‘Death sentence’: Climate crisis driving global conflict, poverty & racism – Naomi Klein

Author Naomi Klein.© Mark Blinch
Climate change is driving inequality, conflict and racism as self-serving individuals and actors undercut the potential for a collective response to the crisis, journalist and author Naomi Klein has said.

The Canadian, who is an avid environmental and political campaigner, made the observation at a memorial lecture dedicated to the late Palestinian political activist and academic Edward Said.

She was introduced to the crowd by high-profile human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti, who was once described as “the most dangerous woman in Britain.”

Addressing the audience, Klein said the rise of poverty, discrimination and conflict as climate change intensifies is aggravated by greed and individualism.

“It is not about things getting hotter and wetter but things getting meaner and uglier,” she said.

Klein went on to argue a collective response is required to change “corrosive values that are pitting people against each other.”

“Fossil fuels, which are the principal driver of climate change, require the sacrifice of whole regions and people. Sacrificial zones like the Niger delta and the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, dot the world,” she said.

The author and journalist stressed that treaties in these regions, which enable indigenous peoples to live peacefully and securely on their land, will become obsolete.

“Indigenous rights are meaningless when the land is being [destroyed] and the rivers are polluted,” she said.

“Resource extraction is a form of violence because it does so much damage and kills cultures.”

Throughout the course of her speech, Klein linked scant water resources in the Middle East to the global refugee crisis.

“There is a connection between water stress and conflict in the Middle East, Libya, Gaza, Afghanistan and Pakistan," she said.  

"Today boats of refugees flee wars and drought. Migrants are seen as an invading army.” 

She also warned that human suffering linked to mining and oil extraction is destroying communities in Africa and the Americas, leading to suicides and other tragic injustices.

The Canadian journalist has written a number of books, including a scathing critique of neoliberalism and the climate crisis, “This Changes Everything,” an unforgiving assault on global capitalism, “The Shock Doctrine,” and a meditation on consumerism run riot, “No Logo.”

Taking inspiration from Said’s famous observation that vast swathes of humanity have been classed as “the other” – or less than human – she warned the climate crisis is entrenching inequality across the globe.

She urged the audience to consider the global climate crisis and those who are most severely impacted.

“There is no clean, safe way to run an economy built on fossil fuels. There is no peaceful way to do it... If nations and people are regarded as [the] other, it’s easier to wage wars and stage coups,” she said.

“We are running out of cheap ways to get to fossil fuels. This sees the rise of fracking which is now threatening some of the prettiest places in Britain.”

Klein branded climate change an emergency that threatens global security, and said current proposals to tackle the crisis, as laid out under the Paris agreement, are “reckless.”

“In 2009, African nations said this was a death sentence,” she said.

“At the last minute [in Paris] countries agreed to ‘pursue efforts’ to limit warming further. [But] we are making no such efforts. Wealthy people think that they are going to be OK, that they will be taken care of. But we all will be affected.”