Disaster Waiting at the Door: The Global Climate Problem and New Imperialism

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Climate change is one of the most important global problems created by industrial and technology revolutions. This makes the issue of climate change one of the new subjects of international relations. Because the increasing drought indicates that even access to drinkable clean water and healthy food will become a big problem in the future. This is a mark of an extremely troubled process that will see famines around the world.

The solution to the issue is to overcome the climate problem. However, the decisions taken by the main actors of the capitalist system, acting with maximum profit ambition, do not coincide with the decisions they make at the table and their actions in practice. This means that even a humane environment will not be possible; it means that a great catastrophe is waiting at the door.

In the shadow of these concerns, states acting with a serious discourse-action mismatch will be under 26th the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26 Climate Summit) from 31 October to 12 November 2021.. The meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, is being held with the participation of countries that signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was agreed in 1994. 

The main agenda item discussed at the summit of 140 leaders, including world leaders such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, United States President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, is to encourage countries to set their 2030 targets to achieve the goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050.[1]

Perhaps the last chance for the world, these efforts need to be supported by more concrete steps. Because the latest report of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that climate targets cannot be achieved with existing commitments.[2]Even the most optimistic picture is far from the set targets.

According to UN data, 500 million people are currently living in the regions where desertification is occurs. Given the rate of population growth, there is a risk that by 2050, about 1 billion people could become climate refugees.[3] This risk will deepen the scale of the tragedy that will arise.

Obviously, this pessimist picture is the work of great powers that, despite a small number of well-meaning states, have not fulfilled their commitments. Because the issue of combating climate change is not a new issue. As mentioned above, this issue has been on the agenda of the international public since 1994. As a matter of fact, after the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994, the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, the Doha Amendment in 2012 and the Paris Agreement in 2015 and UN is at the centre of the current process. Therefore, in today’s red alert for the world, rather than leaders coming together and making various decisions; the decisions taken should be implemented and the UN should reach the power of sanctions in this regard.

The first step in the face of the problem is to end coal use by 2030. This brings with it a serious need for financing. Being that developing countries also have a significant cost to reduce their fossil emissions. Therefore, the international community expects actors such as the United States, China, the European Union (EU), India and Russia to take concrete steps to finance the fight against climate change. As it is seen that the countries which are mentioned that cause environmental pollution the most are the mentioned actors.

As it is understood, the permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) are the main countries that have triggered the global climate crisis. This makes the UN’s steps on the issue meaningless in the first stage. Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not go to Glasgow, citing the Covid-19 pandemic, despite implementing symbolic measures stating that they take climate change into account. This suggests that the mentioned countries do not give due importance to the issue. Moreover, the sincerity of the United States on the issue is open to debate. U.S. President Biden is said to be under pressure from Congress on environmental policies and is preparing to cancel clean energy investments, despite attending the summit.[4]

In short, the UN-led process is rendered inoperable by the permanent members of the UNSC in the first stage. This is related to the desire to protect transnational companies that are the source of the economic powers of the relevant states. Because although it is said that “capital does not have a homeland”, it is seen that the centres of the companies mentioned are located in the countries that stand out as the capitals of finance-capital and offer significant gains to these states. In other words, the dream of a planet where nearly 8 billion people live in prosperity; with an economy based on coal, oil and natural gas, it is almost impossible to realize.[5]

The biggest obstacle to the UN attempting to implement this dream is its permanent members of the UNSC. If these members discovered another planet with the environment they could live in, they would not care much about the problem. As the example of Afghanistan, which was recently occupied by the United States in the context of the alleged fight against terrorism, shows, the priority of imperial states is their own interests. If the perception of interests and threats is different, it is not cared for even if the developments that can be experienced will put many states and millions of people in trouble. The approach of the major polluting powers is not very different.

Considering who the actors who cause climate change and who bring up the problem and say that it should be fought, the resulting picture takes on a striking dimension. Because the big states are more interested in maintaining their monopolies in the fields of industry and technology. In this sense, developed states with a claim to global leadership do not want other states to go through the paths they have crossed and are putting pressure on developing states in the name of combating climate change. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that the geographies where thirst, drought and desertification are seen are not the main countries of the industrial and technology revolution.

Moreover, the steps expected to be taken to provide the necessary support to developing countries at the necessary point of struggle are not taken. In other words, there is a double standard and the issue is treated as an extension of the global power struggle. Therefore, the issue of climate is not the search for a more liveable world; it is becoming the new legitimacy tool of the global power struggle and international interventions. 

Until yesterday, interventions with arguments such as human rights violations, democracy, economic problems and failed states are likely to be implemented through a new method in line with rhetoric such as climate and the environment. In this context, it would not be surprising if some states are described as “the source of problems” and others are accused of not doing the necessary fighting. In fact, the establishment of a mechanism such as the “UN Environmental Task Force” may also be on the agenda. Even forest fires, for example, and failures to prevent them, can become a justification for intervention with criticism of the destruction of the “common heritage” or “lungs” of the world.

More importantly, it is clear that the United States is the only state that can lead the global way in transitioning to renewable energy. In this sense, the Washington administration may try to mobilize the international community against China in order to maintain its global hegemonic leadership by directing climate-based criticism at Beijing. 

