Sunday, November 17, 2013


The controversy of who is responsible for climate change and thus who must pay for it goes on in light of the latest natural disaster that is linked to climate change. Unless we learn to look at this issue, among others, through communal eyes instead of self interest then no meaningful solution is possible. Each actor thinks that he/she is doing what is good for themselves when in effect they are contributing to a strengthening of the calamitous outcome.

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Growing Clamor About Inequities of Climate Crisis

WARSAW — Following a devastating typhoon that killed thousands in the Philippines, a routine international climate change conference here turned into an emotional forum, with developing countries demanding compensation from the worst polluting countries for damage they say they are already suffering.
Calling the climate crisis “madness,” the Philippines representative vowed to fast for the duration of the talks. Malia Talakai, a negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, a group that includes her tiny South Pacific homeland, Nauru, said that without urgent action to stem rising sea levels, “some of our members won’t be around.”
From the time a scientific consensus emerged that human activity was changing the climate, it has been understood that the nations that contributed least to the problem would be hurt the most. Now, even as the possible consequences of climate change have surged — from the typhoons that have raked the Philippines and India this year to the droughts in Africa, to rising sea levels that threaten to submerge entire island nations — no consensus has emerged over how to rectify what many call “climate injustice.”
Growing demands to address the issue have become an emotionally charged flash point at negotiations here at the 19th conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which continues this week.
“We are in a piece of land which is smaller than Denmark, with a population of 160 million, trying to cope with this extreme weather, trying to cope with the effect of emissions for which we are not responsible,” Farah Kabir, the director in Bangladesh for the anti-poverty organization ActionAid International, said at a news briefing here.
With expectations low for progress here on a treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, widely seen as having failed to make a dent in worldwide carbon emissions, some nations were losing patience with decades of endless climate talks, particularly those who see rising oceans as a threat to their existence.
“We are at these climate conferences essentially moving chess figures across the board without ever being able to bring these negotiations to a conclusion,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said in a telephone interview.
Although the divide between rich and poor nations has bedeviled international climate talks for two decades, the debate over how to address the disproportionate effects has steadily gained momentum. Poor nations here are pressing for a new effort that goes beyond reducing emissions and adapting to a changing climate.
While they have no legal means to seek compensation, they have demanded concrete efforts to address the “loss and damage” that the most vulnerable nations will almost certainly face — the result of fragile environments and structures, and limited resources to respond.
The sheer magnitude and complexity of the issue make such compensation unlikely. The notion of seeking justice for a global catastrophe that affects almost every country — with enormous implications for economic development — is not only immensely complicated but also politically daunting.
It assumes the culpability of the world’s most developed nations, including the United States and those in Europe, and implies a moral responsibility to bear the costs, even as those same nations seek to draft a new treaty over the next two years that would for the first time compel reductions by rapidly emerging nations like China and India. As a group, developing countries will within a decade have accounted for more than half of all historical emissions, making them responsible for a large share of the continuing impact humanity will make, if not the impact already made.
Assigning liability for specific events — like Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with winds of at least 140 miles an hour, making it one of the strongest storms on record — is nearly impossible. It can take scientists years just to determine whether global warming contributed to the severity of a particular weather event, if it can be determined at all.
Many negotiators here have pressed to create a new mechanism that effectively accepts the idea that the results of climate change are irreversible and that the countries that are hit hardest first must be compensated.
“We’ve reached a stage where we cannot adapt anymore,” said Ronald Jumeau, the United Nations representative for the Seychelles, who is his country’s chief negotiator here. He noted the devastating effects not only of extreme storm events, but also of creeping desertification, salinization and erosion that could result in financial losses and even territorial issues that the modern world has never had to face.
“This is new,” he said. “This is like, ‘The Martians are landing!’ What do you do?”
John Kioli, the chairman of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group, a consortium of nongovernmental organizations, called climate change his country’s “biggest enemy.” Kenya, which straddles the Equator, faces some of the biggest challenges from rising temperatures. Arable land is disappearing and diseases like malaria are appearing in highland areas where they had never been seen before.
Developed countries, Mr. Kioli said, have a moral obligation to shoulder the cost, considering the amount of pollution they have emitted since the Industrial Revolution. “If developed countries are reasonable enough, they are able to understand that they have some responsibility,” he said.
How to compensate those nations hardest hit by climate changes remains divisive, even among advocates for such action. Some have argued that wealthy countries need to create a huge pool of money to help poorer countries recover from seemingly inevitable losses of the tangible and intangible, like destroyed traditions.
Mr. Jumeau noted that Congress allocated $60 billion just to rebuild from one storm, Hurricane Sandy, compared with the $100 billion a year that advocates hope to see pledged to a Green Climate Fund by all nations. The fund, intended to help poorer countries reduce emissions and prepare for climate changes, has remained little more than an organizing principle since its creation in 2010, its fund-raising goals unmet.
Others have suggested a sort of insurance program.
The United States and other rich countries have made their opposition to large-scale compensation clear. Todd D. Stern, the State Department’s envoy on climate issues, bluntly told a gathering at Chatham House in London last month that large-scale resources from the world’s richest nations would not be forthcoming.
“The fiscal reality of the United States and other developed countries is not going to allow it,” he said. “This is not just a matter of the recent financial crisis. It is structural, based on the huge obligations we face from aging populations and other pressing needs for infrastructure, education, health care and the like. We must and will strive to keep increasing our climate finance, but it is important that all of us see the world as it is.”
Appeals to rectify the injustice of climate change, he added, will backfire. “Lectures about compensation, reparations and the like will produce nothing but antipathy among developed country policy makers and their publics,” he said.
Juan Pablo Hoffmaister Patiño, a Bolivian who represents the alliance of developing nations known as the Group of 77 and China, said the issue was not so much about assigning culpability for the looming climate disaster as doing something to help those nations hardest hit.
“Trying to assign the blame is something that even scientifically could take us a very long time, and the challenges and problems are actually happening now,” he said in an interview here. “And we need to begin addressing them now rather than identifying who is guilty and to what degree. We can’t make this issue hostage to finding the responsible ones or not.”
Meanwhile, global emissions continue to rise. A report this month by the United Nations Environment Program warned that immediate action must be taken to reduce emissions enough to limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels. That is the maximum warming that many scientists believe can occur without causing potentially catastrophic climate change.
The current global turbulence, consistent with what scientists expect to happen as the climate changes, is already taking a toll.
As the hundreds of diplomats and advocates assembled for talks here, Justus Lavi was waiting for rain in Kenya. The wheat, beans and potatoes he planted on his farm in Makueni County sprouted, but the rainy season brought only two days of showers, threatening to ruin his yield.
In northern Somalia, Nimcaan Farah Abdi’s 10 acres of corn, tomatoes and other vegetables were ruined as violent storms swept the Horn of Africa. A typhoon last weekend in nearby Puntland killed more than 100 people, a disaster overshadowed by the far more destructive one in the Philippines.
“My farm has been washed away,” Mr. Abdi said. It was the second year in a row of unusually heavy storms to have destroyed his livelihood, leaving him uncertain about how he will provide for his six children. “God knows,” he added, “but I don’t have anything to give now.”
Steven Lee Myers reported from Warsaw, and Nicholas Kulish from Nairobi, Kenya. Justin Gillis contributed reporting from New York, David Jolly from Paris, and Mohammed Ibrahim from Mogadishu, Somalia.

