22 min read

Subscriber Early Release: S8 Ep4 | Constitutional Violation

Subscriber Early Release: S8 Ep4 | Constitutional Violation

Melinda Janki has filed seven separate cases aimed at blocking oil drilling in Guyana, but only one of them explicitly names climate change as a problem the project is guaranteed to exacerbate. It’s a constitutional case that invokes Guyana’s constitutional right to a healthy environment—an amendment Janki herself helped to write. Plaintiffs Dr. Troy Thomas and Quedad DeFreitas argue that the government’s choice to fast-track permits and oil production threatens their right to a healthy environment, and the rights of future generations too. The government of Guyana argues that, ironically, it needs oil money to adapt to climate change.

Damages S3 E4 v32


Dr. Troy Thomas: [00:00:05] I grew up on an island called Wakanam. It's an island in the Essequibo river and it's low. Right at about or even below sea level. An important feature you notice on the island is there is what we call a seawall or a sea dam that's necessary for keeping the ocean out. [00:00:29][24.0]

Amy Westervelt: [00:00:33] This is Dr. Troy Thomas. He's a math professor at the University of Ghana. It's easy to tell when you're talking to him that he's a professor. That quick description of his home island you just heard actually spanned about 5 minutes because he wanted to explain a few things along the way, like what sort of island Wakanam is. [00:00:53][19.7]

Dr. Troy Thomas: [00:00:54] It's not a rock sticking up in the ocean quite like we might have for a lot of Caribbean islands. It's an island form from the position where the the large river brings down all this material from higher areas and deposited at the mouth of the river. [00:01:16][22.3]

Amy Westervelt: [00:01:17] There are more than 300 islands like these in the Essequibo River, which is Guyana's largest. And having to keep the ocean out is not a problem that's unique to Wakanam. [00:01:30][12.5]

Dr. Troy Thomas: [00:01:31] While it's a large landmass, you find that more than 90% of its population reside on a narrow strip. The coastal strip and that coastal strip where the population resides is below sea level. [00:01:49][17.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:01:50] That's not because Guyanese people have a particular affinity for the coast. [00:01:54][4.0]

Dr. Troy Thomas: [00:01:55] And what happened is that a lot of the land on the coastal area would have been reclaimed from the sea, I think mainly by the Dutch. That's something we inherited from the days of colonialism and slavery and all that. You know, the colonies were really designed to get labor in, if you can call that atrocity labor, and to get whatever is produced out. That is our legacy and that's where the population exists. [00:02:26][30.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:02:27] Today, thanks to rising sea levels caused by climate change. The people who live on the coast, 90% of the country's total population, are directly in harm's way. [00:02:39][12.2]

Dr. Troy Thomas: [00:02:40] So what I have seen within my lifetime is that we've been getting more frequent flooding where the sea is actually coming in. And this seems to happen a few times per year. And that has a knock on effects. If you have saltwater coming in, then it's going to start to affect farming. It's going to affect animals. It's not just the sea, the inconvenience of flooding now and then. [00:03:15][34.3]

Amy Westervelt: [00:03:16] When ExxonMobil first discovered oil in Guyana in 2015, Dr. Troy Thomas focused on the same thing everyone else did: The contract. At the time, he was head of Transparency Institute Guyana, a government watchdog group. So he was looking into the role that government corruption might have played in the contract that eventually led him to file a lawsuit challenging the permits the government had given to Exxon. The law in Guyana stipulates that drilling and exploration permits are only valid for five years and then you need to reapply. But Exxon had permits good for more than 20 years. [00:03:53][37.4]

Dr. Troy Thomas: [00:03:54] We actually got those permits reduced to the correct timeframe. [00:03:59][5.0]

Amy Westervelt: [00:04:01] Dr. Thomas was represented by Melinda Janki, and it was one of her first attempts to block oil drilling in the country. As time went on, Dr. Thomas started to think about the more long term impacts of the offshore drilling project. [00:04:14][13.5]

