Taking climate change seriously: regime change, state failure and anarchy

Regime change is where a country or coalition of countries intervene in another country where the leaders are engaging in genocide, crimes against humanity and so forth. Say, hypothetically, a small, rogue state was expanding its chemical industry. It builds a factory capable of producing annually 20 million tonnes of CFC13, a greenhouse gas 14,000 times more potent than CO2.

The rogue state, a thorn in the side of the rest of the world, then says: “When the factory is ready, I’m going to vent 20 million tonnes of CFC13 into the atmosphere every year. That’s gonna fry you all. Unless you pay me (he puts his little finger to the side of his mouth) … one hundred billion dollars a year not to.”

Scientists calculate that if the rogue leader carried out his threat, the ensuing warming would cause more suffering to humanity than previously disposed-of despots Saddam Hussein, Gadaffi and Milosevics together.

After failed, angry diplomacy, the UN agrees on a resolution to dismantle the rogue regime. Even the US voted for it! Although they don’t believe in the greenhouse effect, they do relish the chance to boost the military-industrial complex.

The principle is established that knowingly and wilfully causing the additional emissions of billions of tonnes CO2e of greenhouse gases is likely to cause additional suffering to millions of people and must therefore be prevented.

So in go the cruise missiles and take out the leaders of the rogue state.

It is in this light that I consider Brasil under Bolsonaro which is now deliberately and recklessly ramping up the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon is one of the world’s lungs and a fundamental part of the global ecosystem, of life on Earth. Its destruction will add significantly to climate change – perhaps another 1.5 degrees of warming – and loss of innumerable living species.

Bolsonaro’s reckless, pugnacious encouragement of an acceleration in the destruction of the Amazon forest is a serious crime. Steadily it becomes a crime against humanity. Following the logic of the CFC13 instance, the prospect of regime change must come into focus.

I don’t see any political leader in the world with the clout or integrity to push this. This raises a further issue. If the state completely fails in its moral duties, are citizens morally obliged and entitled to step in to do the state’s dirty work?

Anarchy could ensue. But anarchy might just be the best organisational model for tackling the climate emergency just now.

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