Concluding part of “The Politics of ‘Climate Emergency'”
Viewed in totality, and over a long-term historical perspective, the one and only inescapable conclusion is that the United States remains, by far, the worst polluter in the world. Some 400 billion tons of CO2 had been released into the atmosphere between 1751 and 2017, and the United States accounted for 25% of these emissions. It is no longer the manufacturing Goliath of the world, just as its share of the world’s CO2 emissions has decreased to the point where another colossus, China, has now overtaken it to claim this dubious honor. Nevertheless, it is unimpeachably true that the 340 million residents of the United States, constituting some 5% of the world’s population, consume a quarter of the world’s energy. The average American consumes as much energy as 13 Chinese, or 31 Indians, or 128 Bangladeshis. The levels of consumption in the United States are, in a word, obscene; and to the extent that the ‘American Dream’ has become everyone’s dream, the obscenity of consumption is the regnant pornography of our times. The rest of the world has for decades watched America consume. There is a voyeurism of consumption, too; and Indians, Chinese, Nigerians, Egyptians, Indonesians and others want nothing more than to consume much like the Americans—and their country cousins, the allegedly benign Canadians and the allegedly easy-going Australians who have their own sordid, or rather I should say, malignant history of exterminating and cordoning off ‘undesirables’. Those who have been left out of this grand narrative want not only cars, refrigerators, and flat-screen TVs, but meat on the table, the chimera of choice, the luxury of luxury goods.