Kelsey Monaco, Guest Writer
It’s all over the news. With headlines like “More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a ‘climate emergency’” and “‘Bleak’ United Nations (U.N.) Report on a Planet in Peril Looms Over New Climate Talks.” We’ve been bombarded with fear-inducing reports on the climate disaster. But should we be worried? According to a special report released in 2018 by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if we do not take immediate action to decrease CO2 emissions, there will be irreversible consequences. However, prominent leaders like President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have denied that climate change poses a threat to the global community. So, who should we believe?
In November 2019, a report, signed by over 11,000 scientists from around the world, claimed that the planet is unequivocally facing a climate emergency. This report made headlines around the world, which sparked international panic. “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” received widespread attention and resulted in increasingly divisive rhetoric. On one side were citizens of the world who feared what this could mean. On the other side were deniers and skeptics who viewed this all as fake news.
The intensifying fear of what climate change could mean for regular people around the world was perpetuated by the 2019 U.N. Climate Action Summit where activist Greta Thunberg gave an inspiring speech urging world leaders to stop prioritizing economic growth and condemning them for their inaction. Thunberg received international praise and subsequently put public pressure on these leaders to take urgent action. Thunberg continued to openly criticize world and business leaders for their passivity at the U.N. Climate Change Conference and at the World Economic Forum. While many celebrated Thunberg’s actions, others condemned her for spreading politically charged ideology and polarizing the issue through partisanship.
The anti-environmentalists who claim that climate change doesn’t present an immediate threat are complicit in spreading dangerous environmental rhetoric.
While it’s important to question the credibility of media reports and be weary of misinformation, this becomes an issue when the discourse turns negative and the issue itself becomes doubted. Debating the facts is one thing, but arguing if the issue itself exists is when skepticism can become harmful.
Anti-environmentalists claim that environmentalism is a romanticized movement popularized by media outlets that idealize the past and downplay the benefits of economic growth. They argue that environmental rhetoric is sensationalized and reflects elitism. However, this claim completely contradicts reality.
Just last year, we saw the Amazon wildfires destroy millions of acres of rainforests and Australia fighting to contain unprecedented bushfires, accelerated by rising temperatures resulting in hotter and drier conditions. So if climate change poses such an imminent threat to the survival of the planet, what should we do about it?
To begin with, many in the Global South don’t see climate change as an issue. In an environment where people have been exploited and manipulated to the advantage of the Global North, many are apprehensive of wealthy nations intervening and threatening their national sovereignty under the guise of protecting the environment. Nations in the Global South see the imposition of environmental values as a modern form of imperialism as developed countries try to impose restrictions and regulations on their governments.
They claim that westerners are propagating their own views of an exoticized nature and trying to force them to conform to this idealized view of the world. This hesitation to take action against climate change can result in deadly repercussions.
This was seen during the Amazon Rainforest wildfires, as President Bolsonaro of Brazil refused to take any action and accused officials of making up lies to hurt the country’s trade. In the end, Bolsonaro’s apathy toward the destruction resulted in a massive loss in biodiversity.
While the Global South is right to be suspicious of western intervention, global cooperation is vital to negate the impacts of climate change. International collaboration is essential to prevent the current climate crisis from worsening. When Jakarta is flooding from rising sea levels, the Caribbean is reeling from tropical storms exacerbated by climate change, and millions in Asia are exposed to toxic yellow dust, the collaboration of all nations is imperative to breaking the link between economic growth and increasing carbon emissions.
Our civilization is being sacrificed for the notion of economic growth. Many of our leaders have a history of being either willfully ignorant or maliciously pernicious toward the environmental degradation of our planet. We must take immediate action in changing this culture of indifference and negligence toward anthropogenic climate change.