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Climate change concern: why now?
- Bashir Goth
( Friday, March 23, 2007 )
A body of 2500 scientists had recently gathered in Paris and made a clarion call about an impending climate disaster, noting the likelihood of human activities led by burning fossil fuels causing most of the warming over the past 50 years.
Among other things, the report warns of a new ice age engulfing the earth, while hurricanes, droughts and other apocalyptic disasters may play havoc with our planet.
Good talk. We have nothing but praise for the eminent men and women of science and conscience who want to save our planet for future generations. One thing, however, that bothers us is why these scientists failed to invite their sceptic counterparts. We know there are other respected scholars who doubt the conclusion of the climate doomsayers and believe that the climate change we experience is nothing new. It was always happening from day one of the earth and will continue to happen.
Why then did the Parisian scientists chose to be the coalition of the willing? Why did they act condesceningly in colonial mentality? Why paternal Europe is still telling us what to do?
Argument on the geopolitical side is more plausible. Since the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, many developing countries have joined the ranks of oil producing countries and started to climb the ladder of development. Russia, China, India and a score of African, Asian and Latin American countries are striking oil whereever they find it and getting richer. The market has become congested. The European Union and America face aggressive competition from countries like China and India which are more generous in their offers and less concerned about what their clients do with their money. Fossil fuel markets are showing a shift to Asian markets and Western super majors are experiencing the ugly reality of developing countries demanding more and fairer share of their natural wealth.
With Europe becoming worried about energy supplies from Russia, the worldís largest oil and gas producer, as well as other former Soviet Republics and the volatile Middle East, it doesnít surprise the acute observer to fathom the agenda behind the EUís declaration of the post industrial revolution. It is about time, isnít it?
Therefore, despite our trust in the honesty of the eminent scientists and their fear for the future of the planet, we in the developing world have also the right to receive this advice with great suspicion. Our first question is why now? The answer is easy. The industrial world senses the balance of trade power shifting. They want to maintain the lead and find no better than to trash the old commodity and technology and usher in a new age of clean energy and technology. A technology that the developing world has to wait another 200 years to catch up to. The beef of the matter is that the political and scientific elite of the industrial world do not want to see the world as flat. They should have the higher ground and whenever anyone comes closer to where they stand they have to move a bit higher and describe the lower rung as the gutter and the source of all waste and evil.
Fossil fuels have nurtured their development for generations. They were the masters of its drilling, its processing, its pricing and its consumption. Back then carbon emissions were greater than they are today where CO2 capture and sequestration techniques are more advanced. Even back then the world was experiencing droughts, hurricanes, and spikes of heat. But the politicians and their coalition of the willing scientists preferred to remain silent. It is only when lucky ones from the third world started benefiting from what the West enjoyed for generations that the fruit seems to have suddenly become rotten and harmful.
By the same token when nuclear technology was only in the hands of the industrial countries, it was a deterrent arm and highly efficient source of energy, but when the know-how found its way into the developing world, it has suddenly become a source of disaster; it is like saying: ďoh! Boy, donít touch it, this is only for the grown ups.Ē
With all our respect to you, distinguished scholars, we cannot but smell conspiracy in your advice to deprive the third world everything of worth. You can mock at our feelings if you like but sometime ago you have even accused our African nomadic herdsmen of being a major cause of global warming. You pointed the finger at our domesticated livestock; ruminant animals (cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels), which you say, produce significant amounts of methane as part of their normal digestive processes. And methane you say is dangerous to the environment. So the Africans have to get rid of their cattle, sheep and goats and the Asians have to do away with their stable rice because it also emits methane. We wonder, how shall we survive without our cattle and our rice? Do you want us to remain just a dumping ground for your excess corn waste or genetically modified food?
Listen distinguished scientists, we in the third world, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, certainly value and envy your unfathomable knowledge of things, but with all respect, we also know one or two things about our livelihood and our surroundings. You may pity us sirs, but our vision stops at our horizons and our knowledge doesnít go beyond our survival. We can also tell you honourable scholars that severe droughts were always with us as long as memory can go. They are like statues in our ancestral history. You have to know; therefore, we are not going to give up our cattle, our sheep and our newly found fossil fuels. We will burn the fossil fuels as long as it takes. Until we have wealth, science and technology like you. Then we will definitely become like you and think of moving to higher moral grounds. So until then we will continue to consume our fossil fuels because we have greater enemies that we have to tame, enemies that are more urgent and more threatening to us than a theoretical global climate danger. They are called poverty and ignorance. They are real and we wrestle with them every day.
Distinguished scholars, you have every right to teach your people to lessen their waste before it swallows them. But you have to know sirs, cruise vessels and African dhows donít produce the same amount of waste. We believe that it is your numerous industries and your large appetites for luxuries that cause global warming and not our hungry stomachs. Distinguished scholars; donít expect us to listen to you now like we did in the past. You are right that many years you have outsourced to us your brains, your technology and your waste. But through the years we have built some colleges and we have gained some knowledge. You may wonder but even in my unknown Somaliland we have five universities. You are right to say that they are no matches for your centuries-old academic edifices, but they produce our learned elite, an elite that dares to question your policies and your scientific research. Gone are the days, distinguished scholars, when we used to swallow everything you said. Now, we check out who finance your research and who is behind your agendas. We have become experts in your alarmist rhetoric. We understand, therefore, why you panic when you outsource your brains, clothes and technologies from India and China. It is time to for you to wake up, sirs, you can no longer dictate your terms to us. Your monopoly on trade and science is over. The world is flat and better deal with it.
Bashir Goth is a Somali poet, journalist, professional translator, freelance writer, the first Somali blogger and a news website editor. Bashir is the author of numerous cultural, religious
and political articles and advocate of community-development projects, particularly in the fields of education and culture. He is also a social activist and staunch supporter of women's
rights. He is currently working as an editor in a reputable corporation in the UAE.
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