If there is anything that has been true in the history of the world, it is that, especially in the West, they often do not act out of moral compulsion, when such actions can cause problems at home. Look at the rhetoric surrounding aid to Ukraine following the Russian invasion for example.
Although this debate has been presented in a very polite manner, as the West is supporting the brave Ukraine to fight against the Russian oppressors, it has become clear that morals can be quickly discarded in the face of hardships for their citizens. The prospect of European cooling houses and high prices prompted the European Union to leave several loopholes in its sanctions to allow Russian gas and oil exports to continue. After Russian gas was cut off, European governments did not hesitate to talk to the rich government officials who regularly criticize them for their poor human rights records.
As the people of Africa learned a long time ago in the War of the Word, the powers of the world are very happy to fight what they call moral principles in other people’s countries, and ignore the welfare of other people but not their own.
The same is evident in the speeches and proposals presented at the recent United Nations climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Most of the stories were about helping the unfortunate “Global South” to cope with the ravages of extreme weather such as droughts and floods, and helping them to switch to green electricity.
As during the Cold War, the West is selling fast, recruiting countries to become battlegrounds for their climate war. For example, Switzerland has planned to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, not by reducing its emissions, which would affect its citizens, but by paying countries like Ghana to reduce their emissions and giving them credit.
The idea would be for the Swiss government to fund smart lighting and clean stoves to be installed in Ghanaian households and the reduction in emissions would be theirs. Switzerland is not the only country in the West that uses such emissions reduction strategies, which divert climate change from rich countries that are polluting the world and establish poor countries that have not contributed to the problem as those that need to change the most.
They were very present at COP 27, too. For example, the United States unveiled a new carbon trading system that it says could help poor countries transition to renewable energy. In it, major Western companies will invest in renewable energy projects in the Global South in order to be allowed to continue emitting more greenhouse gases. As environmentalists have pointed out, this is little more than another policy that allows Western Big Business to continue polluting and reaping huge profits.
However, Western narratives about reform in poor countries do not simply focus on their reluctance to waste their resources and place the blame for climate change on their leaders. It is also an example of what the 19th century German economist Friedrich List called “pushing the ladder”.
“It is a well-known device that when a man has reached the pinnacle of greatness, he removes the ladder by which he has ascended, in order to bar the way for others to ascend after him,” he wrote in 1841.
Although List applied this to the famous laws of free trade and the British who raised themselves on the ladder of mercantilism, it also applies to today’s push in the West to prevent others from following their path of power to the top, as they continue. the advantages of such a rise – a method that has also been used in nuclear weapons technology.
In response, many non-Western countries have been eager to show injustice at the cost of mitigating climate events caused by others. They have also asked for Western ideas to defend themselves in the conflict, such as the Prime Minister of the Bahamas. he isthat climate change will send more and more refugees to Europe, multiplying the opportunistic behavior that the West has developed to protect itself from the problems it has caused around the world.
However, all of these approaches accept the wrong assumption: that climate change is a major problem in the Global South, with the West escaping largely unscathed, yet still capable of inflicting pain on the rest of the world.
However, a report by the World Meteorological Organization released on November 2 said that “temperatures in Europe have increased twice the global average in the last 30 years—more than any other continent in the world” and predicted “extraordinary heat, wildfires; floods and other impacts of climate change will affect people, the economy and the environment”.
This year, the results of this have been strikingly evident. The region experienced extreme heat that caused the worst drought in half a millennium, rivers and reservoirs drying up, fueling wildfires that destroyed more than 660,000 hectares (1.63 million acres) and killed at least 15,000 people. In the Northwest, states in the US are grappling with a 22-year drought, the worst in a millennium, and across North America, water levels in rivers, lakes and reservoirs are dropping.
Instead of appealing to the conscience of the Europeans or pushing the issue that they will only be indirectly affected by the stupidity of their actions, the world should borrow the language of JRR Tolkien in The Hobbit: “If this ends in fire, then we must.” everything will burn together.”
The truth is, the West has as much to lose, if not more, than all of us, from climate change. Using 1990s-style philanthropy that portrays the people of the Global South as helpless victims will only encourage small, philanthropic responses designed to make the donor look and feel good, instead of addressing the problem – as Switzerland has shown.
Instead of saving the Brazilian rainforests, perhaps a better and more effective discussion would be what to do about the drying up of the Seine. Instead of the epitome of climate change being the floods in Pakistan, perhaps it should be the thousands dying in the heatwave in the United Kingdom.
Ultimately, it is not our pain and suffering that will move the West in any meaningful way. It is their awareness. And only when we change the conversation can we expect that to happen.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect Al Jazeera’s influence.