It’s Gloves Off as Guyana’s Perky President, With War Clouds Scudding, Schools the BBC on Climate Change

Mohamed Irfaan Ali will brook no silly business when it comes to progressive hypocrisy on climate change.

Noam Galai/Getty Images for Clinton Global Initiative
Mohamed Irfaan Ali during the Clinton Global Initiative September 2023 Meeting at New York Hilton Midtown on September 19, 2023. Noam Galai/Getty Images for Clinton Global Initiative

Greta Thunberg, you just met your match — and he’s a feisty guy from Guyana who happens to be the president of the country and he won’t say no to a lively chat about what some call climate change. And one can watch the whole thing.

President Irfaan Ali just schooled a BBC reporter on some of the fallacies of climate change. He did so in a manner that might give pause to the 21-year-old Swedish climate activist before the savant delivers her next tirade.

In a candid  interview that has gone viral, Mr. Ali calls out the “hypocrisy” of the developed world. He is being queried by BBC journalist Stephen Sackur, no Uriah Heap he, about an oil extraction project and the putative adverse impact it would have on the  climate.

Guyana has offshore oil and gas reserves worth an estimated $150 billion. Mr. Ali asks Mr. Sackur if the BBC sage has the “right to lecture him on climate change” — and completely flips the script. 

“Do you know that Guyana has a forest that is the size of England and Scotland combined? A forest that stores 19.5 gigatons of carbon,” he says, adding,  “I am going to lecture you on climate change because we have kept this forest alive.” 

He then hammers the point home, saying that the carbon reserves that the Guyanese tropical forests hold are those that “you don’t pay us for, that you don’t value, that you don’t see a value in, that the people of Guyana have kept alive.”

“Are you valuing it? Are you ready to pay for it? When is the developed world going to pay for it, or … are you in the pockets of those who have damaged the environment?” he thunders. “Are you and your system in the pockets of those who destroy the environment through the industrial revolution and now are lecturing us?”

The politician, Guyana’s tenth president, says that while the world has lost 65 percent of its biodiversity in the past 50 years, at least by his reckoning, his country has succeeded in avoiding the kind of environmental degradation and deforestation that has occurred in some other countries. 

“We have the lowest deforestation rate in the world,” he states in the interview, adding, “And guess what? Even with our greatest exploration of the oil and gas resources we have now, Guyana will still be ‘net zero’ with all our exploration.”

No mere contrarian, Mr. Ali has the air of someone who is well acquainted with the subject matter at hand as he scolds Mr. Sackur, noted as the presenter of BBC’s “Hard Talk” current events program. 

Guyana’s offshore oil sector is booming. Also, the recent discovery of significant reserves by ExxonMobil has irked the powers that be in Venezuela, reopening an old territorial dispute with that neighboring country over Guyana’s Essequibo region

Why Mr. Sackur choses to fixate on imagined environmental issues instead of a potentially far more consequential geopolitical crisis is not immediately clear. Yet the heated exchange between a pesky English interviewer and refreshingly testy president certainly makes for some lively viewing.

The New York Sun

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