Class Research Resources and Assignments

Week 10
Video of Section Meeting 10 | Video of Class Session 10
Sides for Section Meeting 10 | Slides from Class Session 10

Social Impact of Climate Change

   Climate Change and Environmental Justice Issues

Timothy C. Weiskel

Athanasiou, Tom & Paul Baer
  2002 Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming (New York, Seven Stories Press, 2002).

Official IPCC Reports:
  2007 Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers: Working Group II Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report Climate Change 2007 [ IPCC WGII Fourth Assessment Report ], (Geneva, Switzerland, Brussles, Belgium, 6 April 2006).

"Journey to Planet Earth - Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization," PBS - Journey to Planet Earth, (30 March 2011).


"Katrina is part of a pattern,
and it may be just the beginning...

By way of preparation for the class, please view as much of the following Frontline documentary as you can:

PBS Frontline
  "The Storm," PBS - WBUR - Frontline, (22 November 2005). Transcript

Then, please reflect upon the IPCC Group II Report, issued last April 2007.

  "UN: Climate change will hit poor," Reuters News, (6 April 2007).
David Shukman
  "Climate change 'will hit poor'," BBC News Online, (6 April 2007).
PBS - Nightline
2007 "Climate Change Will Hit Poor Hardest, U.N. Panel Says," PBS - Newshour Online, (6 April 2007).
National Geographic Television
"Six Degrees Could Change the World," National Geographic, (Forthcoming, 10 February 2008).

Supplementary Material

    As we saw in class, two years ago (December 2007) in Bali, Indonesia, the countries of the world held long and protracted meetings during which the United States distinguished itself in opposition to the majority of the world's nations in blocking an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, the U.S. reluctantly accepted that it should join the "global consensus," and they agreed to work toward meeting in the fifteenth session of the Meeting of Parties (COP-15) to be held in Copenhagen in December of 2009.

    To capture the "tone" surrounding the Copenhagen, please listen to and view these summary reports (below) of John Vidal of The Guardian, U.K.newspaper over the period from October 2009 -- two months before Copenhagen -- right through to the last day of the Copenhagen talks.
John Vidal
"Climate change accusation: 'Rich countries are fundamentally sabotaging the Kyoto protocol'," The Guardian (U.K.), (6 October 2009 09.10 BST).
John Vidal
"Copenhagen climate change conference: John Vidal goes behind the scenes,", (8 December 2009).
Democracy Now
"Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace on Obama’s Peace Prize, Obama’s War, Copenhagen and Climate Debt," Democracy Now, (10 December 2009).
John Vidal
"Crunch time in Copenhagen,", (17 December 2009).


And especially:

John Vidal
"Climate of denied opportunity at Copenhagen," YouTube - TheGuardian, (26 January 2010).

  In addition, consider the following documentary reports on hurricane Katrina...
  "The Storm that Drowned a City," PBS - NOVA, (November 2005).
      [Note particularly the pre-event awareness of "experts."]
HBO - Real Time
  "“Not Far-Fetched” to Say New Orleans Levees Deliberately Destroyed," HBO - Real Time, (21 October 2005).
Damu Smith
  "Katrina Uncovers: Structural Injustice," National Radio Project (2 November 2005).
Robert Bullard
  "Environmental Justice Professor Robert Bullard On How Race Affected the Federal Government’s Response to Katrina" (Democracy Now, 24 October 2005)


Then consider how the Katrina narrative is linked by Damu Smith and others to a larger cultural narrative about justice and long-standing patterns of injustice, both in America and abroad.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929-1968 [excerpts from "Beyond Vietnam..." 4 April 1967 speech with video essay]


Audio recording of complete speech - "Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence," Speech delivered at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City, (4 April 1967).
Text of complete speech


   "...we must rapidly undergo a radical revolution of values..."
   "The whole Jericho road must be transformed...."

Not in Our Name
  Not our Name - Petition.
WBUR - Here and Now
  FEMA announces Katrina Reforms, WBUR - Here and Now, (Monday, February 13, 2006)
On Point
  "Katrina Anniversary Looms," NPR - WBUR - On Point, (15 August 2006)
Legendary K.O
  "George Bush Don't Like Black People," GNN, (16 September 2005).
Democracy Now
  "New Orleans Residents Rally for Lower 9th Ward Recovery," Democracy Now, (30 April 2007).

