If there is anything true in world history, it is that nations, and especially Western nations, rarely act out of a sense of moral coercion, when actions like This can cause problems for the country. Take the rhetoric around supporting Ukraine after the Russian invasion as an example.
While the conflict is presented in clear moral terms, as the West helps Ukraine bravely stand up to Russian bullies, it is clear that moralism can be quickly removed in the face of to the annoyance of their citizens. The prospect of cold European homes and high prices has prompted the European Union to leave numerous loopholes in its sanctions to allow the flow of Russian gas and oil to continue. When Russian gas was cut off, European governments did not hesitate to reach out to many of the fossil fuel-rich dictators whom they frequently criticized for their poor human rights record.
As Africans learned long ago during the Cold War, global powers are happy to wage wars of supposed principle on the lands of other peoples, sacrificing the welfare of other peoples. other races, not their own.
Similar dynamics are evident in the narratives and proposals presented at the latest United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. A lot of the talk revolves around helping the unfortunate “Southern Hemisphere” deal with the ravages of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, and help them transition to natural resources. greener energy.
As during the Cold War, the West is actively shopping on the stage, recruiting nations to act as the arena for its climate war. For example, Switzerland plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, not by actually reducing them, which might inconvenience their citizens, but by pay countries like Ghana to reduce emissions and give it credit.
The idea was that the Swiss government would pay for efficient lighting and cleaner kitchens to be installed in Ghanaian households and claim to reduce their own emissions. Switzerland is not the only Western country to employ such carbon offsetting schemes, displacing climate action from rich polluters and considering poorer nations have contributed little to the world. Crisis are the countries that need change the most.
They are also very present at COP 27. For example, the United States has announced a new carbon trading scheme that is supposed to help poorer countries transition to cleaner energy. In it, large Western companies will invest in renewable energy projects in the Southern Hemisphere in exchange for being allowed to continue to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. As environmentalists have pointed out, this is little more than another scheme that allows Western Big Business to continue to pollute and reap huge profits.
However, Western talk about the transition of poorer countries not only deflects focus from their reluctance to decarbonize their own economies and blames the problems. climate for the least responsible countries. It is also an example of what the 19th-century German economist Friedrich List called “kick the ladder”.
He wrote in 1841: “A very common clever trick is that when any man reaches the height of greatness, he kicks off the ladder he has climbed, depriving him of the opportunity to climb. to others after him”.
While List applied this to the familiar free-trade regulations of the British, who had climbed the ladder of mercantilism, it can also apply to the Western push today. pushing others not on their energetic path to the forefront, while they continue to enjoy the advantages of such ascension – an approach they have also applied to nuclear weapons technology .
In response, many non-Western countries want to highlight the injustice of having to bear the cost of mitigating extreme weather events caused by other countries. They have also appealed to the West’s sense of self-preservation by debating, as prime minister of the Bahamas yesthat climate change will send mass refugees to Europe, overwhelming the privilege systems the West has built to protect itself from the problems it has caused in the rest of the world .
However, both of these approaches accept a false premise: that climate change is primarily a problem for the Southern Hemisphere, while the West is barely harmed, but once again managed to let the rest of the world bear the pain.
However, a report by the World Meteorological Organization released on 2 November said that “temperatures in Europe have more than doubled the global average over the past 30 years – the highest ever recorded in Europe. any continent in the world” and predicts “extraordinary temperatures, wildfires, floods and other impacts of climate change that will affect societies, economies and ecosystems”.
Just this year, the effects of this have been surprisingly seen. The region suffered from extreme heatwaves that caused the worst drought in half a millennium, drained rivers and reservoirs, and triggered wildfires that destroyed more than 660,000 hectares (1,200 acres). 63 million acres) of land and killed at least 15,000 people. Farther west, US states are battling a 22-year super-drought, the worst in a millennium, and across North America, water levels in rivers, lakes and reservoirs are falling. down.
Instead of appealing to the consciences of the West or pushing the narrative that they will only be affected indirectly by their folly, the world should borrow the language of JRR Tolkien in The Hobbit: “If this ends in the fire, then we should all burn together.”
The reality is, the West has a lot to lose, if not more than the rest of us, from the climate crisis. Using the 1990s form of humanitarian appeal to portray the people of the Southern Hemisphere as helpless victims will only inspire the same superficial, charitable responses designed to make the giver appear satisfaction rather than problem solving – as Switzerland has demonstrated.
Instead of saving the rainforests of Brazil, perhaps a better and more impactful discussion would be what to do with the drying Seine. Instead of the image of climate change being floods in Pakistan, perhaps thousands of people died from the heat in the UK.
In the end, it is not our pain and suffering that will touch the West in any meaningful way. It is their own recognition. 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 necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.