Conversely, the biggest emitters are the least affected, according to new study
A study by the University of Queensland and WCS, published in the Scientific Reports journal shows enormous global inequality between emitters versus impacted nations. The highest emitting countries are ironically the least vulnerable to climate change effects such as increased frequency of natural disasters, changing habitats, human health impacts, and industry stress. On the other hand, countries emitting the least amount of greenhouse gases (mainly African, South Asian and Small Island States) face major issues like oceanic inundation or desertification and usually have few resources available to cope with them. More specifically, the study found that 20 of the 36 highest emitting countries – including the United States, Canada, Australia, China, and much of Western Europe – were the least affected, whereas 11 of the 17 countries with low to moderate emissions were the ones facing the biggest problems. The bad news is that the number of acutely vulnerable countries will increase by 2030 as climate change-induced issues such as droughts, floods, biodiversity loss and diseases mount.
“It is time that this persistent and worsening climate inequity is resolved, and for the largest emitting countries to act”, said lead author Glenn Althor of the University of Queensland, while colleague and co-author James Watson adds: “This is like a non-smoker getting cancer from second-hand smoke, while the heavy smokers continue to puff away. Essentially we are calling for the smokers to pay for the health care of the non-smokers they are directly harming’’. As the authors point out, their findings act as a disincentive for high-emitting “free-rider” countries to mitigate their emissions, being the beneficiaries of this climate change inequity.
The figure below shows the global inequity in the responsibility for climate change and the burden of its impacts. Photo courtesy of Glenn Althor, James E. M. Watson & Richard A. Fuller, University of Queensland
(a) Climate change equity for 2010. (b) Climate change equity for 2030. Countries with emissions in the highest quintile and vulnerability in the lowest quintile are shown in dark red (the climate free riders), and those countries with emissions in the lowest quintile and vulnerability in the highest quintile are shown in dark green (the climate forced riders). Intermediate levels of equity are shown in graduating colors, with countries in yellow producing GHG emissions concomitant with their vulnerability to the resulting climate change. Data deficient countries are shown as grey. Maps generated using ESRI ArcGIS.
Source: WCS Newsroom