Nearly a dozen African Countries are meeting in Ethiopia to try and agree a common position on climate change. Those Countries are likely to demand billions of dollars in compensation on behalf of the continent because of damage caused by global warming. Furthermore, African Countries will order the richer nations to cut emissions by 40% within the next three years.
There is an almost charming naiveté in this manifesto. African leaders appear to have gone down the rabbit hole and come out into a parallel universe where their demands will make any difference.
In fact, the climate change debate is one of issue which reveals the true powerlessness of African politicians.
The scientific and legal discourse that has occurred on climate change has been noticeable for the lack of African input on the process.
As such, it is inevitable that we will struggle for recognition to a certain extent. Of course the fact that we are likely to be more adversely affected by the apocalyptic effects of climate change should give us the right to be heard, but sadly that’s not how the world works.
In fact, our world today mirrors ancient civilizations in one crucial respect: power always has the last word.
It is hard to be optimistic about how mankind will respond to climate change. For starters, there is no consensus on the very basic point of the issue: that man has created global warming and the only way to solve this problem is by modifying our production and consumption habits.
A few weeks ago, I was reading a very popular American political blog. The blogger in question was debating President Barack Obama’s environmental policies and was quite sceptical about his proactive approach to the problem.
However it was the comments on the article that shocked me. Nearly everyone responding to the article considered climate change a hoax.
Most of the comments started from the position that climate change was obviously a bunch of lies and proceeded from that point to attack Obama’s willingness to engage with the issue on an international level. This is not a fringe group at all.
Issues of climate change are not just politically sensitive, but commercially as well. Indeed, the two elements drive each other.
Politicians in the developed world are going to be unwilling to make any drastic changes at the risk of damaging their economies and alienating the people who raise money for their campaigns.
Meanwhile Multinational firms are obviously going to fight every step of the way to continue business as usual. And if these firms are forced to change in their own Countries, it is a good bet that many developing Countries will be more than happy to welcome them and allow them to pollute as much as they want.
Our noble intentions to save the environment and ourselves are coming up against the cold realities of business and politics.
It seems to me that in the long-term the problems of climate change are only going to get worse and mankind will continue merrily wrecking the planet. Looking back on our long, violent history it seems chillingly fitting that we will destroy the very place we called home.
The author is a collumnist studying in the UK.