I warm to any writer who identifies the solution to climate change in the simple terms employed by Patrick Bond in his recent book Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below: leave fossil fuels in the soil, halt deforestation, transform our economies so that renewable energy, public transport and low-carbon systems replace those currently threatening the planet. Short and simple to articulate, he comments, but apparently impossible to implement.
Bond writes from Africa, where he is a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He carries a deep sense of the damage that climate change is causing and will cause to African societies, and calls for justice not only in the mitigation of further climate change but also in substantial transfers of wealth to enable poor countries to cope with the adaptation and mitigation measures demanded of them. He sees this as the payment of an ecological debt.
Carbon trading he regards as a charade that will do nothing to reduce global warming. It has been accepted as the primary capitalist management technique but offsetting emissions is not the same as cutting them, and to date there is little sign that the wealthy countries are achieving emissions cuts by emissions trading. Shifting, stalling and stealing are the words he uses to describe such trading, as capitalism frantically seeks new ways to address its crises and avoid threats to its over-accumulated capital.
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How better to journey to the climate conference at Durban than through the African countries along the way which are already grappling with climate change? That’s the route John Vidal, the Guardian’s environment editor, has been following over the past ten days and reporting on in a series of articles.
He started in Egypt. The impacts of climate change are difficult to disentangle from natural coastal processes and the effects of human activities on the flow of the Nile, but an inexorably rising sea level and the increasing intensity of storms threaten increased salination of groundwater and soil as well as inundation. Extreme heat will also take its toll on city life.
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The horrifying pictures of famine in the Horn of Africa haunt us as human tragedy, and the more because they carry with them the question of whether this has something to do with climate change. Are we going to see more and more of this kind of suffering as climate change impacts begin to mount? That’s an easier question to muse than to answer with certitude, but it deserves our attention. There is every indication that poor people are going to suffer from the impacts of climate change sooner and more harshly than the rest of us. But is the Horn of Africa famine part of that? Continue reading “Horn of Africa Drought: is it climate change?”
I thought of Oxfam’s recent report on food justice while I was reviewing Christian Parenti’s book Tropic of Chaos. He wrote of how climate change impacts are compounding the existing economic and political problems of many poorer populations. This is also very evident in Oxfam’s report on the alarming new surge in hunger as higher food prices hit poor countries. Time for a post on the report, I thought.
The message that climate change is already having bad effects on the welfare of poor populations needs to be hammered home. The fact that it intertwines with other causes doesn’t mean that it can be downplayed. It is clearly a significant part of the combination of factors threatening the food supply of many.
Continue reading “Oxfam on food justice: clearheaded and admirable”
The title piqued my curiosity: Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. Christian Parenti’s book is about what he calls “the catastrophic convergence”, when the dislocations of climate change collide with already-existing crises of poverty and violence. He points to evidence, often in tropical countries, that political, economic and environmental disasters are compounding and amplifying each other, to the great detriment of some populations. In other words, climate change is intertwining itself with the existing difficulties faced by those populations and making them worse.
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