Fighting Putin comes before climate change

But then Russian artillery started exploding all around her, and Krakovska and her team members had to rush to the nearest bomb shelters.

The IPCC report was nevertheless published a few days later. Normally, these books make headlines around the world. This one would have set records, as it’s the most dismal reading yet in a genre that was already very disastrous. Humanity, he suggests, will likely miss its goals of limiting the rise in global temperatures and enter an age of calamity. But, of course, these are not normal times, and the message was drowned out in a news cycle dominated by shootings and deaths.

Add this to the list of atrocities committed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He didn’t just rape a free country, kill and terrorize innocent people, and smash all the norms of civilization. It has also distracted the world from what should be a common quest to save our climate. Politicians who previously talked about little but green deals are now focused entirely on resisting Putin’s onslaught.

There is another link between his war and global warming. It’s one that Krakovska, a mother of four who chose to stay in Kyiv, emphasized in her sporadic Zoom calls with the outside world. Putin rules over a petrostate that sells the fossil fuels that cause climate change. By paying for its oil, coal and gas, the world has in fact financed its war machine and its aggression.

This is why energy has also become a military and strategic weapon for both sides. Putin could cut the oil, coal and gas that fuel European economies. The West, for its part, is trying to wean itself off Putin’s hydrocarbons to make him go bankrupt as quickly as possible.

The most visible effect of this shock is the skyrocketing cost of all fossil fuels. Rising heating bills and pump prices will hit the poor hardest. In the worst case, it could lead to mass protests – like the 2018 yellow vest riots in France, but bigger and in more places. Many countries must fear for their social peace.

So there really is no alternative to temporarily suspending Green Deals and other projects meant to save us in the longer term. The need for physical security currently trumps everything else. To survive now and get through the next winter or two – however long Putin’s freedom lasts – we must replace one type of fossil fuel – his own – with all the others.

For Europe, which gets about 40% of its natural gas from Russia, that means frantically buying more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from places like the United States or Qatar, while simultaneously building ports and terminals that can accommodate ships. Where possible, this will also mean extending the life of nuclear power plants which are to be phased out – as Belgium is considering, but Germany is still stubbornly not doing so.

But even as we manage the acute emergency, we must also prepare to emerge from it. Yes, we can now talk about temporary discounts for gasoline or heating oil for the poor. But our goal must be to return as soon as possible to letting carbon become progressively more expensive over time – through cap and trade systems and the like – so that people get used to consuming less of it.

And we have to say goodbye to some expensive assumptions. One, especially in Germany, is that natural gas can be a “bridge” between even dirtier coal-fired electricity and cleaner, greener solar and wind power. Due to geopolitics, this gas bridge has indeed collapsed.

The new reality is that we need to move towards universal electrification even faster, powered by 100% renewable energy with green hydrogen filling the gap. Countries that have so far dabbled in building photovoltaic systems, wind farms, smart grids and other pieces of the puzzle need to double down as if life depends on it. It probably is.

The only silver lining is that Putin may have inadvertently simplified the politics of such a global quest. Winning over voters requires communicating the need for sacrifice – from sleeping colder in the winter to flying less and paying more when you do. But now politicians can champion this cause in two ways, necessary to fight both Russian aggression and climate change. Those on the front lines of both struggles, like Svitlana Krakovska, remind us that they are equally urgent.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• Trying Putin for war crimes is not a liberal fantasy: Thérèse Raphaël

• When, why and how Putin might use nuclear weapons: Andreas Kluth

• Oil tax cuts help the Kremlin and punish Ukraine: Javier Blas

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Andreas Kluth is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. He was previously editor of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for The Economist. He is the author of “Hannibal and I”.