Global warming: The meek take on the mighty
- Posted with relqation to the issue of rising seas in GLK (though
Feral, I believe, is not comnvinced that it will affect us)
The meek take on the mighty
by Linda McQuaig
Rabble.ca, Dec. 20, 2004
For those who enjoy a good David-and-Goliath confrontation, it
doesn't get much better than this.
In one corner, we have the White House and Exxon; in the other,
some of the most powerless people on the face of the Earth
including the Inuit of the Canadian north.
But what makes this mismatched confrontation particularly
riveting is what's at stake: nothing less than the future viability of
Indeed, in one of the strangest twists in world politics today, it
seems to have fallen to a group of extremely powerless people
in far-flung corners of the globe to carry forward the fight to save
the planet from the looming catastrophe of global warming.
By any reasonable measure, global warming is one of the most
serious problems the human race faces. Our reckless
over-consumption of fossil fuels particularly oil and coal is
causing the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases
in the atmosphere, potentially wreaking havoc with the world's
A study on global warming commissioned by the Pentagon and
leaked to the media last February described scenarios in which
rising sea levels leave European cities submerged under water,
while other parts of the globe are hit with extremes of heat and
cold, typhoons, mega-droughts and famines. Humanity would
revert to its norm of constant battles for diminishing resources,
noted the Pentagon analysis. Once again, warfare would define
But while some inside the Pentagon seem to grasp the
seriousness of the problem, the Bush administration has sided
with the fossil fuel industry, which disputes the scientific
evidence on global warming.
In fact, the global warming phenomenon has been verified by
thousands of scientists who have participated in lengthy,
worldwide scientific reviews conducted by the United Nations
and the World Meteorological Organization. Their findings are
accepted by all but a tiny group, led by oil giant Exxon, which has
waged a vigorous and well-financed campaign against
international efforts to fight global warming.
Throughout the 1990s, Washington was involved in those
international efforts to tackle global warming, but that changed
abruptly when George W. Bush took office in 2001. Within a few
months, Bush announced the U.S. would not ratify Kyoto, the
international treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas
Most of the industrialized world (including Canada) has now
ratified Kyoto, which will come into effect next February. This is a
tiny step toward solving the global warming problem.
But Washington's continuing refusal to support Kyoto risks
jeopardizing even this tiny step, since the U.S. is the world's
biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Indeed, gas-guzzling
Americans are responsible for 25 per cent of worldwide
emissions even though they make up only 5 per cent of the
Any meaningful plan to tackle global warming has to include the
But, with Bush's re-election, the prospects for bringing the mighty
polluter into line seem increasingly dim. Indeed, the world
community seems to have largely given up trying.
Enter the powerless people of the world.
Located in particularly vulnerable regions, these people stand to
be among the first victims of global warming. The
155,000-strong Inuit of the Arctic, for instance, fear that melting
ice will destroy the seal hunt, their traditional means of survival.
Similarly, the people of Tuvalu a teensy, low-lying island in the
South Pacific fear being swamped by rising sea levels.
Together the Inuit and the Tuvaluans, with help from
environmental groups, are hoping to convince the Organization
of American States that the U.S. is threatening their existence
with its cavalier attitude toward global warming.
A declaration from the OAS wouldn't have any enforcement
powers, but it could create a basis for future lawsuits, against
either the U.S. or corporations like Exxon. The idea would be to
model the lawsuits after the highly successful cases brought
against the tobacco industry.
It's a bold plan, but, needless to say, the Inuit and the Tuvaluans
aren't exactly heavy hitters with deep pockets.
Tuvalu boasts a population of just 11,000 and an annual GDP of
$22 million. Its national treasury received a huge boost when the
country managed in 2000 to sell the rights to its internet domain
name tv for $50 million.
But little Tuvalu is not without courage. Two years ago, it
threatened to take the U.S. to the International Court of Justice
over global warming, even though it relies on Washington for
Certainly, when it comes to standing up to the American empire,
the world could learn a thing or two from Tuvalu.
Let's hope that the Inuit and the Tuvaluans have a pretty good
slingshot; the future of the planet may depend on it.
Originally published by The Toronto Star Linda McQuaig's
column usually appears every Monday.