Dr. Troy Thomas: [00:04:16] I have small kids. What kind of environment we leaving for them? And if you don't have a healthy environment, you don't have the basis for anything really. [00:04:28][12.4]

Amy Westervelt: [00:04:31] So he and Melinda Janki started working together on a different sort of case, one that takes the long view. That's our story today. I'm Amy Westervelt. And this is Light, Sweet Crude. [00:04:44][12.4]

Amy Westervelt: [00:04:59] Last episode, we talked about how attorney Melinda Janki helped shape Guyana's environmental legislation, including its constitutional right to a healthy environment. In May 2021, Janki went to court to defend that right on behalf of Dr. Troy Thomas and Quedad De Freitas. De Freitas is a young Indigenous man from Guyana, south Rupunuuni region, which borders the Brazilian Amazon. They argued that the greenhouse gas pollution created by petroleum drilling in the country violates citizens right to a healthy environment and that the government is failing to do what the Constitution requires of it to protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations. The case was filed against the Guyanese government, not ExxonMobil. But the judge in the case quickly added the oil company to their first course of action has been to try to get any of Dr. Thomas's testimony that mentions climate change thrown out, even references he's made to ExxonMobil's own internal documents about climate change. Their argument is, get ready for it. He is not a climate scientist, but there are tons of climate reports written for non-specialists, including most of those internal ExxonMobil documents. [00:06:20][81.5]

Melinda Janki: [00:06:22] According to Esso, climate change is a matter of scientific opinion. Climate change is not fact. They say that all of these things need to be proved by experts and that Dr. Thomas is not an expert and therefore cannot say that climate change exists or that extreme weather exist, etc.. In addition, we have quoted extensively, of course, from associated documents, including the greenhouse gas review that came out, I think around about 1989 or sometime around then. They say this is hearsay and they want to take it out. [00:06:57][34.7]

Amy Westervelt: [00:06:57] Their own documents are hearsay? [00:06:58][1.3]

Melinda Janki: [00:06:59] They say that their own document is hearsay and has to be taken out. We have also referred to Darren Woods as testimony on oath to Congress last year in October 2021, when he said that ExxonMobil has long known about climate change. And they say that this this also is hearsay and should be taken out. [00:07:19][20.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:07:22] In 2023, A new peer reviewed study into Exxon was published in the journal Science by Dr. Jeffrey, supra, and his colleagues at Harvard University. It showed that not only did Exxon's own scientists suspect that burning fossil fuels was changing the climate in potentially dangerous ways, but that they were terrifyingly accurate in those predictions. I asked Super Dan what he thinks about some of the arguments Exxon subsidiary Esso is making in Guyana. [00:07:52][30.1]

Geoffrey Supran: [00:07:54] I mean what can you say, is pretty flabbergasting. It does in some ways mirror for instance, the tobacco industry's gradual shift in public affairs focus from the West to other parts of the world. When regulations and campaigns and scientists studied clamping down on them in the US and Europe. They started to target China and India and South America and other demographics with equally, if not more heinous messaging campaigns and tactics. So clearly, it's it's astonishing right now at this point that they're just contradicting what they knew decades ago. They're contradicting what they say on their own website. All I can say is tell me where they're going, testify in. [00:08:41][47.2]

Amy Westervelt: [00:08:43] Janki is waiting to find out if the judge will approve Exxon's request to leave several paragraphs of Dr. Thomas's testimony out. But Thomas is not overly concerned. He says either way, the argument and the ask are clear. [00:08:58][14.7]

Dr. Troy Thomas: [00:08:59] It's not petroleum per se. It's not about ExxonMobil or some specific oil company. It's that this thing that we're doing has a net negative impact on our well-being, which our Constitution seeks to guarantee. And it's nowhere being close. It's nowhere near net zero or anything like that. It's terrible habits of then for me as a citizen. This is the law of my land. And I'm saying to my government, look what we have here. Look what you're doing. This is operating outside of what the law says. So you can get into economic ventures, but your economic ventures cannot have this kind of impact on my health and well-being. [00:09:52][52.7]

