Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Al Jazeera author Jason Hickel, the West is dragging its feet on climate action because national borders shield us from the consequences of our selfish climate sins.
To stop climate change, we need to open borders
By tearing down the walls that separate the causes and consequences of climate change we can force constructive action.
This is a puzzle. Why are we so willing to gamble thus with the fate of human civilization, with 95 percent certainty of catastrophe? Is it that we’re in denial? Are we just repressing a reality that’s too traumatic to confront? Yes, probably. But it’s also something much simpler: a geography problem.
The great irony of global warming is that its causes and consequences are inversely distributed. The rich nations of the global North are responsible for 70 percent of historical CO2 emissions, but they bear only about 18 percent of the total costs. It’s the South that takes the hit: according to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, the global South loses nearly $600bn each year due to drought, floods, landslides, storms and wildfires. As climate change worsens, their losses will reach a staggering $1 trillion per year by 2030.
The solution is simple, at least conceptually: open the borders. By tearing down the walls that separate the causes and consequences of climate change we can force a more honest reckoning with reality. Once the victims of climate change have the right to seek refuge in Europe and North America, it will obliterate the moral hazard of global warming. As rich nations finally start to feel the heat, so to speak, you can bet they’ll act fast, doing everything in their power to ensure that people’s home regions remain livable. Even if it means pushing for a new, more ecological, economic model.
This might seem unrealistic at a time of rising anti-immigrant sentiment. But either we do it now, finding orderly ways to integrate climate refugees and allowing ourselves to be spurred to action by the suffering we’re forced to confront, or down the road, we’re going to face a refugee crisis more severe, violent and destabilising than anything we can imagine. We have a choice.
I guess we should thank Jason for helping us understand the thinking behind green demands for open borders. Jason and his fellow climate warriors demand open borders because they want to punish us.