When analyzing the economic landscape in 2019 two themes that are repeated frequently are globalization and the issue of climate change. Though both have been topics of discussion for years, climate change in particular has been on ever growing area of interest /concern and with celebrities such as Leonardo Di’Caprio and people like Greta Thunberg donating large amounts of time and money to raise awareness, it is not surprise that the topic has become a major talking point for global politicians .When analyzing the ways in which climate change and globalization interact with one another, we must first define what we mean by globalization. The OECD defines Globalization as “The term globalisation is generally used to describe an increasing internationalisation of markets for goods and services, the means of production, financial systems, competition, corporations, technology and industries.”In other words, it describes the interconnecting of ideas and technologies between nations. With this interconnectivity comes increasing levels of trade and increasing numbers of people who can move freely between countries.
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The issue of climate change is one that scientists have been aware of for more then a century. In 1856, A Swedish scientist by the name of Svante Arrhenius estimated the “scope of warming” from the burning of fossil fuels. In 1956, an article published in The New York Times outlined the adverse effects that greenhouse gas emissions could have greatly impact the rate of environmental change. Despite this it has never been more topical then now.
When examined as global events it is clear that Globalization and climate change are intertwined with one another and this can be seen in both negative and positive ways. When we look at the increasing in trade and free movement associated with globalization, it is impossible to expect that this will not have an adverse effect on emission levels. Contrasting this, there are a number of instances where global governments have come together to try and decrease the rate of climate change. This has resulted in changes to policy at the international level, with agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreements. Both of which the United States has pulled out of and is no longer adhering to the terms of these agreements. Trump stated in 2017 the Paris Agreement was “very unfair at the highest level to the US”. Though this was a major upset to global efforts to reduce climate change the Paris agreement was signed by 196 other nations and ratified in January 2019 by 185. These agreements were an example of nations coming to together to achieve a common interest. Climate change and the efforts to lesson its effects are not the only way that climate change effects Globalization. The impacts of climate change in recent months has increased tensions and lessoned the level of globalization and global co-operation. As the ice caps at the northern pole continue to melt as the earth warms, new trade routes and oil reserves that were previously in attainable become accessible. Due to this, areas that were previously unimportant are how heavily disputed by a number of nations. This has caused increasing tensions between Russia and other nations in the region as countries that previously had no interest in the region are now attempting to lay claim to areas and trade routes that have now been uncovered.
Reports from the US Navel Postgraduate School state that the Russian Navy has “resumed patrols in Arctic Waters for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union.” Another alarming development in recent years has been the claim from China that it is a so called “near arctic state” followed by the its interest in establishing an “Arctic Silk Road” as the ice caps continue to melt. Despite being a member of the Arctic Council, China only holds Observer Status. This means that regardless of there claim of “Near Arctic State” they hold no claim to the natural resources of the area. Despite this lack of claim, there is a possibility the Chinese government may feel that it is within the best interests to still attempt to extract these resources regardless of the global implications. Examples of this can be seen when looking at Chinese Navel Aggression in the South China Sea. These actions by both China and Russia are a direct response to changes in the environment caused by global warming and directly threaten global interconnection and globalization. Due to this it can be seen that climate change interacts both positively and negatively with globalization.
When studying the issue of Climate Change in respect to the current political economy, there are a number of ways it can be approached. Firstly, we must ensure we understand the current political economy and how climate change is understood within it. For the most part, most fo the worlds governments acknowledge that climate change is a serious issue that needs to be tackled at a global level. There are exceptions to this such as in the US where the issue of Global Warming is not seen as a bipartisan issue, with many politicians in the republican party discrediting the current literature surrounding the seriousness of global warming. An example of this way of thinking can be seen with trump pulling out of the Paris Accords. This “left” and “right” political divide is not just found in the US. A study carried out in 2019 which focused on the rise of nationalist/right wing movements globally and what there stance on climate change, found that parties defined as “right wing” are more likely to deny the effects of climate change in contrast to parties that would be considered “left wing” are more likely to not mention climate change at all in there manifesto.This is an extremely dangerous viewpoint to take, especially when there is no credible evidence to base any argument denying the existence of climate change and global warming.
An issue as serious as climate change and global warming is an issue that the political economy needs to look at as a bipartisan issue instead of using it as a device tool in the hopes of discrediting the opposition in the eyes of voters. When looking at this trend in the political economy it is imperative that we understand the interests behind the institutions who are putting these ideas forward. Again, we will focus on the US for this example. As previously mentioned, President Trump has removed the United States from adhering to the agreements outlined in the Paris Accords. These Accords set a series for parameters around the levels of carbon emission each country could emit into the atmosphere. By not forcing US companies to stay within these emission levels, companies can continue to maximize profits without the cost of properly treating pollutants caused by production. One industry where this kind of freedom is essential is the oil and gas industry. In 2019 alone, the oil and gas industry has donated more then 12 million dollars to the republican party. With this in mind it is not surprising that Trump, who is a member of the republican party, has removed obstacles that would have made it difficult for the oil and gas companies to do business. This is why we need to think about climate change as a global issue instead of a party one as those who try to discredit the fact of climate change are often doing so for short term goals , at the cost of long term public wellbeing. Another way we must look at the political economy of climate change is that governments need to be held accountable for the allocation of funds received from carbon taxes and other pollution related incomes. In Ireland, due to an increase in carbon tax, an additional 21million euro has been allocated for fuel allowance according to figures released by the department of finance. While as little as 2 million euro has been allocated to the “Green Climate Fund”. This points to members in the political economy seeing the environment as something of an afterthought when allocating finances that were collected in the hopes of decreasing the levels of emissions. This consensus is strengthened by the fact that Ireland has exceeded the emissions target by 5 million tones for the third year in a row in 2019. This is in direct contrast to how we should be looking at the issue of climate change through the lens of the political economy.
Though climate change is a global issue, it will not affect everyone equally. Countries in the northern hemisphere are much less likely to experience the adverse effects of climate change first despite accounting for the lions share of CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. Those most likely to be effected first are poor island nations and populations living close to or on the equator. A paper published in 2012 shed light on the possibility that we may already be seeing our first case of climate refugees. The paper focused on the small island nation of Tuvalu, which in 2019 has a population of roughly 11,000 people. Tuvalu is one of the most at risk countries as the island is almost at sea level currently with very little high ground. This, combined with the fact that sea levels originally estimated to rise 0.79 meters by the end of 21st century, has put the nation of Tuvalu at risk severe flooding. The figure of 0.79 meters has also been updated as the rate at which the polar ice caps are melting has increased since original estimates. Despite being the one of the most at risk countries to feel the impact of climate change, Tuvalu is set to become the first nation to emit zero carbon emissions by 2020 This contrast heavily with the distributional effects experienced by some of the larger emitters of fossil fuels such as the United States who has yet to experience any instances of climate refugees.
The question as to weather de-globalization would help or hinder the evolution of climate change is a difficult one to answer definitely. On one hand, the decrease in globalization would in turn lead to decreases in global trade and global travel which would again, in turn , lead to over decreases in carbon emissions. However, trade and travel are not the only two consequences of globalization. There is also the sharing of ideas and technologies between nations that occurs regularly as a result of global co-operation. Technology such as solar panels and other green energy’s. Though currently, the cost of implementing green technology into transport is far hire then the cost of continuing to use oil and gas as fuel. This will not always be the case as more and more companies switch to using green and eco friendly technology.
Due to this, deglobalization would hinder the evolution of climate change in the long run despite the potential short-term benefits of decreasing levels of trade and travel between nations.