protesters flooded the streets of the capital Accra last week. Clashes with police left several wounded and some 30 arrested on June 29. Protests were called under the slogan "Arise Ghana" to pressure President Nana Akufo-Ad to address a dramatic spike in the cost of food and fuel. (Reuters, Al Jazeera, AfricaNews)
According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide rose to 90 million by the end of 2021, propelled by new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Burma, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2022, the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country and forced some 6 million to flee the country as refugees. This has pushed the total displaced to over 100 million for the first time.
In Episode 121 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the grim irony that on the week of International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, Russian regime and state media figures issued blatant threats to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war. This follows criminal recklessness by Russian forces at the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya nuclear plants, which itself constituted an escalation on the ladder of nuclear terror. These events clearly illustrate how nuclear power and weapons constitute a single unified threat. Weinberg continues his deconstruction of the industry propaganda about how the "no safe dose" dictum is now obsolete (no, it isn't, actually), and sophistries such as the "Banana Equivalent Dose." Amid the relentless efforts to revive the nuclear industry in the US, China is undertaking a major thrust of nuclear development, with similar plans afoot in France. And this as economies are increasingly based on energy-intensive and socially oppressive activities like "crypto-mining." Nonetheless, respected environmentalists such as acclaimed climate scientist James Hansen and Charles Komanoff of the Carbon Tax Center now advocate a continuance of reliance on nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels. This false choice is predicated on the continuance of dystopian "normality"—exactly what needs to be challenged. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on March 25 announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and "strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine." The press release states: "The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward." This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry.
Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a nationwide state of emergency April 2, as angry protests over fuel shortages and power cuts erupted in the capital Colombo. When police repression failed to quell the protests, Rajapaksa sought to appease demands for his resignation with a purge of his cabinet. The emergency order was lifted April 5—the same day Peru's President Pedro Castillo imposed a curfew in Lima and its port of Callao in response to an eruption of protests over dramatic fuel price hikes. As street clashes broke out in the cities, farmers outraged at a jump in fertilizer costs blocked highways at several points around the country—including Ica, where a toll-booth was set on fire. The world has seen an oil price surge to $100 a barrel in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (The Hindu, PTI, NYT, Jurist, Al Jazeera, DW, BBC News, AFP, El Popular)
Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Kazakhstan, recently wracked by internal instability, is facing economic crisis as its crude exports are threatened. Most of these exports pass through a pipeline linking Kazakhstan's western oil-fields to Russia's Black Sea terminal at Novorossiysk. That terminal, owned by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), lies within 250 kilometers of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, now besieged by Russian forces. This proximity is sufficient for tankers loading at the Novorossiysk terminal to incur a "war risk insurance premium." According to S&P Global Platts, the premium has been high enough to deter buyers since the Russian invasion of Ukraine was launched late last month.
The threat that climate change poses to human well-being and the health of the planet is "unequivocal," says the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The expansive review—which forms the second part of the IPCC's sixth assessment report (AR6)—warns that any further delay in global action to slow climate change and adapt to its impacts "will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all."
One knock-on effect of the war in Ukraine has been a jump in the global price of wheat—to its highest level since 2008. Russia and Ukraine account for a third of the world wheat supply, and Ukraine's most productive regions lie in the path of the conflict. If Ukrainian wheat is taken off the market, or ports are badly damaged, prices could possibly double. That would especially hurt the Middle East and North Africa—but also places as far afield as Bangladesh and Nigeria, which are major importers of Russian and Ukrainian wheat. The real test for the world supply will be the next harvest in four months' time. If Western sanctions target Russian production—or Moscow angrily responds to pressure by squeezing wheat supplies—then shortages could really bite, potentially worsening global huger.