The Atlantic's take on nuclear war shows us why satire is impossible today
In my household, we play a game: one of us reads a headline, and the other person must guess whether it's a real headline or comes from The Babylon Bee. In the unlikely event you're unfamiliar with the Bee, it's a conservative-leaning political satire site that is way funnier than The Onion. Of course, The Onion, coming from the left, has a problem: it must compete with real headlines and tweets, such as The Atlantic's recent essay about the real cost of nuclear war: it's not mass human death; it's climate change.
The Babylon Bee's Kyle Mann instantly noticed the headline:
We live in a world in which one's sex is a matter of choice, borders matter in Ukraine but not in America, and people are bullies or victims based solely on skin color. Still, I would have imagined that most people would have a strong enough grasp on reality to think the worst things flowing from a nuclear war would be the instant deaths of tens of thousands of people, the survivors' slow radiation poisoning, vast segments of the world's entire infrastructure permanently broken, and human life entering a period of almost unimaginable apocalyptic horror. And really, that's hard to satirize.
But as the old saying goes, to a hammer, everything is a nail. And when you're on the left, climate change is your hammer, and everything must fall beneath it.
If you check out the Atlantic article, it's as ludicrous as the tweet suggests. The very first paragraph opens with what it calls "the drill," which is a quick rundown of evil fossil fuels (the same ones that raised humans up from a history of unrelenting poverty, starvation, and disease) and quickly attacks Trump (who never leaves leftist brains). The author, Robinson Meyer, says his take on Trump's climate policy (which saw U.S. emissions decrease) was that "I would have said that it had a single-digit percentage chance of creating an uninhabitable climate system."
It turns out, though, that there are things worse than Donald Trump. Thus, it's not just domestic policy that affects our climate survivability. Oh, no. "So does foreign policy — specifically, nuclear war." And that's the starting point for something that rivals any satire the comedic geniuses at the Bee could have created.
According to Meyer, a no-fly zone would be a bad thing, not because it would kill people, but because of...yes, the climate:
But despite its euphemistic name, a no-fly zone means that NATO and the United States issue a credible threat that they will shoot down any enemy plane in Ukrainian territory. This would require U.S. bombing runs into Russian territory to eliminate air defenses, bringing the U.S. and Russia into open war, and it would have a reasonable chance of prompting a nuclear exchange. And it would be worse for the climate than any energy policy that Donald Trump ever proposed.
And lest you think Meyer isn't serious, he assures us, "I mean this quite literally." So, when he gets to that bit about the millions dying because of a nuclear blast, we learn that there's worse — climate worse — to come:
If you are worried about rapid, catastrophic changes to the planet's climate, then you must be worried about nuclear war. That is because, on top of killing tens of millions of people, even a relatively "minor" exchange of nuclear weapons would wreck the planet's climate in enormous and long-lasting ways.
Then comes a bit of science about the force of a nuclear bomb. And sure, it would turn everything in the vast blast range "into a zone of total human misery," but pfeh! That's just an appetizer. After all, "only at this moment of the war do the climate consequences truly begin."
The real apocalypse will be winds, wildfires, and finally the great cooling (which is, in fact, already happening without a nuclear bomb going off). Those of you who might think this is a good thing that will offset all the global warming we're supposed to fight need to think again. We learn that, "far from reversing climate change, this cooling would be destabilizing." Meyer accurately notes that cooling means fewer crops and more starvation (which is why we should be ignoring climate change activists and going to town with the fossil fuels).
The article continues in this vein for several more paragraphs, but I'm out of room, and you get the point. Once, The Atlantic was a respectable magazine with political and social commentary that addressed the real issues and concerns affecting America. It is now something so ludicrous that it's gone beyond satire into the realms of monomaniacal insanity.
Yes, a massive nuclear war will indeed bring about a "nuclear winter," something we've known for my lifetime. But this nuclear winter is not part of the rubric of climate change, and it's ridiculous to frame it that way.