Amy Westervelt: [00:09:54] The question of balancing climate concerns with the need for economic development is not unique to Guyana. Of course it's global. But there's a particular argument that's been growing louder as oil companies fast track projects in Global South countries. [00:10:10][16.8]

Alex Epstein: [00:10:12] So when you deprive people of fossil fuels, you deprive them of things like clean water. [00:10:15][3.4]

Amy Westervelt: [00:10:16] Alex Epstein is the author of a book called The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, which was first published in 2014 but has had a bit of a resurgence lately. That clip that you just heard was from a talk he was invited to give at Google in 2017. In his book, Epstein argues that fossil fuel use correlates with increased life expectancy and improved well-being. He also argues that fossil fuels are cheap and abundant and that their benefits far outweigh the risks. A whole army of pundits and politicians have begun echoing this argument in recent years. [00:10:51][35.2]

Jordan B. Peterson: [00:10:53] When push comes to shove. It's like, is it the environment or poor people? If your idea is that we have to limit growth to save the planet. If we limit growth, poor people starve. [00:11:03][10.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:11:04] That's Canadian philosopher and frequent Joe Rogan podcast guest Jordan Peterson. Michael Shellenberger made similar arguments in his book Apocalypse Never. [00:11:14][10.9]

Michael Shellenberger: [00:11:16] The idea that the Congo would need to limit its emissions is offensive. Poor countries should be like, get a hydroelectric dam or a coal plant or a nuclear plant or whatever, because they're poor. Full stop. That's it. There's no negotiation. That's it. [00:11:30][14.3]

Amy Westervelt: [00:11:31] Fossil fuel lobbyists and spokespeople make this argument all the time, too, of course. Here is Mandy going to Sakara is spokesperson for the CO2 coalition testifying to Congress during a hearing on climate disinformation in 2019. [00:11:45][14.5]

Mandy Gunesekara, CO2 Coalition: [00:11:47] And parts of the developing world. Life expectancy today is 10 to 20 years shorter and children under five regularly succumb to preventable diseases. The reality is that we could change these outcomes by sharing our successful energy technologies, not by prohibiting their use as a result of misaligned environmental policies. [00:12:05][17.9]

Dr. Julia Steinberger:: [00:12:06] At that point in time, there was published research that already showed that increasing energy use is not necessary to increase life expectancy. [00:12:16][10.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:12:18] That's Julia Steinberger, an ecological economist at the University of Lausanne and a lead author on the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Steinberger has studied the intersection of environmental issues, energy choices, policy and economics for decades. [00:12:36][17.9]

Dr. Julia Steinberger: [00:12:38] So, for instance, I published a paper in almost all the way back in 2010 that showed that the amount of energy required to reach high life expectancy is going down and down and down over time. And so we already had a pretty good level of knowledge to show us that you need a certain amount of energy in order to have some kind of a decent living standard. But that amount does not require an insane amount of growth. It's not like everybody needs to get to the amount of energy that the U.S. is consuming on a per capita basis. Far from that. You know, a 10th of what the US is consuming on a per capita basis would probably do. [00:13:13][35.2]

Amy Westervelt: [00:13:13] You find in most cases the folks making these so-called moral case for fossil fuels don't deny that climate change is happening. That's part of what can make their arguments compelling. Instead, they argue that it's not as bad as it's been made out to be, and that certainly it is not worse than energy poverty. That's a term used to describe a lack of access to a reliable energy source. They argue energy poverty is a much more urgent crisis than climate change. It's one of those arguments that just rings true on the surface. What's good for the gander is good for the goose, right? And you've got to solve more immediate problems like access to energy before you even get into the bigger long term issues like climate change. Got to walk before you run. It also leans on a weakness in the climate movement, which is overwhelmingly white and wealthy and therefore very susceptible to arguments like it's elitist to deny people in Africa the miracle of fossil fuels. [00:14:15][61.7]

