Read the Wonk Room’s series of reports from the international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.
Opposition to global action on climate pollution has created strange bedfellows, with the radical right in the United States joining the radical left in Bolivia against the rest of the world. The negotiations to deal with global warming in Cancun, Mexico, came to a successful conclusion, with 193 of 194 nations adopting a framework for both reducting greenhouse pollution and dealing with its deadly impacts. At the end of the conference, the Plurinational State of Bolivia stood alone in its failed attempt to veto the agreement.
Bolivian President Evo Morales used the conference as a stage to solidify his position with the populist left in Latin America. On Thursday, Morales came to Cancun and rallied with representatives of the world’s indigenous peoples and the peasant movement Via Campesina, a global coalition representing 150 million small farmers, who fear the United Nations’ market-based approach to solving global warming. Bolivia’s posturing against international agreement included a passionate defense of small island states and African nations, who are most threatened by global warming — even though those nations unanimously supported the Cancun agreements. Bolivia’s position that no progress is better than insufficient progress rang false to those who had the most at stake.
Back in the United States, the Republican Party and conservative ideologues attacked the climate negotiations, using similarly extreme arguments. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) led a group of Republican senators attacking the scientific basis for protecting the most vulnerable people in the world from global warming. Fox News, owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch and Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, ran multiple segments arguing the United Nations wants to destroy free-market capitalism in the name of climate change. The Koch Industries tea-party group Americans For Prosperity claimed climate scientists “never met a regulation on mankind they didn’t like.”
Bolivia offered its own submission for what the negotiators in Cancun should accept, an eight-page document calling for an end to the “activities of warfare” and a demand that “ecological functions of Mother Earth will not be commodified in order to guarantee the rights of nature.” While the end of war is an admirable goal and respect for nature an important value, they can’t be mandated by a United Nations convention on global warming pollution. This juvenile approach to international politics resembled nothing so much as a speech by Sarah Palin, whose pronouncements on climate change and energy policy call for “true free market approach to energy independence that allowed us to finally drill” and “the right to tap into the hungry markets flowing our resources flowing into those hungry markets.”
In the United States, Republican officials, conservative groups, and industrial polluters have launched a series of legal assaults on climate policy, hoping to reverse the progress made under the Obama administration. Today, Bolivia announced it would attempt to reverse the Cancun accords in international court.
Bolivia’s hardline left-wing ideology, rejecting anything that had to do with capitalism or compromise in the name of “Mother Earth,” ends up being eerily similar to the right-wing propaganda of American conservatives. Both purport to represent disaffected people — whether the peasant farmer or the Tea Party conservative. Both string together emotionally laden catchphrases that merge fact with belief in order to satisfy a foregone conclusion that nothing should be done to fight global warming pollution. Both have put their pursuit of power ahead of the interests of human civilization. Both are willing to sacrifice progress for politics. The Republican Party has become an organ of political ideologues, and like the Bolivian government, now has little to offer when it comes to actually addressing the very real challenges that face our world.