In defence of "climate justice"

It does not mean giving carte blanche to developing countries

The concepts of climate justice and climate debt originated in developing countries. They are based on demanding equality and compensation for climate change, for which rich countries are historically responsible. Climate justice does not mean giving carte blanche to developing countries to increase their carbon emissions. Mark Lynas is wrong to suggest otherwise.

In Copenhagen, thousands of campaigners and activists from around the world, under the banners of Climate Justice Now! and Climate Justice Action, called for rich countries to repay their climate debt in two ways: first, by making drastic cuts to their carbon emissions, and second, by compensating developing countries to pay for a transition to low-carbon economies and to adapt to the ravages that climate change will cause.

The movement also has a broader agenda promoting real solutions and favours a three-tier solution to climate change: that fossil fuels be left in the ground; that sustainable food production increase; and lastly, that excessive consumption be reduced. And this isn't just targeted at the wealthier countries; elites in developing counties also need to act.

Unfortunately, business interests and the market solutions that they peddle have captured governments, and it is this that blocked progress in climate talks, limiting real solutions and stopping their entry into the political mainstream.

It's worth getting beneath the veneer of climate negotiations to see what really happens: just as in other international forums, such as the WTO, negotiators from rich countries bully developing countries to sign a deal that condemns the poorest people to misery, but keeps profits safe for the few.

In the aftermath of the Copenhagen failure, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband blamed various developing countries for "holding the world to ransom". But what many commentators failed to report was that the UK in effect blackmailed the world to try to force through the unjust and ineffective "Obama Accord". Miliband told developing countries they would not get any of the $10bn on offer unless they endorsed the deal.

Rightly, the Tuvalu representative compared the money to 30 pieces of silver. Would anyone in their right mind sign such an agreementl? Many developing countries have seen that the $10bn is just a mirage and have stood their ground. The short-term finance on offer is not only a pittance, it's an allocation of what is already out there: existing aid money, loans that will increase unjust debts, and corporate-controlled World Bank finance.

The only way catastrophic climate change will be avoided is if it is tackled in a just way. It's a vision that all those who care about climate change and justice must unite around, in order to combat both poverty and the impending climate crisis.

Deborah Doane is director of the World Development Movement

 

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear