The South Asian subcontinent, particularly India and Pakistan, is experiencing a severe heatwave, with temperatures rising to a record 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), 5 to 8 degrees Celsius (9 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal. These extreme temperatures have life-threatening health and safety impacts, with the most marginalized people, such as agricultural and construction workers and people without stable housing, being the worst affected.
As a coalition of communities on the frontlines of resistance to fossil fuels in the U.S., People vs. Fossil Fuels recognizes that the South Asian heatwave is not an accident of nature. It is a predictable consequence of the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels worldwide and will continue to become more common if we do not immediately phase out fossil fuels.
The U.S. government shoulders a large share of the blame for this catastrophic heatwave and should be held accountable. The U.S. is the world’s largest oil and gas producer, and far from coming up with a plan to phase out oil and gas production with a just transition for workers and communities, the Biden administration is pushing for expansion of gas production and exports while paying lip service to the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. It is also leasing public lands for oil and gas drilling at a higher rate than the Trump administration, sacrificing Indigenous, Black, and low-wealth communities and breaking campaign promises.
Wealthy countries as a whole are to blame for the adverse impacts on people in India and Pakistan today. Their outsized cumulative and per capita greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for the global climate crisis, but countries in the Global South face some of the worst consequences of climate chaos. This is a particularly poignant reality for South Asia. The plunder of the subcontinent by the British East India Company was a major source of the capital investment that fueled the Industrial Revolution, and consequently, the climate crisis.
At the same time, we also recognize the harmful role played by governments on the subcontinent.
India is the world’s second largest coal producer, and even as poor and marginalized people in the country suffer from a horrific heatwave, the government of India is displacing Adivasi (Indigenous) peoples from their homelands to expand coal mining, to benefit politically connected corporations. The Modi government is also encouraging violence against Muslims and other minorities in India, instead of responding with urgency to the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.
In Pakistan, there has been a recent loss of democratic space, with a popular elected government removed under questionable circumstances.
South Asia has a long tradition of vibrant, powerful social movements, as exemplified by the recent victory of the Indian farmers’ movement against unjust farm procurement laws. As a coalition of U.S. frontline communities and their supporters, we in the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition view these movements as our counterparts in South Asia. We stand in solidarity with them as they fight for justice against their own governments and against an international political and economic order that values the profits of the fossil fuel industry over their lives.
Our coalition will continue to push President Biden to end the era of fossil fuels, to free frontline communities in the U.S. and people in South Asia and elsewhere in the Global South from the serious threats that fossil fuels pose to our lives.