Imperialism is at war with our planet—and we need to stop it


“HUNGER and CAPITALISM: Pals.” DRAWING/Hahn (Notecracker). From Volume 1, Number 2 of The Masses. WikiMedia Commons, Public Domain.

While the rich embark on trips to space and fantasize about colonizing Mars, nearly a billion people have no access whatsoever to electricity. As many commentators have rightly argued, “humanity” as a whole cannot be responsible for climate breakdown when so many people barely emit any greenhouse gases at all. However, the climate crisis is not just marked by economic inequality—it is marked by imperialism. Ninety-two percent of the climate catastrophe engulfing the planet is caused by Global North, robbing formerly colonized countries of the atmospheric space required to ensure humane living standards. To make matters worse, each year, immense amounts of resources and labor power are drained from the Global South to the Global North in order to maintain the growth and profits of wealthy corporations that are killing off nearly all life on the planet.

This fossil fuel-based capitalism is backed by the massive imperial army of NATO, a bloc of rich countries that spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined. This bloc invades nations, overthrows governments, and brutally sanctions entire peoples who refuse to bow down. Proposals for a Green New Deal that do not tackle imperialism will simply turn the Global South into a green sacrifice zone, exacerbating a system that is marked by climate apartheid. It is high time that the climate movement in the Global North faces some harsh truths and embraces a path of international solidarity.

The Global North is Responsible for Climate Breakdown

A recent study in the Lancet confirmed that the Global North is responsible for 92 percent of the climate catastrophe that is engulfing the planet. The study uses a simple method: every country has a right to the same amount of emissions in proportion to their average population size since 1850. If a country goes over its fair share, it incurs a climate debt. Based on a carbon budget that limits warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century—in line with the Paris Agreement—China will likely never exceed its fair share. Most Western countries, however, exceeded their fair share decades ago.1

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