Dr. Julia Steinberger: [00:14:16] Just to be clear, the reason that poor people starve is a question of distribution. It is because of a question of imbalance of power. [00:14:24][7.5]

Amy Westervelt: [00:14:25] As for the idea that it's elitist to deprive the global south of fossil fuels. [00:14:30][4.6]

Dr. Joyashree Roy: [00:14:31] This is really important how we manage our emission in this decade. And so, of course, when I just see that many countries are thinking in terms of fossil fuel. I just feel that, you know, those policies are not really well informed by science. [00:14:51][19.4]

Amy Westervelt: [00:14:52] This is Dr. Jayashree Roy, an Indian economist and lead author of the chapter in the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that dealt with the issue of how to tackle development and decarbonization at the same time. [00:15:06][14.1]

Dr. Joyashree Roy: [00:15:07] I see as an economist, you know, I just see that, oh, there is going to be they are committing for so much of stranded assets which will become valueless at the very near future. [00:15:20][12.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:15:21] What Dr. Roy is talking about there is all the oil and gas that the world won't want or need as it transitions away from fossil fuels. These are referred to as stranded assets, and oil companies have been worrying about how to deal with them for years now. Their current strategy is to drill as fast as they can to make as much money as they can before anything gets stranded. [00:15:43][22.3]

Dr. Joyashree Roy: [00:15:45] What worries me is that when these decisions are taken for the fossil fuel expansion, I just feel that how these countries would manage or are they having any built in just transition policy within that? Because when these assets become stranded and people are going to lose their jobs, is there any social protection policy built in so that the investments their employees are protected from job losses? That's something which worries me. [00:16:22][37.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:16:23] Dr. Steinberger also notes that the idea of political compromises around fossil fuel expansion is outdated and unscientific. [00:16:30][6.8]

Dr. Julia Steinberger: [00:16:32] So I think that this talking point is a bit of a holdover, including in climate circles from days gone by when there was more of a carbon budget left for anything. Right now, it's pretty much negative. And so the idea was, well, the global North countries should do the utmost and pay the most to do that. And the global South countries should have more leeway and more time. [00:16:52][20.4]

Amy Westervelt: [00:16:53] That was a big topic of conversation in the nineties and into the 2000. So when the Kyoto Protocol was being hotly debated, it was the first international climate treaty that would have required emissions reductions. At the time, it was the fossil fuel industry that fought hardest against this idea. They used the fact that emissions reductions commitments were not being universally applied to torpedo Kyoto. Here's an example of how they talked about it. [00:17:25][31.4]

GCC Ad: [00:17:25] The U.S.. is preparing to sign a United Nations treaty on the global climate, but their global agreement isn't global. 132 of 166 countries are exempt. So while the United States is forced to make drastic cuts in energy use, countries like India, China and Mexico are not countries responsible for almost half the world's emissions won't have to cut back. Check it out for yourself. It's not global. And it won't work. [00:17:52][0.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:17:53] Now it's the industry arguing that global sales countries should be allowed to continue using and developing fossil fuels for longer. [00:18:01][7.4]

