Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has been one of the defining themes of 2020. Sparked by the death of George Floyd and other examples of police brutality in the United States, it quickly spread to include a wider debate about racial inequalities around the world.
Climate change, although something which will affect us all, is a deeply racialised phenomenon. Black and brown people in the poorest countries face the brunt of the impacts, caused in large part by fossil fuel burning in rich, majority-White nations. But this inequality is often overlooked because climate change is associated with science and the language used to describe it is often technical jargon relating to atmospheric carbon atoms and global temperature readings. The cold neutrality of climate science obscures the fact that the drivers and impacts of the climate emergency are personal and societal, and tied to political decisions with clear racial implications.
People in the, as-yet, more sheltered corners of the global North are now starting to experience the force of the climate crisis, but across the global South it is something they have already been feeling the effects of for years. Be they extreme weather events in Latin America, droughts in East Africa, floods in Bangladesh or sea level rise threatening the existence of Pacific Islands, climate change is not just a future threat but a present reality.
Climate change and its disproportionate effects on those that have done the least to cause it has been known about for decades. And yet emissions continue to rise.
If poor political decisions and unjust policies have helped to cause the climate crisis, then it’s equally the case that the right policies and decisions have an essential role to play in addressing the problem and putting the world on a path to climate justice. We’re beginning to see such movement, although not nearly fast enough.
Politicians around the world have claimed to be moved by racial injustice. Making rapid and far reaching climate action a priority would be a good start in ensuring black lives matter everywhere.
Published on 02 October 2020
- Climate change