Over the last several decades, debate surrounding climate change has risen to the forefront of politics and culture. Unfortunately, partisan rancor has drowned out debate. The political parties play rhetorical games, with one claiming imminent disaster while the other declares a hoax. The reality is quite complex, despite politicians’ incorrect and dangerous rhetoric. The latest models predict major issues within 50 years, and conditions will continue to get worse.
With the renewed calls for universal green policies, such as those exhibited in the Green New Deal, it is necessary to consider the untold moral dilemmas embedded in mandating them into law. These policies affect the entire world, to a lesser degree the first world, with the greatest blow hitting the developing and underdeveloped world. With that, there are two primary dilemmas we must ponder.
First, should the United Nations or “first-world countries” have the authority to domineer the developing world? Second, are we willing to implement policies that will harm the developing world and further impoverish the struggling?
The idea of the developed world enforcing green policies on the underdeveloped has been deemed by critics as “green neocolonialism.” Neocolonialism is defined as, “the use of economic, political, cultural or other pressure to control or influence other countries.” Within this context, let us examine the current affairs.
There are several organizations, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations that have actively participated in green neocolonialism. These organizations have sought to pressure the developing nations to implement pro-environmental policies that meet their organizational desires. Consequently, many of these nations suffered from implementing anti-growth policies, hindering their haste of development.
Besides the hit to development, the aforementioned organizations fail to properly evaluate corruption and the mismanagement of funds that are manipulated easily in developing nations. It also establishes a bad incentive structure, setting limits to development which is to the detriment of the people of that nation. Beyond this, there is the important reality that solely money, and therefore subsidies, do not equate to development. Despite what politicians say, development is a complex process.
History has demonstrated that there are stages of development. Although these stages may vary, they generally have involved periods of mass industrialization as a catalyst for growth. As an outgrowth of this development, mass innovation, urbanization and globalization are able to occur. As was the case in the United States, those factors have contributed to the decline of our carbon footprint and our expansive innovation. Until underdeveloped countries reach this point, it is crucial to understand that the developing world pollution rates will continue to increase as ours decrease.
With the freedom bought by industrialization, more people were able to seek an alternative to the essential jobs. In essence, the industry has granted us the freedom to worry about bigger issues. This is why political activism and non-government organizations (NGOs) have become a cornerstone of our society, whereas the people of developing and underdeveloped nations are focused upon survival. What right do we have to act as arbiter over their ability to survive and manipulate their development, simply because of our increased activism and NGOs?
Our international initiatives make it seem we are willing to implement policies that could potentially impoverish hundreds of millions that are dependent upon industry. If we only have a century to fight the changing climate, are we willing to oppress the developing world to do it? In doing so, we would seize the right of the autonomous individual and nations, and their right to make their own decisions.
When it comes to support, the side effects of those policies are sheltered in rhetorical claims. In regards to green policies, there have been calls to expand tariffs. Yet, it is important to note that global trade is instrumental in economic progress for developing nations. Meanwhile, the potential of things like nuclear power, which is by far a more efficient energy source than fossil fuels, continues to be met with antipathy from politicians. Regardless of your personal views, the general principle of confirmation bias is apparent in the rhetoric used by politicians. In essence, politicians broadly are lying either through omission or malevolence.
There are deep moral concerns where anybody has the authority or will to limit the natural process of development with little regard to the side effects. In regards to practicality, the idea that a body of officials can solve the problems hindering development in nations riddled with unique issues is naive. Especially within the current timeframe, the potential of current or proposed policies actually working to effectively fight climate change is minuscule.
The thought that we can solve climate change through governmental oversight is a pipe dream, oblivious to the complexities of human conflict, nature of development, the harm that would be inflicted and the history of economics. In the words of the brilliant economist Thomas Sowell, “Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present—not where we wish we were, or where we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact.”