Forget the environment, climate change is now about people

And the politics of it are about to get very, very messy

view gallery VIEW GALLERY
Share
Related Topics

Every climate change logo from here to Tokyo makes use of at least two of these three elements: a sketch of the globe, a branching tree or some green, vine-like swirls. You know what the logos mean. They paint climate change as an environmental problem, one that concerns the air we breathe and the trees we may or may not be hugging. Human beings don’t feature much. The logo for the UN Climate Change conference currently ongoing in Warsaw, pictured, is a particularly bureaucratic example. Cold, green, leafy. And yet, after the talks in Warsaw finish, these logos will, en masse, look embarrassingly out-of-date. The debate has moved on. Climate change is no longer about the environment; it’s about people, and in particular the poor.

The conference in Warsaw was set to be routine. Then tropical storm Haiyan made land in the Philippines, splintering cities, killing at least 3,600, and carrying away the bungalows, flats and schools of several thousand more. Discussions in Warsaw darkened. The lead Filipino negotiator is now on hunger strike. He – like many in developing nations – believes that his country is suffering the effects of climate change, and points the finger of blame squarely at the biggest historical emitters, rich countries like America and Britain. An op-ed by the Filipino manager of the Climate Reality Project ended on this note: “You see, for us this is a crime – a climate crime – and we will be seeking climate justice”.

Scientists cannot tell whether any single storm was caused, or worsened by climate change. But politicians tend to make the leap themselves. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, President Obama played up the threat of global warming (having ignored it in his election campaign). David Cameron did the same after Haiyan (having threatened weeks before to remove green levies in the UK). People in developing nations are right to worry about such vacillating commitments. What scientists can predict is that climate change will add destructive force to future storms. And those storms will hurt the people least responsible for global warming the most, those in countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines.

The issue of compensation is now live. Should developing countries carry the cost of repairs or flood-defence systems when the growing might of storms and rising sea levels have precious little to do with them? The answer is no. But it looks unlikely that rich countries will offer much help. The $100bn funding target for the Green Climate Fund – established to help poor countries adapt to global warming– remains unmet. Last month the US envoy on climate issues said that, in terms of compensation for damages: “The fiscal reality of the United States and other developed countries is not going to allow it”.

No wonder, then, that the US Intelligence Community’s 2013 threat report ranked climate change as a major possible cause of war. Storms cripple and kill. And from now on, the villain won’t just be mother nature. It will – for the people hurt - be those dastardly emitters, Uncle Sam and John Bull.

 So let’s update those logos. The future of climate change is far more red than green.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Administrator

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sunroom / Conservatory / Extension Designers

£16000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Assistant

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the count...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

'You’re just jealous', and other common misconceptions about the Protein World advert

Hannah Atkinson
Dave Brown's cartoon for the 28 April edition of The Independent  

After five years of completely flaccid leadership, I'm glad something 'pumps up' David Cameron

Joe Sandler Clarke
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence