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Molly Hale, Marty Nathan and Susan Theberge: Facing up to climate injustice

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This was a monster hurricane of historic proportions, one of many recent category 5 superstorms created by oceans heated by greenhouse gas pollution from Europe and the United States over the last several decades. Five thousand people were killed, hundreds of thousands stranded or injured, cities and local economies destroyed in a country whose contribution to global warming has been minimal and whose poverty makes it extremely difficult to prevent such human disasters or rebuild after they happen.

This is the paradigm of climate injustice.

Ironically, at the same time, the United Nations international negotiations began in Warsaw to address climate change, probably the most important issue in our lifetime. What are the central questions being debated? Not only whether the rich industrialized countries will cut their contributions to climate change (mitigation) — something that the United States has refused to do over the past 20 years of talks — but whether, now that prevention of climate change has failed, they will aid developing countries to adapt to the damage caused by global warming.

These questions plumb the meaning of global justice. It is the most impoverished countries of Africa, South America, South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands (e.g. the Philippines) which will suffer the brunt of the storms, floods and droughts with their associated mortality and displacement. Stopping the march of climate change, protecting the victims and repairing the damage must be addressed by those, including the U.S., who have caused the harm.

Yet what has been the role of the U.S. in Warsaw? Minimal. When Australia suddenly trashed a pending agreement, effectively ending negotiations and leading to the walkout of over 100 country representatives, the U.S. did nothing. Leaked memos from the U.S. delegation lay out opposition to developing countries’ demands for support for adaptation and reparations for loss and damage.

What are those demands in dollar amounts? An agreement would mean rich countries paying $100 billion a year to such a fund instead of the $10 billion which is now promised. The money would go to sea walls and infrastructure to defend against rising seas, as well as rebuilding and developing the green energy capacity to allow those countries not to repeat the carbon mistakes of the global north.

It seems like a lot until we realize that the industrialized countries are now doling out $58 billion a year to huge energy corporations in government subsidies — tax dollars given to some of the most profitable companies on earth that are the perpetrators in the climate crime.

Can we let the status quo persist? We think not.

Science requires that we substantially cut our carbon emissions now with controls on — not welfare for — carbon emitters. It is way past time for a carbon tax.

Morality requires that we protect, defend and provide reparations for all those whom our policies have injured.

The global future requires that we negotiate in good faith toward an effective climate change agreement that will redirect us from what will otherwise be a very bleak future.

The authors collaborated in writing this essay with members of the community groups Arise for Social Justice, Climate Action Now and Westfield Concerned Citizens.

Legacy Comments11

I thought it was "climate change". Are we back to global warming again? I just can't keep up with the latest world ending fad.

I KNOW! Why can't these elitists just keep things simple enough for you.

If they complicate it too much I won't be able to generate enough faux outrage.

Fair enough. Your faux outrage does make this a much more amusing world.

Your green policies would force those destitute people in the third world to stay in massive poverty. They only way for them to share in our material progress is growth in industry and agriculture in the third world. Of course, you people probably want 'darker skinned' people to live in poverty. It makes you feel better. Don't the 6 billion people in the third world have the same right to the material live that we enjoy? That necessarily entails using alot more affordable energy. Burn baby burn! And I got my dividend in my fracking stock a few weeks ago. Since September I've made a 4% return. There will always be buyers for cheap energy.

There you are! I was starting to think that they'd taken the computers out of the day room.

Also, the authors refer to "impoverished countries" but not the skin color of their residents. So why are you putting "darker skinned" in quotation marks? Is it supposed to make it seem like it's not you choosing to seen what they're saying is a racial generalization? Or because you tend to see dark skin as an euphimism for impoverishment? Says a little bit about where you're coming from.

Sorry, small keyboard. What I meant to type in the third sentence was: "Is it supposed to make it seem like it's not you that's choosing to see what they're saying in terms of a racial generalization? "

Global warming is a farce. John Coleman, the founder of The Weather Channel, debunks Al Gore and all global warming alarmists. There has been no temperture increase in 16 consecutive years and the north pole now has more ice (10x the size the state of NY) than just one year ago. http://epaabuse.com/14258/videos/founder-weather-channel-sticks-al-gore/

You do realize that Coleman's a TV weatherman with no academic credentials, right? See this, for example: http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2007/11/08/17479/coleman-weather/. The "60% growth of arctic ice" claim has been debunked again and again and again, as per this: http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/09/10/climate_change_sea_ice_global_cooling_and_other_nonsense.html. Of course, you can argue that anything from Think Progress or Salon is ideologically biased. But I guess I can say the same for something posed from a site called "EPA abuse."

Denial is a wonderful tool for making you feel ok about being a lemming. Unfortunately, it won't remove the cliff.

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