Who’s To Blame for Climate Change?

by Breanna Sewell

Blame is one aspect of global climate change that is a bit of a touchy subject. In Peter Rudiak-Gould’s 2014 article, “Climate Change and Accusation: Global Warming and Local Blame in a Small Island State,” he addresses the two types of blame for climate change. Specifically, he looks at the potential causes and effects for the accusation that occurs regarding climate change in the small, Pacific Marshall Islands.

The author first points out the two accepted types of blame for what is happening to our planet. The first is “industrial blame”— the indictment of developed countries and their citizens, specifically the Northern, Western civilizations. The second being “universal blame”— the viewpoint that we are all contributors to climate change and therefore we are all equally responsible for what is occurring.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has only 60,000 citizens and was responsible for only 0.0003% of the world’s carbon emissions in 2008. However, the author points out that surveys and studies have been done showing that the Marshellese surprisingly take the side of “universal blame.” One of the countries in the world that could most objectively be seen as a victim of climate change is taking equal blame for climate change and the ugly effects that go along with it, such as sea levels that will eventually drown their home, the destruction of their coral reefs, increased intensity of droughts and extreme weather, and much more.

After many studies of the Marshall Islands and surveys taken by ethnographers of its citizens, the conclusion has been drawn that the Marshallese are so inclined to take the blame for climate change and the destruction of their home as a method to get their citizens to realize that following western civilization will result in their downfall. They are desperate to get back to their roots and pick up traditions that were tossed aside when they were introduced to the western ways and their cultural decline began. If Marshall Island citizens take equal blame for climate change, it means making a connection between their relatively new western ways and the effects on their cherished islands and will urge them to get back to their old, eco-friendly lifestyle. Mitigating the effects of climate change would just be the icing on the cake, while restoring their beloved traditions is the main goal.

Rudiak-Gould, P., 2014. Climate Change and Accusation: Global Warming and Local Blame in a Small Island State. Chicago Journals. http://bit.ly/1MWzlMQ


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