Climate Change: Money vs Morals

In a 1995 interview with Red and Black Revolution, Noam Chomsky made an interesting remark regarding his views on anarchism and the future of the world.
He said, “I was attracted to anarchism as a young teenager, as soon as I began to think about the world beyond a pretty narrow range, and haven’t seen much reason to revise those early attitudes since.
“I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.
“That includes political power, ownership and management, relations among men and women, parents and children, our control over the fate of future generations (the basic moral imperative behind the environmental movement, in my view), and much else.”
Some critics describe Chomsky as the moral voice of the United States; pointing out Washington’s transgressions with a sharp mind and, perhaps, an even sharper tongue.
Others think of him as a hypocrite; a man who speaks so much evil about capital and capitalism while earning millions from that very same system.
What do I think of Chomsky? Well certainly a very agile mind, but like everyone else also prone to media myths such on his take on what is at stake in Zimbabwe (a position that is oddly at loggerheads with his approach to international power relations between the West and the rest of the world).
But that is neither here nor there.
What is of interest is Chomsky’s take in that Red and Black Revolution interview where he speaks of “our control over the fate of future generations (the basic moral imperative behind the environmental movement, in my view), and much else”.
In recent weeks much has been said about climate change and the “moral imperative” for the world to save itself from itself.
It is something that Chomsky and other environment-aware people were talking about nearly two decades ago.
Even then, up to today there are still millions of people who believe that climate change is a myth created by some obscure somebodies (or maybe nobodies) who want to control the way the world is run.
Quite frankly, I think it is easier to believe climate change exists than to think of a conspiracy theory about it.
(And is it not weird that some of the very same people who think climate change is an elaborate hoax are the same ones who believe the world will end in 2012 as per a misinterpreted Mayan prediction, and follow genuinely bizarre religious cults?)
Climate change exists, let’s face it.
Research has shown that climate change may result in Africa failing to produce its staple grain foods around 2090, but cooler climes in the north will have gotten warmer and more conducive for agriculture.
Could this be a reason why some powerful people in the West are reluctant to cut on emissions?
After all, their economies benefit from their continued un-environmentally friendly practices and in the not-so-distant future they will also be able to grow grain to sell to the rest of the world.
According to one expert study, the current finance available for Africa and other developing countries for climate change adaptation is “not commensurate to the scale required to implement the activities agreed to in the UN climate convention”.
“For example, the report points to the US$29.2 billion pledged since 2009, and states that only between US$2.8 and US$7 billion is ‘new’ or not previously pledged…
“While 97 percent of the promised US$30 billion has been pledged, only 45 percent has been ‘committed’, 33 percent has been allocated, while a mere seven percent has actually been disbursed.”
Can anyone then still doubt that there is no commitment to saving the environment?
The 1997 Kyoto is the only international legally-binding agreement on climate change – and those responsible for the pollution are not willing to pay for their actions.
The US says it will only cut on emissions if others do so, and the “others” say they are waiting to the US to first do that.
As such, we have seen a lobby centred on the “moral imperative” to deal with climate change.
But do we really think rich countries are going to be driven by their consciences to act on climate change?
Climate change does not affect rich and poor countries alike and we should not expect the rich to sympathize with us.
But we have something that we can use to get them to comply and act like they are truly committed citizens of the global village they like to harp about so much.
We have the resources that they process at their factories and spew all the pollutants that we are complaining about.
How about we put a little moratorium as African countries on the export of these raw materials that contribute to both rich country arrogance and climate change?
Surely hitting them in the pocket – rather than hoping they will suddenly grow consciences – will surely bring arrogant polluters to the negotiating table quicker than appeals based on a “moral imperative”.

December 2011
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