Global warming refers to the rise in global average temperature caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The case of global climate change seems to resemble that of non-smokers getting cancer from second-hand smoke, suggests a new study. The findings revealed that countries emitting the least amount of gasses ironically suffer the most and vice versa.
The University of Queensland and WCS study shows a dramatic global mismatch between nations producing the most greenhouse gases and the ones most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The study shows that 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.
‘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.’
The majority of the most vulnerable countries are African and Small Island States. These countries are exposed to serious environmental change such as oceanic inundation or desertification. They are also generally the least developed nations, having few resources available to cope with these issues.
Lead author Glenn Althor said, "There is an enormous global inequality in which those countries most responsible for causing climate change are the least vulnerable to its effects. It is time that this persistent and worsening climate inequity is resolved, and for the largest emitting countries to act."
Co-author James Watson said, "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."
The study found that 20 of the 36 highest emitting countries, including the U.S. Canada, Australia, China, and much of Western Europe, were least vulnerable. Eleven of the 17 countries with low to moderate emissions were most vulnerable to climate change. Most were found in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
The authors said, "The finding acts as a disincentive for high-emitting 'free-rider' countries to mitigate their emissions. The number of acutely vulnerable countries will worsen by 2030 as climate change related pressures such as droughts, floods, biodiversity loss and disease mount."
The study appears in the Scientific Reports.