Climate Change, Capitalism and Society
Article by Luke Newman
Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash
When one dictator has isolated himself from the diplomacy of global politics, severing their oil supply and exports from the western world, another will come to replace him. This is the current philosophy of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will be flying to Saudi Arabia to meet Mohammed bin Salman in what is believed to be a discussion of increasing oil production in order to levy the ongoing sore in petrol prices and reduce reliance on oil from Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
One might question how the global north came to rely so heavily on Russian exports for their infrastructure when diplomatic relations with Russia have been reaching boiling point over the last decade, but a more important question to ask is will Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi Arabian monarchy be any different? To liken one dictator to a drug dealer seems humorous when Johnson is travelling halfway across the world to meet another oil baron, and if Putin has really got the West ‘hooked’ on oil, then surely it would be better to treat a nation of addicts rather than sourcing them a cheaper fix. Such questions are unfortunately irrelevant to Johnson, and every other political leader desperately trying to fill a Putin-shaped hole in their economy, as political leaders are mere actors in a system that has become overly reliant on market lead solutions since the advent of neoliberalism. When humans travel 23 billion km a day, leaders ignore genocide, political suppression and human rights violations in the name of one thing: oil.
Johnson visiting the Saudi monarchy hardly comes as a surprise when you examine how the Country’s economic boom has coincided with the steadily increasing price of oil and their global Prominence in media and sports, as well as becoming the second biggest tourist hot spot in the middle east. The recent acquisition of Newcastle United FC by the Saudi monarchy in 2021 closely resembles the acquisition of Chelsea FC by Roman Abramovich in 2003 and is the most recent development in a string of acquisition by the Saudi government in an attempt to ‘sports wash’ their record on human rights violations. When chess, tennis and golf championships are being acquired in rapid succession, on top of a decade-long agreement to race with Formula 1, it becomes clear that the global north is either ignorant or indifferent to the humanitarian crisis currently occurring in Yemen, and sadly, the latter appears to be the case.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is one of the greatest failures of modern political diplomacy, yet is hardly discussed when compared to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Such ignorance is surely a result of implicit racism and a lack of empathy for those who don’t share the colour of our own skin, however, when you consider the lack of NATO membership from Yemen and the rising global prominence of the Saudi monarchy, it becomes obvious why the global north have been neglecting the ongoing plights of Yemenis in the last half of this decade.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen bears many resemblances to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, however, one is being ignored for the sake of oil and the other cannot be ignored because it is on our doorstep. Will the 100,000 who have been killed as a result of the war since 2014 be included in the annual list of climate deaths? Or the 80,000 who have starved to death as a result of the ongoing famine? The answer to these questions is no, as it implies responsibility and willingness from the global north to allow the crisis to continue in its current state, picking and choosing when to play world police but only in scenarios where the defendant is white.
If Chelsea is stripped from its owner as a result of the Ukrainian invasion, how long will it take for Mohammed bin Salman to also be sanctioned? If history is any sort of indicator of the future, the answer will only be when the climate catastrophe inevitably destroys white lives.
 Heather Stewart and Aubrey Allegretti, ‘Boris Johnson Going “from Dictator to Dictator” for Oil, Says Starmer’, The Guardian, 15 March 2022, sec. Politics, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/mar/15/boris-johnsongoing-from-dictator-to-dictator-for-oil-says-starmer.
 John Urry, ‘Sociology and Climate Change’, The Sociological Review 57, no. s2 (2009): 84–100, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2010.01887.x.
 David Conn, ‘Saudi Takeover of Newcastle Leaves Human Rights to Fog on the Tyne’, The Guardian, 8 October 2021, sec. Football, https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2021/oct/08/saudi-takeover-of-newcastleleaves-human-rights-to-fog-on-the-tyne.
 Ruth Michaelson, ‘Saudi Arabia Has Spent at Least $1.5bn on “Sportswashing”, Report Reveals’, The Guardian, 28 March 2021, sec. World news, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/28/saudi-arabia-has-spent-atleast-15bn-on-sportswashing-report-reveals.