Dr. Julia Steinberger: [00:18:03] You know, it's a bit like the tobacco industry. This is another sort of tobacco industry trajectory that the fossil fuel companies are following. So the Marlboro Man never died. I mean, of course, he didn't die of lung cancer, the real Norman. But, you know, the saying is he he never died. He just moved to Africa. And the fossil fuel companies are kind of doing the same thing. They're basically lobbying African governments and really trying to get across this message that in order to develop Africa needs fossil fuels because of so much inaction, because of the great acceleration in emissions that the time has passed, we're no longer in it in a time when that's a reasonable kind of statement according to the math of emissions to make anymore. So that's one one issue. The other issue is that it is no longer cheaper to build a coal power plant than to build a renewable power plant. If you're if you're basically encouraging an African country at this point to invest in fossil fuel electricity generation, you're encouraging them to go into debt and spend more and more money into the future than they would need to for any renewable technology. So that's also a very, very questionable thing to do on on any kinds of grounds. Do fossil fuel companies are really trying to, you know, die in the global north perhaps, but create ongoing, almost colonial dependance in the global South. [00:19:26][82.5]

Amy Westervelt: [00:19:28] Most media reports that have grappled with the so-called moral case for fossil fuels have criticized messengers like Alex Epstein, Jordan Peterson and Michael Shellenberger reporting on faults in their ideologies or past histories. But economic research has debunked the message itself, too. There's no data to back up the claim that we need to increase fossil fuel development to solve poverty. [00:19:55][27.0]

Dr. Julia Steinberger: [00:19:57] We can conclusively put it in a coffin, banging the lid with big old nails, saying fossil fuel use does not contribute significantly to improvements in life expectancy. [00:20:12][14.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:20:13] Research from Dr. Steinberger and other economists over the past several decades has also found over and over again that we do not, in fact, rely on fossil fuels for improvements to our quality of life either. [00:20:26][13.0]

Dr. Julia Steinberger: [00:20:28] The first article that counters this and counters it in a way that is extremely convincing and statistically robust and so on was actually published in 1974 in Science. It's called energy and Lifestyle. It basically says American quality of life would be just as high if we used a fraction of the energy we are using. And it demonstrates it using a statistical method that is perfectly robust. And so this this idea that we need more economic activity, more resource use, more energy use in order to have high quality of life or health or living standards is is really quite false. [00:21:06][38.7]

Amy Westervelt: [00:21:08] It's not just economic studies that show fossil fuels don't actually correlate with improved life expectancy or increased per capita wealth. Does the promise of oil wealth actually pan out for these countries generally? [00:21:23][15.5]

Steve Coll: [00:21:24] It does not pan out for anyone other than the elites of those countries. That's what the record shows. [00:21:30][5.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:21:31] This is Steve Coll, the journalist who wrote the book Private Empire, about ExxonMobil. While working on that book, Carl spent years traveling to Chad and Equatorial Guinea in Venezuela to get a sense of how Exxon operated outside the U.S.. [00:21:46][14.8]

Steve Coll: [00:21:47] What happens is that the elites that control the resource that produces sudden wealth and sudden opportunity generally don't distribute the benefits equitably. And I'm not even talking about some utopian socialist kind of perfect distribution, but even just to reinvest it in a sustainable strategy of private enterprise led development just generally doesn't happen. And it's not just about the greed of elites. It's also about the way sudden wealth distorts. The patterns of investment in a country by essentially alleviating the pressure to educate a new generation of young scientists and tech entrepreneurs or wealth creators or people who are going to figure out how to save and improve agriculture in an era of climate change. That all of these urgent problems that are emerging countries face in the global South, I mean, they get displaced by the easy money that comes from a resource boom. [00:23:08][80.3]

Amy Westervelt: [00:23:09] The example development economists most often give is a comparison between South Korea and Nigeria. It's not a perfect example because, of course there are non-economic cultural reasons for the way that countries develop too. But it's an interesting contrast. [00:23:23][14.1]

Steve Coll: [00:23:25] I mean, in the 1950s, Nigeria and South Korea had roughly the same per capita income, and they were both very poor countries. South Korea had just emerged from a terrible long experience of war and occupation, and Nigeria was blessed with this huge oil bounty. And South Korea chose to kind of industrialize on its own without a lot of resources. And in a single generation, one country got rich and the other one, you know, cycled through the resource curse. And, you know, economists point to that and say statistically, Nigeria may look like it had greater wealth. But in the experience of its society, the wealth, you know, ran offshore and and often kind of displaced opportunities that Nigeria might have had to build a more sustainable economy. [00:24:26][61.3]

