Despite interference by political operatives from various governments—including the U.S.—The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a report on the human impact on the climate, and the resulting climatic impact on the planet. Among its most interesting conclusions were those regarding who will bear the brunt of consequences of climate change.
“It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (BBC News, “Billions face climate change risk”).
The poorest communities will be least able to adapt to the changes which continued and accelerated climate change will bring—a rather common-sense conclusion, if you think about it. Additionally, the report indicates that many of the poorest regions in the world, such as Africa and much of Asia, will face some of the resulting climate shifts.
Hardly surprising. The proponents of the modern globalization under nominally free-market principles have long promised that the expansion of this economic system will bless the lives of all. They insist that “development” and “modernization” under their terms is a “win-win” proposition for everybody involved, lifting all boats. In reality, the powerful maximize their benefits and externalize their costs onto the backs of the weak. The powerful nations and interests get countless cheap baubles and trinkets, creature comforts and conveniences, all to entice us into the cycle of conspicuous consumption. An elite few among the powerful obtain incredible wealth in the bargain. The weak, on the other hand, get sweatshops, the disruption of local communities and cultures, the decimation of their resources, and the biggest chunk of environmental bill for the resource consumption of the powerful. We take their material and labor, and give them back our effluence. Hardly a worthy fulfillment of the promise of free-trade to “the least of these.”
What we are doing now under those economic principles is clearly not helping our brothers and sisters in poorer countries around the globe. If we put aside the dogma and look at the evidence, the idea that systematic and widescale shifts in resource consumption would hurt poorer nations is simply false. If the conclusions of most of the worlds most knowledgeable scientists are accurate, we risk delivering those brothers and sisters into terrible tragedy if we do not make some serious efforts to mitigate the processes we’ve set in motion. We can start by promoting fair-trade over free-trade, localization of economies where possible, the greening of our industries, and drastically reducing basic consumption. We cannot in good conscience pacify ourselves with the minor, convenient efforts. Picking up litter and making sure your car is properly maintained just isn’t enough if we’re going to be responsible for the mess we’re causing and do right by those in need.