Last week, the leaders of the world met in Glasgow, Scotland with a mission: design, fund, and implement a set of strategies that would slow down, and ultimately reverse the global warming that the earth is currently undergoing. In fact, from the perspective of climate scientists, the greatest urgency we face today is to prevent the earth’s temperature from increasing by just two degrees Celsius. It is simply astonishing to understand that a mere two degrees is literally the difference between a stable, safe, predictable climate and an apocalyptic world of super hurricanes, melting glaciers, rising oceans, drowned coastal cities, massive desertification, and a complete destruction of life as we know it.
In Glasgow, no one spoke on this frightening threat to global security with greater power, precision, and passion than the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Amor Mottley. She began with emphatic declaration that the pandemic has taught us that national solutions to global problems do not work. In the same way that the pandemic has touched every country on earth, rising global temperatures will spare no part of the globe from a catalogue of catastrophes that await us. Indeed, from the perspective of the Caribbean, these catastrophes have already begun. The series of category five hurricanes that have struck our Caribbean sister states testify to the wrath of a disturbed climate.
For Prime Minister Mottley, our capacity to halt climate change and save human civilization rests upon confronting the three gaps that are well within our power to do. The first of these she identifies is the continuing failure to put in place immediately mitigation measures sufficient to relieve the looming catastrophe.
The key mitigation measure needed here is a hard limit on our use of fossil fuel. But in China thousands of coal mines are blasting carbon dioxide into the air every day. In the United States another 500 coal mines are burning with no end date in sight. And Russia whose economy depends overwhelmingly on the use of fossil fuel joined China in refusing to attend the summit. Prime Minister Mottley therefore rightly condemns as reckless and dangerous the notion that future undeveloped technologies would halt the increase in global temperature that, in fact, could be accomplished right now with adequate mitigation measures.
Prime Minister Motley was equally scathing on the second gap: the 20 billion shortfall in the funds promised to be used to fight against climate change. In Capitalism and Slavery, Dr Eric William, a former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago had noted, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.” In this new era, another Caribbean Prime Minister is offering the same instruction, albeit in a new form. We will know your hearts by where you choose or choose not to spend your money. For Prime Minister Mottley, this failure to live up to their promises is a damning indictment of the commitment of the world’s leading polluters to truly confront the challenge of a warming planet.
Prime Minister Mottley reserves her most scathing criticism, however, for what she identifies as the third gap: the failure by the world’s wealthiest countries to meet their promise of helping small states adapt to the ongoing crises imposed upon them by global warming.
According to the Prime Minister, Small Island States have only received a mere 25 per cent of the financing they were promised would be available to them to fight climate change. And she excoriates this failure as nothing less than an existential threat against smaller states. In the Caribbean, we are responsible for less than one per cent of the emissions that are producing global warming. But we are faced with cataclysmic consequences for something we did not do.
To Caribbean people and the world, hear the words of Prime Minister Mottley and take heed: “Failure to provide the critical finances is measured in lives and livelihoods. It is immoral and unjust…What must we say to countries living on the frontlines? Would they mourn us on the frontlines? Would we leave Scotland without saving ourselves and the planet? We want to exist 100 years from now. Two degrees is a death sentence…Code Red! Code Red!”
The Prime Minister offered the hope that this fate is avoidable. Just two per cent of the 25 trillion dollars spent over the past 13 years is needed to prevent this catastrophe. Or we could march into doom. Some of us will fall before the others. But all will fall. Code Red. Code Red.