So it’s been a while since I’ve posted and that’s because I’ve been insanely busy this summer with my full-time internship and trying to simultaneously power out a Masters dissertation, whilst also trying to genuinely enjoy living in the City of Light. But I’ve been reading over a post by Oxfam’s head of research (who has his own blog, ‘From Poverty to Power’ at http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/) and in it he links to an interesting critique on US foreign policy on climate change.
The premise of the article is as follows. Where is the justification in the US cajoling developing countries to limit their carbon emissions in the name of the environment when it is itself, and I quote, ‘responsible for the lion’s share of the accumulated heat-trapping gases already starting to cook the planet’? It’s got to be one of the greatest public hypocrisies of the decade. The only way I can understand it is in the following framework: Yes, we built our economies by rinsing the planet, but you can’t do the same – that would leave less for us!
To put this into a precise context, it is expected that Obama will sign off his approval to build a massive oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada all the way to Texas. Its construction will invariably boost emissions of trapped gases and has been dubbed the world’s biggest carbon bomb. The idea that Obama would approve this disappoints me, as overall I view the man as a potentially powerful force for positive change. I would like to not be wrong on this front.
Who suffers from climate change? Working on the topic of climate change and migration myself in my internship, it is fair for me to conclude that it is, overwhelmingly, the countries who contribute the least to emissions who suffer from it the most, and have the least resources to cope. It’s just one of those nasty coincidental things. India is highly exposed to sea level rise, which means that increasing emissions has a very real chance of costing Indian livelihoods and lives themselves.
On a broader level, I take issue with the open hypocrisy that is US policy – domestic but especially foreign. How is the myth of the nation state perpetuated and upheld in a country where the poor are officially criminalised and excluded, when one takes into consideration that unemployment, and poverty, are natural and inevitable consequences of an unregulated market system? Where access to health care isn’t universal? How is that inducive to a ‘we’re all in this together’ mindset necessary to perpetuate the fiction of a unified population? It’s not, so instead, blind nationalism is drilled in from an early stage, where any questioning of official doctrine makes one un-American. And of course lack of patriotism is severely frowned upon. If it were the other way round, and another country’s activities had a high likelihood of endangering their citizens’ lives, there is not a doubt in my mind that it would be all over the newspapers and that the US would use all its sly economic might to punish said nation. If said economic punishment failed, it would use military force. The tables need to be reversed. To take an excerpt from MacDonald’s article to sum it up:
‘‘Perhaps it’s time that India and other developing countries hard hit by runaway climate change turn the tables and start asking tough questions about U.S. energy policy in general and the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline [from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries along the Gulf of Mexico] in particular. India, for example, could ask: “Have you given any consideration to what the increased emissions from tapping the tar sands could mean for us?” If the answer is “yes” then approval of the pipeline could only be construed as a hostile act. If the answer is “no” then the follow up question must surely be: “Why not?”’
(Here is a link to MacDonald’s article: http://blogs.cgdev.org/globaldevelopment/2011/08/obama-set-to-lob-canadian-carbon-bomb-at-india.php)