By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Nov. 5, 2021)
“I am a high school student, and I believe climate change is quickly becoming the biggest threat to our future. The Earth has done nothing to deserve this. Humans need to take responsibility and help heal the Earth. I want to live on a planet where my future grandkids won’t be choking on air or not be able to eat because of the microplastics in the ocean. I want to live somewhere where the clock isn’t counting down until our planet goes extinct. Governments working to help businesses reduce emissions is not enough. We need someone to take control of this and help. Our planet is our home. And because so many are destroying it, it will be up to us kids to solve the problem. How much more can our home take until it finally breaks down? We must do something now!” Jennifer Baptiste, United States.
Last year, 2020, is tied with 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded. The top 10 hottest years on record have all occurred in this century. The two mentioned are followed by 2015, 2017, 2018, 2014, 2010, 2013, 2005 and 2009.
We do not need more climate models and predictions to see that our planet is on fire. We need experts, businesses and politicians who want to put the fire out. We need people to see that supporting companies and politicians who don’t care is suicidal.
Scientists have known for years that global warming is real, that human activities cause it, and that it threatens the future of humanity. They have also known for years that the solution is to stop extracting and burning fossil fuels. But when businesses do not have to worry about being penalised for the environmental damages they are causing, and politicians are not penalised for choosing fossil fuel money over people and the planet, facts are not enough.
If history is any guide, the meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, to address climate change by global warming will be like the 2015 world climate event held in Paris, France. There will be beautiful speeches and smiling facings, and then everyone will go back to their race and class. Influential leaders will make lofty promises they have no intention to fulfil.
Since we know businesses and leaders will not act urgently to arrest this significant problem, the people have to demand more and be more. We have to call out those major polluters while at the same time checking ourselves to ensure that we do whatever we can to save ourselves and our world, so that future generations will have a fighting chance to survive in a sustainable world.
Our lifestyles have a profound impact on our planet. The energy, food and transport sectors each contribute about 20 per cent of the global greenhouse emissions. From the electricity we use to eat and travel, we make a difference.
We are told that two of the most significant contributors to global warming are China and India. Over the last 40 years, both countries have emerged as the workhorses of world production. We are not told that the major companies from the global north have shifted their production facilities to these countries to exploit cheap labour and avoid stiffer environmental laws in their home countries.
Both China and India have chosen to stay away from the Glasgow Climate Summit, citing the hypocrisy of the Global north. They argue that these countries used the same methods they are employing now to develop. They claim that the demands that they rearrange their economies and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels deny them the chance to create and bring much-needed benefits to their people.
As Mia Mottley so eloquently argued at the Glasgow Summit, on Monday, the people of the Global South contribute very little of the emissions that contribute to climate change and global warming, but bear the brunt of the emerging crisis.
These countries suffer droughts and hurricanes, erosion and increased rainfall that create floods and landslides.
While the developed and rich countries can wait and put off much-needed adoption and mitigation measures, many countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean cannot wait. More and more of these countries have to spend an increasing amount of their scarce resources on building river and sea defences or assisting citizens who were adversely affected by one or the other major weather event.
Ordinary people can and must do their part to save this planet from destruction. However, the global conscience has to develop to the point where we understand that it is the exploitation of man by man and the insatiable greed of the ruling elite and moneyed class, that are responsible for the major environmental problems confronting the world.
Unless this greed is checked and the capitalist ruling class is made to understand that enough is enough, world leaders will continue to laugh and talk at one summit after the other. They will make empty promises as they destroy the earth and deplete the oceans.
Only a conscious and united people can turn back this mad march to extinction and destruction. The American novelist James Baldwin warned of the fire next time. There is no next time. The fire is on all our homes, and there may not be enough water to put it out.
The least we can do is to increase the pressures on those responsible for policy formulation and implementation. Become impatient with those who talk a good talk but do nothing meaningful to protect our countries and secure our people’s future.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].