Confronting the Impact of Neoliberal Free Trade Policies
on Labor and the Environment
By Richard D. Vogel
III. Climate Change: The Collateral Damage of Globalization
Scientific consensus holds that climate change is occurring and will continue at an accelerated rate throughout the 21st century. Scientists have also established that a large part of global warming is attributable to unregulated economic activity that is releasing increasingly larger amounts of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the earth's atmosphere.
The earth has already experienced significant environmental damage attributable to climate change. The orange frame around the world on map 2 illustrates the major consequences of global warming. The build-up of greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels has triggered the melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers and is contributing to rising sea levels that endanger low-lying coastal plains around the world. Specific coastal areas at risk are marked in red on map 2. Widespread coastal flooding could ultimately displace millions of people and destroy critical croplands around the world.
Atmospheric brown clouds (ABCs) compound the effects of global warming. ABCs, marked by the brown blotches on map 2, which occur worldwide, are expanding most rapidly over Asia. A three kilometer-thick (1.86 mile) layer of airborne soot produced by burning fossil fuels combined with other particulate matter now shrouds an area from the Arabian Peninsula across southern Asia to China and the western Pacific Rim. In conjunction with rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, ABCs are exacerbating the effects of climate change at an alarming rate.
Continuing climate change will aggravate the problem of water scarcity worldwide, especially in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, regions that are already severely water stressed, and will trigger the desertification of vast tracts of land. The resulting crop decline will worsen the problem of trying to feed the growing population of the world.
The fact that global climate change is the collateral damage of globalization is indisputable. For the first time in history, global environmental collapse as a result of reckless economic activity is an imminent possibility. The consequences of such a catastrophe would include societal collapse and mega-migrations that would inaugurate an era of unprecedented human conflict over declining resources.
A look back at matrix 1reveals another secondary global trend that is as dangerous to the future as the megatrend of global climate change--escalating international tension and military build-up. This global trend is also driven primarily by US capitalism.