Yesterday, here in America, I attended a funeral. The imam gave a speech full of religious wisdom and advice. One such advice was to remove the harmful things from the path of our posterity such as alcohol, pornography, freedom to party with local American girls, and so forth. And that is when it occurred to me that the religious preachers and leaders do not know to factor in climate change into their teachings of Islam, justice, and piety. The gas guzzlers people drive, including the very imam and the people shaking their heads in approval, are in reality absolute acts of criminality.
We are bringing harmful things in the pathways of people irrespective of their faith, albeit with one filter: class. Where an individual stands on the financial ladder determines how much he or she would be impacted by climate change. There is a direct correlation between climate change and financial position, both on an individual level as well as state level.
The richest countries in the world are responsible for sending most of the carbon into the atmosphere. The carbon emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuel can be traced back to the industrial era, roughly from 1800 to present. The United States and Western Europe have been responsible for about 70% of the global carbon emissions until 1980. Since the 1980s, China has joined the club and now has its fingerprints over 27% (9.8 billion tons) of global carbon emissions compared to the 15% (5.8 billion tons) of the American carbon emissions.
Just as the richest countries have been producing more carbon than the poor ones, the rich people globally produce more carbon than the poor, mainly due to their lifestyle needs. China produces more carbon than the US, however, on a per capita basis, China emits 7.0 tons per capita and the US emits more than twice as much — 16.2 tons per capita.
Fossil fuel burning is mainly done to cater to the lifestyle of the rich such as car driving, including electric cars, air conditioning and heating needs. Fossil fuel generated energy is used in the production of fancy gadgets, which the rich consume. The rich eat meat, which requires cattle farming, which has a major role in exacerbating the environment. The global poor does not have these luxuries. They eat vegetables. They don’t drive cars and they don’t live in air-conditioned houses. They do not even have access to clean water and air. And the sad part is that they do not have clean water and air because of climate change.
Many people in African countries and in other poor and typhoon vulnerable regions such as South Asia and South-East Asia see their agricultural yield dwindle and sometimes even face drought because the weather pattern is disturbed. It doesn’t rain at the usual time and it floods like never before. The clock-like weather cycle has been disturbed due to climate change. The poor fishermen cannot find enough fish to make a living because the global fishing industry that catches fish for profits has pretty much emptied the oceans. And that is another major reason behind the worsening of the environment because marine life helps create the oxygen we inhale.
The global poor, who are a lot in number, pay the price of the luxurious lifestyle of the global rich, who are just a few. The saddest part of this story is that the global poor does not know that climate change is causing these troubles for them let alone having any clue that the luxurious lifestyle of the rich is the reason behind their misery. The criminal part is that the rich actually know this. They tap themselves on the back every time they opt for paperless billing or when they donate to some charity that feeds some hungry kids in Africa or Yemen. And then they go back to their addictive lifestyles and contribute to the disaster.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2021.
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