TCSS Security Commentaries #023

Current dialogues on climate change leave out scholars and experts from the Global South, where the negative effects of climate change are felt the hardest. Critics have called out rich nations for not effectively cutting carbon emissions and for lacking engagement in climate protection. The Global South, especially small island developing states (SIDS), are facing dire consequences from the Global North’s inadequate response to climate change.

Jessica Penn, Taiwan Center for Security Studies

Voices from the Global South are systemically overlooked by Global North publication companies. A recent study conducted by researchers from Carbon Brief, an organization that focuses on climate change, found that out of about 1,300 authors in the most-cited climate change research papers from 2016-2020, about 90% of them were from North America, Europe, or Australia, while less than 1% of authors came from African countries, and only 12 of the 1,300 papers had a woman lead researcher.

Ayesha Tandon, an analyst from Carbon Brief, argues that this phenomenon of systematically leaving out researchers and scholars from the Global South is due to imperialist bias and discrepancies in funding, infrastructure, resources, etc. Even if Global North researchers involve those from the Global South, it is usually because field staff is very cheap.

The lead author is usually always from the Global North, explains Dr. Minal Pathak, a climate researcher at Ahmedabad University in India. She further states that collaborations between developing and developed countries can perpetuate dangerous “asymmetries of power” that allow researchers from rich countries to take advantage of those from poorer countries.

Tandon continues that, “If the vast majority of research around climate change is coming from a group of people with a very similar background, for example, male scientists from the global north, then the body of knowledge that we’re going to have around climate change is going to be skewed towards their interests, knowledge and scientific training.”

Even though these asymmetries of power overlook and oftentimes silence the voices of people from the Global South, there is a growing awareness that the Global North has been selfish in their climate change ‘efforts.’ Critics are calling out the Global North for their lack of serious commitment to implementing initiatives to limit their carbon emissions.

Ministers meeting at the UN session in Milan prior to the Glasgow COP26 climate conference said that some progress was being made, but developing countries’ officials demanded tougher policies for reducing emissions. Ministers from developing countries say that current progress is not sufficient in reducing the world’s temperature, which currently sits at 1.1C.

Their countries are already experiencing dire effects at this temperature, and they feel that rich countries are not taking the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5C seriously because they can more easily adapt to climate changes.

Tosi Mpanu Mpanu from the Democratic Republic of the Congo says that, “They don’t care about 1.5C because if there’s sea level rise, they have the means to build sea walls, and they are just remaining there in their high walls of comfort… Some countries are willing to do things but they don’t have the means, some have the means but are not willing to do things. Now how do we find the right choreography?”

SIDS, who are on the climate crisis frontlines, are especially vulnerable to climate changes and need urgent change. Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet said in the United Nations Trade Forum on September 9th that “Our extinction is imminent… There are not many more storms we can sustain and remain viable.”

“Climate change is not our responsibility. The SIDS represent less than 1% of global emissions. We can’t control our destiny through mitigation.”

In the Glasgow COP26 climate conference, Global North countries need to take responsibility for their unbalanced contribution to global emissions and adopt strict and radical climate policies. Global North Officials need to listen to what their colleagues from the Global South face, and realize that it is essential to recognize research from Global South researchers and scholars in combating climate change. The Global South and SIDS face dire consequences from the Global North’s lack of restraint in producing emissions and pollution, and Global North countries must realize that their actions are pushing the planet to the point of no return and act now.