“Climate change is a global environmental issue. But at the core, it’s a justice issue. It’s about what kind of a world we build and where people fit into that world. And what do we leave behind for the future generations,” says professor David Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics Emeritus at Oberlin. He is the author of eight books, including “Dangerous Years: Climate Change and the Long Emergency” and “Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse,” and is co-editor of four others, including “Democracy Unchained.”
In an interview with The Real News, Orr outlines what US elections could mean for developing countries’ ability to combat climate change and global warming. “If you look at the amount of carbon the Global North has put in the atmosphere, the United States one of the largest, we bear a burden of having let this legacy of climate change continue for so long. So, it’s a moral issue,” Orr tells TRNN Climate Correspondent Aman Azhar.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the US and European nations during 20th century industrialization are not just coming back to haunt the Global North. They threaten poorer nations the most because of weak infrastructure and challenges of poverty and corruption. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2019 Multidimensional Poverty Index, 1.3 billion people across 101 countries are multidimensionally poor. That’s 23% of the world population, with nearly half that number under 18 years old. The term “multidimensional poverty” factors in lack of finances, poor health or malnutrition, lack of clean water or electricity, poor quality of available work, and limited education.
These poverty-stricken populations are the ones most threatened by climate change. According to the World Bank, “climate change is a particularly acute threat for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia—the regions where most of the global poor are concentrated.” And a big chunk of the world’s poor lives in areas plagued by conflict, internal displacement, and high exposure to floods. This is especially the case for Nepal, Cameroon, Liberia, and the Central African Republic.
Orr says Biden’s presidency might be the last chance to get a handle on the global climate emergency and help the developing South take on the climate crisis. “Given the development of technology, the Global South should not replicate the infrastructure of electric grid or nuclear power plants, or coal-burning plants.” Orr opines that the UN, aid organizations and private foundations should be spending money and helping to invest in new energy infrastructure based on renewable energy, which is technologically possible and economically feasible. “US leadership on the global stage on climate policy is central to achieving this,” Orr emphasizes. Listen to the interview here.