Year 4, Month 11, Day 28: God Loves Poor People, Huh?

The New York Times addresses the festering rhinoceros in the room: the economic inequities that are exacerbated by climate change:

WARSAW — Following a devastating typhoon that killed thousands in the Philippines, a routine international climate change conference here turned into an emotional forum, with developing countries demanding compensation from the worst polluting countries for damage they say they are already suffering.

Calling the climate crisis “madness,” the Philippines representative vowed to fast for the duration of the talks. Malia Talakai, a negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, a group that includes her tiny South Pacific homeland, Nauru, said that without urgent action to stem rising sea levels, “some of our members won’t be around.”

From the time a scientific consensus emerged that human activity was changing the climate, it has been understood that the nations that contributed least to the problem would be hurt the most. Now, even as the possible consequences of climate change have surged — from the typhoons that have raked the Philippines and India this year to the droughts in Africa, to rising sea levels that threaten to submerge entire island nations — no consensus has emerged over how to rectify what many call “climate injustice.”

Makes me wanna holler — hold up both my hands…November 17:

Global warning’s cruel irony is that the greenhouse emissions triggering the crisis are an unanticipated consequence of industrial and technological changes which have benefited the world’s most privileged, while it is the economically and politically disenfranchised billions who have already begun to feel the consequences, losing their lands, their hopes, and their lives.

In comparison to that of the developed nations, the carbon output of the Philippines is statistically insignificant, yet its citizens are now facing massive devastation from a tropical storm of unprecedented magnitude — just the sort of extreme weather event which climatologists have been predicting for years as a consequence of the intensifying greenhouse effect.

Unlike earlier genocides carried out under the aegis of economic expansion and colonialism, climate change’s impact on the world’s poorest people wasn’t planned. But this does not absolve the developed world of responsibility for the havoc wreaked and the damage wrought.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 21: A Modest Proposal

The Chicago Tribune, on economics and climate change:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. droughts, floods and heat waves likely fueled by climate change in the last two years hit the people who can afford it the least – the poor and middle class, a report published on Friday said.

In affected areas of U.S. states hit by five or more extreme weather events in the last two years, the median annual household income was a bit over $48,000, or 7 percent below the national median, according to the report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the White House.

Floods hit lower-income households particularly hard. Families in areas hit by the largest floods this year and last, many near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, earned an average of 14 percent less than the U.S. median, said the report called “Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle and Lower Income Americans.”

“These findings reflect a cruel phenomenon sometimes called ‘the climate gap’” the concept that climate change has a disproportionate and unequal impact on society’s less fortunate,” said the report, which tapped U.S. data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Census and other agencies.

This letter doesn’t satisfy me, but after forty minutes of staring at the screen I just said the hell with it. Sent November 17:

Climate change’s disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest people is one of many ways in which environmental and economic issues are inextricably intertwined. Wealthy nations of course contribute the lion’s share of planetary greenhouse emissions, and wealthy individuals of course have more options and resources available when extreme weather threatens. But these facts are only the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg.

Climate change is a direct symptom of the greenhouse effect, but an indirect symptom of something far more pervasive and problematic. Any economic paradigm predicated on the notion of continuous expansion will eventually run out of room and resources. Infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet; it’s as simple as that. While American market capitalism has brought us many benefits, it has encouraged us to ignore the repercussions of our heedless consumption. Now that those consequences include droughts, hurricanes and heat waves, can we change our ways?

Warren Senders