Amy Westervelt: [00:24:29] There are examples in North America, too. In Canada, Alberta's trillions of dollars in oil and gas revenues have benefited companies tremendously, but its schools are carrying a $50 million budget deficit. In Louisiana, residents pay about 10% higher than the national average for energy, despite having been an oil and gas state for decades. So if we've seen this happen all over the world, where oil makes companies and maybe a few key politicians and consultants a lot of money but leaves everyone else worse off, then why would it be any different in Guyana, especially when there's nothing forcing it to be different? Here's Melinda Janki again. [00:25:12][42.7]

Melinda Janki: [00:25:15] It is incredibly stupid for anybody to say, well, because you did something bad and broke it, we now have a right to do something bad and break it even further. It's morally indefensible, of course, but it is also incredibly stupid because the climate, the global climate system is precisely what it says. It's a global climate system. [00:25:40][25.4]

Amy Westervelt: [00:25:42] Janki particularly bristles when that argument is disguised as a concern for justice by NGOs and pundits, who often suggest that Global South countries should be given more time to transition off of fossil fuels. [00:25:57][14.8]

Melinda Janki: [00:25:59] Why would you say that? when every single former colony people are saying, Stop the oil, we don't want it in places like Uganda and Mozambique? You know, they're putting their lives on the line to stop oil. You sit in your comfortable university room and say, Oh, well, I've decided to talk in the interest of justice, since people shouldn't have to get rid of fossil fuels until 2050. And in order to make this really fair, the first world should now naturally convert to renewable energy. In other words, only white people go straight for renewable energy from the stuff on the Third World. Do this under the guise of a just transition. [00:26:49][49.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:26:50] All the white people go straight for renewable energy, dump the fossil fuels on the Third World. But I'm doing this under the guise of just transition. Jackie has a very different view on the morality of fossil fuels than the many global North white men who pontificate on the subject. Guyana currently acts as a carbon sink. It absorbs far more CO2 than it emits. Jenkins says that instead of embracing fossil fuel development, Guyana could sell carbon sink services to the rest of the world and use that money to transition to cleaner sources of energy. She worries that the country's embrace of oil will destroy its natural capital and leave it behind in the global push toward energy transition. And that's way more dangerous than missing out on fossil fuels. [00:27:43][53.1]

Melinda Janki: [00:27:45] I think it's really important that people stop thinking of Guyana as a developing country that needs to be helped and starts looking at us and saying, well, these these guys are a carbon sink and they are under threat because of ExxonMobil and the other oil companies. And we have a responsibility to rein in those oil companies because those are oil companies coming from the global north. [00:28:12][27.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:28:14] For decades, global South countries have been asking for funding that rewards environmental stewardship, including carbon storage and for development financing that enables a transition away from fossil fuels. Negotiators from the island nation of Vanuatu first brought this idea up at a UN climate negotiations summit in 1991. More than 20 years later, in 2013, Yeb Sano was representing his home country of the Philippines at another UN climate summit when a super typhoon destroyed his hometown. [00:28:48][33.9]

Yeb Sano: [00:28:50] We have to ask ourselves, can we ever attain the ultimate objective of the convention, which is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system by failing to meet the objective of the convention? We may have ratified our own doom, and if we have failed to meet the objectives of the convention, we have to confront the issue of loss and damage. [00:29:12][22.0]

Amy Westervelt: [00:29:14] Sano made an impassioned plea at the meeting. He announced he was going to start a hunger strike until rich countries agreed to help countries like the Philippines prepare for super typhoons and other disasters that will become more severe and more frequent with climate change. Global North countries agreed to create a fund of $100 billion per year by the year 2020. In the ten years that have followed, those countries, including the United States, have backtracked and minimized the small commitment they made. Instead of focusing on compensation, global North countries wanted to focus on solidarity, sharing, technical know how, and providing loans to countries that are no longer able to get insurance as disasters become more frequent and severe. But Global South countries argue that not only were they in this mess because of the global North's chosen path of development, but also they were too broke to deal with it because of colonialism. [00:30:18][64.1]

