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The other debt crisis: Climate debt

May 21, 2010

Watch this excellent program about climate change and the effects it is having on Bolivia. These effects, aside from raising all kinds of economic and environmental difficulties for the Bolivian people, has also propelled Bolivia to the forefront of the world stage on advocating for radical and global solutions to climate change. The center of this struggle is the concept of climate debt, the notion that the wealthy industrialized countries of the global north have a responsibility to pay for most of the necessary changes that need to be made. There is only a finite amount of atmosphere that everyone has to share and the countries of the global north have polluted it many times over in proportion to the rest of the world in their historical development. Bolivia and other developing nations are now demanding that the north pay its fair share for its historical pollution of the common atmosphere and help the countries of the south to be able to develop.

The global north, especially the US, is refusing to recognize their historical responsibility of climate debt and are thus far refusing to pay a share that is in line with that responsibility. Contrast that to the current ecological disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico where the US government is demanding that BP take complete responsibility for the oil spill and use its own funds to clean it up. I know the two situations are not analogous, but their certainly is a sense or irony that must be lost on those in Washington.

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