Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bin Laden and Climate Change

Late last week, Osama Bin Laden came out with a new audiotape accusing the US for causing climate change.  He says: "Speaking about climate change is not a matter of intellectual luxury - the phenomenon is an actual fact." The following statement could as easily have been spoken by Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, or other anti-capatalists:
One of the themes that ran through the Copenhagen Conference was the global divide between rich and poor, north and south.  As many studies have borne out, climate change will do greater harm to the poorest countries.  Because these countries also have the least responsibility for historical emissions, they feel they yet again being harmed by forces beyond their control.  This theme links climate change to a series of other grievances that the poor world holds against the rich, like agricultural protectionism, globalization, colonialism, and others. 
"However, George Bush junior, preceded by [the US] congress, dismissed the [Kyoto] agreement to placate giant corporations. And they are themselves standing behind speculation, monopoly and soaring living costs. They are also behind 'globalisation and its tragic implications'. And whenever the perpetrators are found guilty, the heads of state rush to rescue them using public money."

Taken to its extreme, this leads to a sort-of conspiracy theory of climate change, whereby the emissions of the US and the rich world has purposefully doomed the poor world to an unending series of disasters.  Any attempts by the US to push binding emissions targets on poor countries (even China) is said to be a conspiracy to keep the developing world poor in an effort to pre-empt competition.  We saw this argument used at the end of Copenhagen by the Sudanese negotiator Lumumba Stanislas Di-Aping when he said:
“It is asking Africa to sign a suicide pact, an incineration pact in order to maintain the economic dependence of a few countries, tt is a solution based on values that funneled six million people in Europe into furnaces.”

For the last several years, when analysts have discussed the security threats of climate change, we've talked about it “as an accelerant of instability or conflict” or as a new competition over scarce energy, water, or food resources.  Perhaps we should now begin to look at it as a new area of grievance between the rich and the poor.  If droughts in Sudan are blamed on global warming, and Sudanese blame the US for the emissions that caused global warming, then a logical next step would be for the Sudanese to engage in action that would cause the US to stop emitting.  Potential actions could include taking oil company workers hostage or even direct acts of terrorism.  A good way to defuse this animosity would be for the rich world to fully engage in a global climate treaty that is seen as fair, equitable, and just around the world.  
But -- we shouldn't wait for Osama to then throw down his weapons if the Copenhagen Accord turns out to work: he'll just find something else.

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