United Nations flag. Photo: iStock
United Nations flag. Photo: iStock

The United Nations General Assembly gathers this week in New York City. This is the annual meeting of the world’s elected officials (and several monarchs). Before them is the issue of the climate catastrophe, but also the warmongering of the US against Iran. These are the two main issues.

Climate catastrophe

Swirling around the heads of government, and their foreign ministers, are questions about the fate of the planet. Massive climate strikes last Friday set the tone, but since these were widely anticipated, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has convened a Climate Action Summit as well as several other climate-related events.

The expectation that anything will come of these meetings is slim. Next year, the signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement are to assess the commitments they made in 2016. US President Donald Trump has announced his intention to withdraw from that agreement, as the US is miles behind its own commitments. Nothing good will come of these debates.

Meanwhile, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization has just released a new report, “United in Science,” which compiles the state of science on the question of the climate catastrophe. Three points caught my eye:

  • Average global temperature for 2015-2019 will be the warmest of any equivalent recorded period. The temperature is 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.
  • Current levels of CO2, CH4 and N2O represent 146%, 257% and 122% respectively of pre-industrial levels.​
  • Growth of coal emissions resumed in 2017.

In other words, the situation is ugly, but the antidote is simply not available. Transfer to non-carbon fuels is not occurring at the necessary rate. The West long ago used up its share of the carbon budget. It is not on track to reverse course. Instead, solutions for climate change are being forced on the developing world, where there remain serious problems of deprivation (including the basic question of hunger). The biggest carbon emitter on the planet is the US military, but there is no discussion about shrinking its negative impact on the fate of the Earth.

US war on Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is under US sanctions, was in New York as part of the Iranian delegation. He once more stiffly disagreed with the US and Saudi view that Iran had struck the Saudi oil facility. Both the Iranian government and its military have said they did not conduct that attack, which they – and the Houthis – say came from Yemen.

Nonetheless, the US and the Saudis, now with the UK in tow, insist that the attack was from Iran, and they have threatened retaliation. Any attack on Iran would result in a regional war that would go from the edge of the Mediterranean Sea to the Hindu Kush mountains. If the US hits Iran, Iran, which has developed its own military arsenal, will likely strike US targets and US allies. Zarif has said as much.

Also read: Saudi-Iran de-escalation begins in Yemen

The Europeans oppose this war, which is why they will continue their meetings with Zarif on the Iran nuclear deal. They want to make progress on trade relations. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani concurs. He is now talking about the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) initiative. The Strait of Hormuz is the narrow opening between Iran and Oman, where many of the recent tense incidents have taken place with oil tankers. Iran’s diplomats have been traversing the countries that are around the Persian Gulf – not only to close allies such as Iraq, but also to countries such as Qatar and Oman. Thus far, there are no details on the HOPE initiative, but its creation signals that Iran is eager to get the regional powers to make a strong statement against war.


With the focus on climate catastrophe and catastrophic wars, no one seems to pay any real attention to the common and everyday plight of the world’s peoples. There is a list of problems faced by billions of people that remains on the UN agenda, but it gets slipped to the sidelines. One of those key problems, raised by the International Labor Organization, is the future of work.

One of the great illusions of our time is that there are fewer workers now than a hundred years ago. This is not the case. There are now more workers than ever before – more than 3 billion people in the global workforce.

Consideration of the deteriorating condition of work seems not to bother too many people. At Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, we just released a report on the workers who produce the iPhone. It shows us that an infinitesimal part of the working day is devoted to the values needed by the workers, such as wages. The bulk of the day is spent producing goods that enhance the wealth of the capitalist.

So, there it is.

Reports from the UN show us that employed workers struggle with hunger and with lack of any security. Standards are eroded, and frustration increases. With hours as long as they are, many of the world’s billions are unable to keep up with the news about Iran or the climate catastrophe. Survival has become the start and end of their lives.

The fate of the planet is in the balance. But so is the fate of humanity.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute, which provided it to Asia Times.

Leave a comment