What can be said to be the "appropriate" response to the issue
of "reconstructing New Orleans" in the light of
what is now know about climate change?

Who should decide questions of New Orleans reconstruction?
Who are the "stakeholders" in this issue?



We need to consider as well the environmental justice issues that are revealed in recent trends in fossil fuel "producing" areas like Equador, Nigeria and Ethiopia. As we have already seen in previous class sessions these relate directly to the environmental justice of "resource extraction."

Democracy Now and Sandy Cioffi
  "As Hundreds Die in an Oil Pipeline Explosion in Lagos, A Look At the Fight Over Nigeria's Natural Resource," Democracy Now, (26 December 2006).
Democracy Now
  "Ecuador President Backs Amazon Residents’ Case Against Chevron," Democracy Now, (30 April 2007).
BBC World Service
  "Chinese workers freed in Ethiopia," BBC News Online, (29 April 2007, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK Sunday).

There is a marked and growing sense in inequity and injustice because of the ways in which the fossil fuel-driven development of the West has been engineered with the net effect of creating direct ecological devastation in many parts of the world.

The sense of environmental injustice is therefore at least 7-fold among communities of color -- either in the countries of the 'global South' or among minorities in the 'global North.'

  1) First, local ecological devastation has been the repeated legacy of fossil fuel extraction in areas of the Third World.
  2) Second, the combustion of the fossil fuels -- undertaken largely in the "global North" -- has engendered the system-wide ecological destabilization that climate change represents.
  3) Third, those who will feel the first and most pronounced impact of the global destabilization of climate are primarily the agricultural economies in the "global South."
  4) Fourth, when climate dangers are perceived to be imminent, communities of color and those in the global south are neither adequately consulted nor planed for in anticipation of forthcoming disaster preparedness.
  5) Fifth, extreme weather events occur more frequently because of large scale climate changes, communities of color in the "global South" and those located as minorities within the "North," do not recieve an equitable share of emergency goods or services.
  6 ) Sixth, in the aftermath of extreme weather events and area-wide calamities, communities of color are subject to recovery and reconstruction programs which persist in institutionalizing their relative social disadvantage and frequently make them even more vulnerable to future natural hazards that have victimized them in the first instance.

7) Finally, in trying to "develop" their economies to move beyond the inherent vulnerability of their agricultural sectors, countries in the "global South" are being told: " sorry, you will have to learn to develop without fossil fuels because that is bad for the global environment."

Roger Harrabin
  "Climate change 'harms world poor'," BBC News Online, (24 March 2006, 04:43 GMT Friday).
Allan Little
  "Africa climate change warning," BBC News Online, (29 October 2006).
Arundahti Roy
  Shocking and Awful (February 2005)


Finally, we ought to keep in mind the IPCC - Group II - Report - Summary for Policymakers issued in April 2006

IPCC - Working Group II
  Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers: Working Group II Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report Climate Change 2007 [ IPCC WGII Fourth Assessment Report ], (Geneva, Switzerland, Brussles, Belgium, 6 April 2006)
CBS News
  "U.N. Forecasts Dire Weather," CBS News Online, (7 April 2007).
Democracy Now
  "Report: Global "Climate Divide" Growing Between Rich and Poor Countries," Democracy Now, (3 April 2007).

This is all taking place in a wider economic context.

David Cay Johnston

  "Income Gap Is Widening, Data Shows," The New York Times, (29 March 2007).

    We need, in the final analysis, to consider the evidence for income disparity in the context of the over all structure of profit in the fossil-fueled global economy. After all, there are whole groups of people who profit from the way things are -- that is, the structure of "business as usual." These groups have a very strong motivation to resist and reject any effort to de-carbonize the global economy. Their influence in guiding public policy is unprecendented and unparalleled, especially since the Supreme Court in the United States has ruled that their "free speech" rights allow them to contribute as much as they wish to political candidates of their own chosing.

    It is hardly surprising that government decisions frequently reflect their interests. How could it be otherwise in a market-driven political system guided by the free expression of "opinion" on the part of these powerful corporations?


Britain's Billionaires

  US Income Disparity
  Growing Gaps.

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