Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Climate Change as Imperialism

So it seems Osama Bin Laden released a statement blaming the U.S. for climate change and talking about fighting climate change as an anti-colonial action.

Obviously, we can't take Bin Laden seriously on something like this. Certainly Juan Cole doesn't and lists 10 reasons why Al Qaeda has been bad for the climate, including causing the war which has created enormous emissions.

But let's at least pretend Bin Laden has a leg to stand on. Can we see climate change as another episode of western imperialism against the developing world?


And it's actually a fairly simple case. Western nations pump out tremendous amounts of carbon emissions. They exploit nations such as Nigeria, Indonesia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and others to get their fossil fuels. Then sea levels rise and destroy Tonga and Vanuatu, while also erasing much of Bangladesh. Increased drought and desertification make places like Mali and Niger increasingly difficult places to live. Refugees are forced into ever more crowded nations and poverty increases.

The more interesting question whether a global movement can develop that uses climate change as a central organizing issue. It's certainly hard to say. The period of anti-colonial nationalism has largely passed, with old colonial leaders and their descendants making bank off global capitalism. The erasure of western rule or direct domination has made it more difficult for leaders to deflect attention away from their own problems onto the United States or Great Britain. Since the leaders of China, India, and most other developing world nations are trying to increase carbon emissions as fast as possible, an anti-climate change movement will focus on national problems first before going international.

This makes any real organized anti-colonialist movement based around western caused climate change very unlikely.