Source: Times of India, May 14, 2022
It is sometimes thought that history and science are polar opposites — yet, the twain meet in climate change. Climate science illuminates the history of global warming from the 19th century when, fuelled by colonialism and the Industrial Revolution, western nations began using fossil fuels intensively. This emitted greenhouse gases that changed Earth’s atmospheric balances.
The manifestations are clear now — the World Meteorological Organization reports, climate disasters, from heatwaves to floods, have surged five-fold over the last 50 years, with climate hazards accounting for 50% of all disasters and 74% of all economic losses. These losses are neither created, nor borne equally. The IMF finds the world’s richest countries caused over 40% of CO2 emissions while the World Bank estimates the poorest caused under 15%. The world’s richest 1% emit more than the poorest 50% — yet, the latter face climate change’s harshest impacts.
Consider Mozambique which produces only 0.09% of global emissions. Yet, Mozambique faces droughts and a famine where, the World Food Programme finds, 80% people cannot afford adequate food. Such climate injustice prevails within nations too — in Nigeria, the poorest 20% are 130% more likely to be affected by droughts while in India, the poor lose three times more in climate disasters. With four billion people — mostly in the developing global south-facing even chronic water shortages, the World Bank estimates that by 2030, 135 million people could be pushed into climate-caused poverty.
Remedies have been promised. In 2009, developing countries were assured $100 billion annually for climate adaptations. But these have been honoured more in their breach than observance — ironically, in 2019, 71% climate finance was distributed as loans, not grants, pushing climate-stressed nations into debt. But climate justice is crucial to save the world — it is the only way developing economies can achieve
sustainable growth while developed economies can correctly acknowledge their debt to history and science.