A few weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international organization composed of United Nations and World Meteorological Organization members, released a crucial report synthesizing the research of hundreds of scientists on climate change’s physical science, impacts, adaptation, and mitigation.
The IPCC synthesis report stressed that humans are now experiencing an unprecedented climate transformation that we brought upon ourselves and all the other beings on this planet. It predicts a 50% chance that global temperatures will reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C warming levels between 2021 and 2040. Every degree of increase will escalate the occurrence of extreme floods, storms, and droughts; the rise of more diseases such as malaria and Lyme disease; and the likelihood of multiple species disappearing off the face of this earth –– including ours.
If all of this sounds grim and disconcerting, wait until you hear that minorities and people from developing countries such as the Philippines stand to suffer the most from the worsening climate. Vulnerable communities will be made even more vulnerable, LGBT+ people included.
One of the lessons we learned when Covid-19 triggered a barrage of lockdowns worldwide was that the systemic vulnerabilities our community faced before Covid came only left us more exposed during the pandemic. Unequal access and the deprioritization of necessary health services (such as HIV testing), the loss of work and livelihood (especially for queer people in precarious situations, like the Golden Gays), and the further stigmatization and discrimination of the LGBT+ community have led to a worsened quality of life.
For some, that even meant death.
And that’s only a glimpse of what’s about to come should the climate situation devolve into unlivable scenarios. Time and time again, it’s always the less privileged and minorities who are made dispensable — the victims and scapegoats of social panic and mass hysteria.
There is also the queer community’s uneasy alliance with corporations that fund us with money that our future selves will pay dearly for.
To note, I can’t help but feel intensely conflicted that the fossil fuel company Shell is actively supporting the Filipino queer community through advocacy efforts and the support of LGBT+ and HIV organizations (such as LoveYourself) as it makes billions off its destructive business.
(Full disclosure: when I was the advertising manager for the defunct gay magazine TEAM, I oversaw our collaboration for International Coming Out Day.)
The Scientific American reports: “According to the documents, Shell recognized in the 1980s that it played a role in global warming and that the threat from rising temperatures was growing. The research determined that the company generated 4 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 1984, from its production of oil, gas, and coal. In a 1988 internal report, marked ‘Confidential,’ Shell researchers noted that ‘the main cause of increasing CO2 concentrations is considered to be fossil fuel burning.’ By 1988, internal deliberations showed that Shell believed the energy industry had a role to play in climate policy.”
Despite this, it took years of climate denialism and massive lobbying by Shell and other oil companies until they sheepishly took responsibility for their role in the worsening climate. Even then, their so-called commitments to become net-zero may just be greenwashing PR fodder: leaked internal communications revealed that the company isn’t “willing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to levels that do not make business sense,” and that “Shell has no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our investment horizon of 10-20 years.”
This alarming and meditated negligence from fossil fuel companies that massively profit from our planet’s destruction is not only unconscionable – it is abhorrent. In a paper to be published in the Harvard Environmental Law Review, George Washington University law professor Donald Braman and consumer advocacy group Public Citizen director David Arkush believe these companies are culpable of climate homicide.
The paper’s authors argue that fossil fuel companies ‘have not simply been lying to the public, they have been killing members of the public at an accelerating rate, and prosecutors should bring that crime to the public’s attention.’
There is much at stake for the queer community in the battle against climate change. We cannot stand on the sidelines, silently yet begrudgingly accepting the help from Shell and other climate change culprits, knowing that the goodwill they receive from being associated with the LGBT+ movement means they will continue to create harm which will inevitably boomerang back to us.
We can act. As we push back against destructive corporations and industries through civic and collective action (such as protesting and voting), we can also make individual changes to mitigate the climate apocalypse, such as eating a plant-based diet, avoiding long-haul flights, taking public transportation, and switching to sustainable energy sources, among other things. (Take a quiz on the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint.)
We are being led to our slaughter. We have to fight for this planet to survive. We have to speak up –– no, we need to scream.
The alternative is a dystopian interpretation of an equal society: a scorched earth with all of us – gay, bi, straight, cisgender, transgender, man, woman, non-binary – equally dead.
Tell the author all about your climate anxieties as a queer person at writerinmanila (at) gmail (dot) com.