Harpreet Paul: [00:30:19] It clear that colonialism in the fossil fuel era reconfigured the world economy. [00:30:23][4.0]

Amy Westervelt: [00:30:25] This is Harpreet Paul, a human rights lawyer and expert in UN climate finance negotiations. [00:30:29][4.8]

Harpreet Paul: [00:30:31] The Indian Subcontinent's share of the global economy shrank from 27 to 3% between 1719 50, and it's estimated that at the same time, the UK benefited by approximately 45 trillion USD from its colonial rule off the Indian subcontinent alone. And there are similar stories to be told of colonial endeavors in the Americas and in the African continent and beyond. [00:31:03][31.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:31:04] In other words, the economic costs of climate change are only the latest in a long history of economic extraction and transfer of wealth away from global South countries and indigenous peoples. The loss and damage fund that rich countries agreed to create was meant to begin to repay that debt with $100 billion a year. But so far, contributions have fallen far short of that goal, and any money that has come in has mostly been in the form of loans that are putting countries further into debt. It's been described as a climate debt trap. Here's Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Motley. [00:31:41][37.3]

Mia Motley: [00:31:43] Bottom line is the bill that we have to borrow, our where we borrow it is added to a debt to GDP. When our debt to GDP raises our credit rates and drops and then we are unable to meet the basic fundamental demands that normal development requires of us. There has to be a recognition of being able to isolate that debt, which is necessary to build resilience or to build back from climate disaster as opposed to the normal aspects of development. [00:32:15][32.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:32:17] Instead, as Harjeet Singh, who's followed these negotiations for several years, explains, polluters continue to receive incentives in the form of subsidies from their home governments. [00:32:28][10.9]

Harjeet Singh: [00:32:29] They are getting subsidies to the tune of $11 million a minute, $11 million a minute. And yet they are not being held accountable and they're using these public resources and further causing the problem. [00:32:47][18.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:32:48] In that context, it's easy to see why Global South countries with fossil fuel resources like Guyana are turning to the unlikeliest of sources global oil majors to pay for climate adaptation. Here's Antonia Juhasz, the investigative journalist we heard from last time. [00:33:07][19.1]

Antonia Juhasz: [00:33:09] 90% of the population lives on the coast. So 90% of the population is expected to live in a place is going to be underwater by 2030. You're going to move 90% of the population where there's no good example anywhere in the world of relocation to where because we're in Guyana isn't impacted by climate. That's the other thing, isn't already being harmed by extreme weather. And and where is the money going to come from? So if the money is supposedly going to come from the oil, that means you have to drill the oil, which you're going to burn, which is how you further destroy the climate so that you can move the people to get away from the results of the climate crisis. You do have to think about moving people. You don't want them to be underwater. But one really good step while you're thinking about planning to move people is to stop the thing that's forcing you to move them. Guyana very much wants to, like many others in the world today, say that it can pay to protect its forests by drilling for oil. And it's a devil's bargain. [00:34:11][62.7]

Amy Westervelt: [00:34:14] Janki is not ready to accept that bargain. She's tireless in her commitment to this work. But she's also fighting a pretty solitary fight. Most of her countrymen don't want to see the Guyanese industry killed off so much as they want oil money to actually make their lives better. And that includes the country's environmentalists. [00:34:36][22.3]

Dane Gobin: [00:34:39] So we have a relationship, as you know, with Exxon Foundation, and that's a long term grant for four years. And yes, the obvious question is, you know, should we be taking money from the oil companies? [00:34:49][9.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:34:51] That's our story next time