Big business and politics: Powering the climate crisis with Co2, collusion,
elitism and apathy.
As a white, European, middle-classed woman, producing on average 10 tonnes of carbon a year, it will be through feelings of intense guilt and sorrow that climate change will make its mark on a me. While a black, Haitian, poor woman, producing on average 0.21 tonnes of carbon a year is at high risk of being swept away by the current that both separates and forces together our destinies. The most at risk from the immediate effects of climate change falls on more deprived countries in the Global South, who also just so happen to be the ones least responsible for emissions.
European economists such as Thomas Schelling, takes the sinister view that: if it is not going to hurt the Northern countries, then should we really bother doing anything about it, given how much it would cost? Not only are his views extremely grotesque, they are also incredibly stupid. The Northern hemisphere relies on the Southern Hemisphere for much of its trade including food, raw materials…and cheap labour.
The Paris Agreement is the most recent, bilateral commitment to tackling climate change. The 4th of November marked the historic day when countries all over the world came together committing to keep temperatures below 1.5° above the pre-industrial levels.
Scientists agree that anything above this level is more likely to lead to ‘runaway climate change’. This would mean more extreme and unpredictable weather, leading to the loss of lives, wildlife, natural beauty, food crops and ecosystems. All these effects have already started to happen – such as Hurricane Mathew in Haiti.
Although the Paris agreement is an amazing achievement, but you’d be forgiven for being a tad sceptical about our government’s commitment the reductions pledge. The fact that the emission reduction target is not legally binding is not very reassuring either. Take the UK for example, plans for fracking have been given the green light – as has plans for a new runway at Heathrow airport, which will mean 740,000 more flights a year.
Climate change is often an issue pushed to the back of our mind for most of us. We know it’s going on, but because we are not directly harmed by it and know that it will be mostly future generations that are impacted, yet we tend to neglect its importance.
As Naomi Klein puts it in her book ‘This Changes Everything’, when our everyday life is our main focus, source of normality, why would we want to start to think about how just doing exactly that threatens the future of life on earth?
Given that the slogan of the year has been ‘Take Back Control!’ perhaps another interesting explanation to the general lack of concern about climate change is the fact that many of us feel like it is beyond our power.
We must channel our rage now, naturally leading us to demand answers to the pertinent question that has bewildered and defined the politics of 2016: who have we surrendered control over that which makes us insecure to? A media and government that do not cry out the risks on a regular basis to prepare and inform us about this grave threat? A government and a private sector that do not put forward viable alternatives such as renewable energies sooner? Or is it all these closely enmeshed institutions and their close ties with each other including the fossil fuel industry?
Not all of us can afford to go vegan, or we have no option but to drive to work, or our livelihood directly comes from burning carbon (my job is working with computers).
When we like our options are limited and we depend so much on Co2, the bottom up market logic ‘vote with your wallet’ is all but empty rhetoric. But with a threat so big and vast shouldn’t it be left to technocrats and governments anyway?
The scientific community are certainly paramount to tackling climate change. The accuracy of the measurements they provide, for example, of Co2 in the atmosphere helps to inform meaningful reduction targets for emissions and progress can be monitored accordingly. Policymakers are then responsible for implementing policies that reflect the seriousness of these findings. However, I believe it is in the sphere of politics where the blockage begins to emerge.
Humanitarian disasters will become commonplace and in a globalised world, although it will be to differing degrees, we will all be wounded. Economically, physically and perhaps the least focused on of all, but most importantly for me, emotionally.
The absence of any adaptability measures that might concern human security measures such as redistributive social provision to protect the poor and vulnerable, speaks volumes about why state-sponsored neoliberal capitalism lies at the root of the problem. Redistributing resources based on need and transforming society into one that collectively and democratically controls resources would threaten the status quo. It’s our security, our children’s security, the security of developing countries, the security of the earth’s natural beauty and the security of our life-supporting ecosystems – versus – the security of that which makes the powerful powerful.
It is only by undoing the passivity and apathy, which the collusion between business-governments-banks have institutionalised, that we can meaningfully tackle climate change making it the front-of-the-mind issue it should be. And while many of us will look at the prospect of a Trump presidency with disbelief and despair, it also presents an opportunity to shake off the shackles of apathy and mobilise in much greater numbers against the crisis of democracy that underscores and unites the climate crisis and many others.
I believe that is how we can really ‘Take Back Control!’