After all, climate change remains a problem that threatens all mankind. Humanity; drought, thirst, inability to access basic food and climate refugees. However, the way in which the major states that raise these issues and actually pollute the environment the most address the issue does not aim to overcome the current crisis. Due to the facr that these states are trying to turn the issue into an opportunity for themselves and try to open the door to a process that will create a basis for legitimacy for new interventions. Moreover, the showdowns on the US-China/Russia and China-India lines are likely to be over climate change.

[1] “COP26 İklim Değişikliği Zirvesi Nedir? Zirvede Neler Konuşulacak?”, Bloomberg,, (Date of Accession: 29.10.2021).

[2] “Dünyanın Gözü 31 Ekim’de Glasgow’da Başlayacak COP26 İklim Zirvesi’nde Olacak”, Anadolu Ajansı,, (Date of Accession: 29.10.2021).

[3] Aynı yer.

[4] “COP26 İklim Zirvesi: Başarı Şansı Var mı?”, Euro Topics,, (Date of Accession: 29.10.2021).

[5] “Why the COP26 Climate Summit Will Be Both Crucial and Disappointing”, The Economist,, (Date of Accession: 29.10.2021).

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin EROL
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin EROL
Born in 1969, Dörtyol-Hatay, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol graduated from Boğaziçi University (BU), Department of Political Science and International Relations in 1993. After completing his master's degree at BU in 1995, Erol was accepted to the PhD program at BU in the same year. After completing his PhD at Ankara University in 2005, Erol became an associate professor in the field of “International Relations” in 2009 and a professor in 2014. Erol worked at the Eurasian Center for Strategic Studies (ASAM) between 2000 and 2006 and and served as the General Coordinator of ASAM for a period. In 2009, he served as also Founding Chairman and Board Member of the Institute for Strategic Thinking (SDE). He is also the Founding President of the Center for International Strategy and Security Studies (USGAM) and the President of the International Relations Institute of the New Türkiye Strategic Research Center (YTSAM). Prof. Erol has also served as the Director of Gazi University Strategic Research Center (GAZISAM). In 2007, Prof. Erol received the “Turkish World Service Award” from the Writers and Artists Foundation of the Turkic World (TÜRKSAV), and has received numerous awards for his academic work and his activities in the media. Some of them can be listed as follows: 2013 “Print Media of the Year Award” by the Association of Contemporary Democrats, 2015 “APM 10th Year Service Award”, “2015 Press-Intellectual of the Year Award” by the Writers' Union of Türkiye (YTB), “2016 Volunteer Ambassadors Media Honor Award” by the Anatolian Village Guards and Martyrs' Families, “2016 Türkiye Honor Award” by the Yoruk Turkmen Federations. Prof. Erol has 15 book studies. The names of some of them are as follows: “The United States of Turks from Dream to Reality”, “Türkiye-EU Relations: Foreign Policy and Internal Structure Problems”, “The New Great Game in Eurasia”, “The Search for Strategy in Turkish Foreign Policy”, “The Search for Security in Turkish Foreign Policy”, “The Republic of Türkiye-Russian Federation Relations”, “The Cold Organization of Hot Peace: The New NATO”, “Theoretical Approaches in Foreign Policy Analysis: The Case of Turkish Foreign Policy”, “Crises and Crisis Management: Actors and Case Studies”, “Kazakhstan” and “Current Issues in International Relations”. Since 2002, Prof. Erol, who has carried out radio programs such as “Eurasia Agenda”, “Strategic Perspective”, “Global Perspective”, “Analysis”, “File”, “News Desk”, “The Other Side of the Agenda” on TRT Türkiye's voice and TRT Radio 1 (Ankara Radio), made the programs “Arayış” on TRT INT television between 2004-2007, “Beyond the Border” on Kanal A television between 2007-2010 and “Foreign Policy Agenda” on BBN TÜRK television in 2020-2021. Prof. Erol, whose foreign policy column “Arayış” was published in Milli Gazete between 2012-2018, is consulted for his expertise in numerous national and international media outlets such as television, radio, newspapers, news websites and magazines. Prof. Erol, who also taught at Gazi University Department of International Relations and Ankara University Latin American Studies Center (LAMER) between 2006-2018, has been continuing his academic career as a faculty member at Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University Department of International Relations since 2018. Since 2006, Prof. Erol has also taught in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Ufuk University. The main areas of interest and expertise of Prof. Erol and the titles of his courses at the undergraduate, master's and doctoral levels in this area are as follows: “Geopolitics”, “Security”, “Intelligence”, “Crisis Management”, “Current Issues in International Relations”, “Turkish Foreign Policy”, “Russian Foreign Policy”, “US Foreign Policy” and “Central Asia and South Asia”. Prof. Erol, whose articles-evaluations have been published in many journals and newspapers, has been editor of academic journals such as “Eurasia File”, “Strategic Analysis”, “Strategic Thinking”, “Gazi Regional Studies”, “The Journal of SSPS”, “Black Sea Studies”. He is currently in the editorial boards of “Regional Studies,” “International Crisis and Political Research,” “Gazi Academic View”, “Ege University Turkish World Surveys”, “Ankara International Social Sciences”, “Democracy Platform”. Prof. Erol, who has been working as the Founding President of the Ankara Center for Crisis and Political Studies (ANKASAM) since 2016, is married and has three children.