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US prioritising a new cold war over stopping climate catastrophe

It is a shameful waste for Washington to be spending colossal funds on militarism at a time when it should be drastically scaling up its own climate targets and action, says FIONA EDWARDS

THE US’s cold war propaganda offensive into the Cop26 has centred on attempting to position itself as the world’s “climate leader” and to shift the blame for the climate crisis onto developing countries, particularly China and India. 

This is so obviously false and against the interests of humanity that Washington has failed to set the political agenda internationally.

Youth climate leader Greta Thunberg brilliantly cut through this fake narrative, which has been built up relentlessly by the mainstream Western media in recent months, with just three words, “Blah, blah, blah.” 

Thunberg’s characterisation of Cop26 as a “global North greenwash festival” set the tone as more than 100,000 people joined protests demanding action from national governments to limit global warming below the life and death threshold of a 1.5°C degrees rise.

The real situation facing humanity, so far removed from the self-congratulatory rhetoric of Western leaders, was set out very clearly by the UN assistant secretary-general for climate change, Selwin Hart on November 4 when he said: “The world is on a 2.7°C pathway, a catastrophic pathway, and therefore we are a long way away from keeping the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement alive.”

There should be no illusions about the consequences of a 2.7°C rise in global temperatures — such a level of overheating would render significant parts of the world uninhabitable, threatening the foundation of human civilisation. 

Today, with a rise of 1.2°C, the impacts of climate change are more severe than scientific models expected with every continent facing serious impacts from deadly heatwaves, to drought and food shortages, wildfires, floods and increased disease. 

In her powerful speech to Cop26 Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley clearly outlined the stakes involved in keeping temperatures below a 1.5°C rise: “For those who have eyes to see, those who have ears to listen, those who have a heart to feel, 1.5 is what we need to survive. 

“Two degrees… is a death sentence for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, for the people of the Maldives, for the people of Dominica and Fiji, for the people of Kenya and Mozambique. And, yes, for the people of Samoa and Barbados.

“We do not want that dreaded death sentence, we have come here today, to say try harder … and the world needs our action now, not in the next year, not in the next decade.”

 

The US is the climate laggard not leader

 

With humanity facing such a deadly and existential threat to our future, it is vital to understand that the US’s refusal to take the action necessary to limit global warming below a 1.5°C rise and instead prioritise a new cold war on China is the main obstacle in the way of stopping climate breakdown. 

It should also be understood that the US is engaged in a ferocious propaganda campaign to hide this reality. 
   
The truth is that the US is not only the world’s largest contributor to carbon emissions historically — emitting twice as much as any other country — but today the US remains the biggest polluter of any major economy in per capita terms. 

Therefore what the US does to bring down its carbon emissions in the next decade is crucial for the future of humanity.   

Earlier this year the Biden administration announced a new target on climate change: by 2030 the US will reduce emissions by 50-52 per cent compared to what they were in 2005. 

Based on data from the Global Carbon Atlas, in 2005 US carbon emissions were 21 tonnes per person which means the US is aiming to cut its carbon emissions to 10.5 tonnes per person by 2030. 

Should the US achieve its climate target and reduce its per capita carbon emissions to 10.5 tonnes by 2030, they would still be higher than the level that China and India’s are today put together. 

Today China’s per capita carbon emissions are 7.4 tonnes and India’s are 1.8 tonnes.   
 
This US target is very far from what the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states is needed by 2030. 

According to the IPCC 2019 report, to give the world a 50 per cent chance of staying below a 1.5°C rise, global carbon emissions must be halved by 2030. 

In 2019 the per capita world average carbon emissions were 4.8 tonnes, which means by 2030 the world should be aiming for an average of approximately 2.4 tonnes per capita to achieving the UN target of halving emissions. 

It is therefore clear that even if US fully met its own target of cutting its carbon emissions to 10.5 tonnes of carbon per capita by 2030, this would still be more than four times the amount it should be aiming for if humanity is to have a 50 per cent chance of keeping global warming below a 1.5°C rise.

However, since the publication of IPCC report in 2019, US carbon emissions have remained grotesquely high, meaning that the US has already used up a great proportion of its “fair share” of the world’s remaining carbon budget of 500 gigatonnes — the amount of CO2 the world can still emit to have a 50 per cent chance of limiting global warming below a 1.5°C rise — since 2019.

Analysis from economist John Ross on “Learning From China” shows that the US now must now cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent annually and reach 1.3 tonnes per person by 2030 to stay within the US’s remaining carbon budget of 64.8 tonnes per person from 2019. 

This is based on current emissions only. If the US’s historical responsibility is taken into account, the US’s fair share of emissions cuts would be 195 per cent below 2005 levels, according to the US Climate Action Network, an alliance of the major US green organisations. 

Clearly this is not possible — hence why countries in the global North should be providing grants to global South countries to pay for the transition to green development.

 

Fund a Green New Deal not a new cold war on China

 

Whether the US can even reach its currently woefully inadequate climate target of emitting 10 tonnes of carbon per capita by 2030 is uncertain. 

Biden has now passed a $1 trillion infrastructure spending package, but Congress is yet to vote through an additional $1.75tn package of spending which includes green investment of $555 billion. 

Progressive Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have criticised this package as being completely lacking in the scale required to fund the Green New Deal the US needs to decarbonise its economy, and instead has proposed that the US needs $10tn in green investment between now and 2030. 

The US is currently spending more than $750bn annually on its military, with an overwhelming focus on upgrading capabilities to attack China. 

To waste such colossal funds on militarism at a time when the US should be concentrating its resources on drastically scaling up its own climate targets and action reveals very starkly that the US’s priority is not to stop climate breakdown, but to stop the peaceful rise of China.  

It also undermines the much-needed global co-operation to prevent climate breakdown. 

This US aggression against China is not only a threat to world peace and prosperity, it is also a major obstacle in the way of humanity coming together to tackle climate change. 

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