- Sean Voitov
The dangers of Climate Change nationalism:
The world faces a unique problem. One which requires a solution that involves something rarely done to the scale needed. Global cooperation. Global warming is exactly that, our earth is on average rising in temperature more than it naturally should because of us. Humans. We emit so many gasses from transport, agriculture and energy that our atmosphere is storing in more heat than it was meant to, more than what our ecosystem has evolved to handle.
The problem is apparent, a rapidly changing environment where the weather goes from one extreme to another, generally becoming warmer. Floods, heatwaves, famine and ultimately deaths are the result of Climate change, from UK heatwaves being the hottest in recorded history or more droughtss in Madagascar to the torrential floods in India and Pakistan. The world is feeling this problem as nature cares not for borders. The problem is real
It is probably very clear by now that the word global should be emphasised but not just because it is a global problem. We are so used to dealing with problems on a national scale that we forget that sometimes the solution needed is an international one. One which requires everyone to chip in, even if it is to the benefit of others, it is to the benefit of the greater good. For too long, even with the focuses of COPs and other international climate organisations, the focus is on what each country should do to solve its environmental problem, rather than what the world should do to solve it.
Take this for example, the UK imports 45% of its food, over $500 million worth of prepared meat comes from Thailand. Meat production carries a massive greenhouse gas weight to it, with the methane produced by the animals being produced in vast quantities globally and being one of the worst types of Greenhouse Gas. That is not mentioning the CO2 emissions needed to store the products and transport it to the UK. If the government decided (which in reality it probably would not) to cut the amount of animal farming in the country, this would have an effect in reducing the emissions our agricultural sector produces and therefore reducing the greenhouse gas emissions recorded in the country. But this does not change the fact that we still import prepared meat and on balance importing meat is worse for the planet than having it produced in the country.
This is the case with thousands of our good and services that come from all over the world. Global trade is extremely complicated and intertwined due to the globalisation of the world economy, and as this becomes more the case, it means that the focus on climate change needs to focus less on what each country can do reduce their emissions, but how we need to coordinate with other countries. We are at risk of what I call climate change nationalism. Countries try and solve climate change by themselves, they do not cooperate with the world in meaningful acts and try and ensure their own policy works to reduce their country's greenhouse gas emissions. Giving their political party and the country a good climate reputation when the actual benefits are far less greater.
China is an interesting case. It is the world's biggest polluter and this is often mentioned in climate change summits such as COPs. The vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions made in China however is bought by America and Europe. The coal needed to power the factory that sells microchips to American businesses only do so because that is what America buys. So it is not as simple to say that China is the biggest polluting country and therefore has the biggest responsibility, it requires America to help as well. You can say it is no fault of America that is trades so much with China, but then you can argue the other way and say it is no fault of China to want to grow its economy.
If we look at the countries that actually consume greenhouse gases, America is the largest consumer and China does not even make it in the top 20, despite China have the world's biggest population. European countries then come a close second at greenhouse gas consumption. China, America and Europe are the biggest players in this game then, not any one of them, all of them. But they have a problem. China doesn't want to stop trading, it receives good money for it. America doesn't want to spend the money needed to go away from Chinese trade (probably because China wouldn't allow it) and become more effecieny and the problem is similar with Europe.
This is not to say that what countries are doing by themselves to solve climate change is a waste of time, not at all. But as we approach closer to 2050 and further away from actually achieving the 1.5C goal, questions need to be raised over whether what is being done is actually anywhere close to what needs to be done. We must not forget the word global in global warming.