Caring about climate change is a privilege

Third World countries have to focus on real-world problems because they do not have the luxury of being affluent enough to worry about climate change

On Saturday, BBC reporter Stephen Sackur interviewed Guyana President Irfaan Ali. He turned the conversation toward the efforts being made to greatly expand Guyana’s oil industry and used it to accuse Ali of harming the climate. 

“Over the next decade or two, it’s expected that there will be $150 billion worth of oil and gas extracted off your coast. … That means — according to many experts — two billion tons of carbon emissions will come from your seabed from those reserves and released into the atmosphere.” 

Ali, who saw where Sackur was headed, cut him off. “Let me stop you right there. Did you know that Guyana has a forest that is the size of England and Scotland combined, a forest that stores 19.5 gigatons of carbon, a forest that we have kept alive?”

Sackur interjected, “Does that give you the right to release all this carbon?”

Ali countered, “Does that give you the right to lecture us on climate change? I am going to lecture you about climate change.”

After explaining how his country is handling carbon emissions very well despite increased industrialization, he said, “This is a hypocrisy that exists in the world. The world in the last 50 years has lost 65% of all its biodiversity. We have kept our biodiversity.”

Ali then asked Sackur, “Are you and your system in the pockets of those who destroyed the environment through the Industrial Revolution and now lecturing us?”

Ali’s question speaks to the broader attempt by the First World to keep the Third World from developing by condemning it because its development would hurt the environment. The Third World rightfully finds this ridiculously hypocritical as the very same countries earned their First World status largely thanks to their own consumptive past. 

For example, India is a Third World country that is developing rapidly thanks to its modern industrialization efforts. Combined with currently the largest population and a better birth rate than most developed nations, India is en route to becoming the fastest-growing economy in the world. 

This is great for the Indian people because 43% struggle to get food, and 31% say it is very difficult to get by, according to a Gallup poll. With a low quality of life, it is good to hear that soon, they will hopefully be able to see general improvements in their lives and get access to better infrastructure and institutions. 

Unfortunately, much of the environmentalist-driven First World does not agree. For India to succeed, it could risk helping the climate change sun monster eat us all. India is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, half the amount of America and a quarter of the amount of China. It is unacceptable to them that a developing country dares try to replicate its economic success by using the methods it did in the past. 

The United Kingdom, for example, which colonized India for 89 years, got much of its economic success after starting the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. Because of its development efforts, it now has some of the most depleted wildlife and natural landscapes in Europe, having reduced its total biodiversity by half. 

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Because they have benefitted from the use of the natural world in the past, climate change matters more to privileged environmentalists in the First World than families lowering starvation and mortality rates in the Third World.

Ironically, in its attempt to appear more anti-colonial and eco-friendly, the First World now thinks it can suppress the Third World through climate change talking points. 

Parker Miller is a 2024 Washington Examiner Winter Fellow.

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