16 comments:

Annamaria Watson said...

It is incredibly sad that the nations which contribute the least to climate change are paying the highest price. Unfortunately, this same principle seems to play out in many areas of politics, and not just in environmental issues. The problem is that the causers of the problem have no reason to change, and are so far removed from the people who are hurting that their empathy is little to none. One thing that can be done to alleviate this problem is by utilizing technology to bring people together. Photos, videos, bringing victims to the UN, online petitions, etc, can all help raise awareness about international crisis.

Leah DeEgidio said...

It is known that affluent countries contribute more to the pollution problem than underdeveloped countries. Global emissions effect not just the countries that contribute but the ones who can't afford to protect themselves from the consequences. When countries get hit with natural disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines, the government can either afford to send relief to damaged areas right away or struggle to aid people. The ones who contribute the least to climate change are the ones in danger the most and this is a global injustice.

Remy Gallo said...

This issue is particularly frustrating because it is only getting worse. The changes in the climate that are currently taking place effect third world countries the most, and since first world countries do not feel the the pain like they do nothing is being done. Since there is a major divide in power it is unlikely for this brutal cycle of mistreatment to end any time soon. A regime cannot be an answer because the countries providing the damage simply wont agree to terms. This issue has no clear answer and is very sad to read about.

Mary OSullivan said...

Countries that are considered more affluent than others, are known to produce more pollution than the "underdeveloped" countries. These underdeveloped countries are suffering from the effects of the pollution. Though they do not produce much of their own, they must deal with the effects of the more affluent country's choices. These more affluent countries do not see a need for change, so until they are devastated like some of the underdeveloped countries, there will be no change.

Nikita Iyengar said...

I do believe that developed countries are the ones that contribute the most to climate change, and what one does in their country not only affects them but also the rest of the world, but I think that it is wrong to say that the developing nations are just victims and do not contribute to global warming, because as we learnt throughout the IPAT, environmental impact is also stingily affected by population and developing countries are the biggest culprits when it comes to rising population levels. I do believe however that developed countries should be the ones to act and help because they have the means too. Developed countries are contributing to global warming purposely because they are just depleting resources for economic reasons, whereas developing countries are not doing it on purpose, but rather because of lack ok knowledge on family planning, child care, because of diseases and so on. So I do believe that the developed nations should not think of it as reimbursing the affected countries, but instead helping them to live more sustainably and teaching them, and then by cutting down on their own ways.

Michael Bronn said...

The underdeveloped countries are actually some of the best countries in terms of pollution since they do not contribute much to pollution. What is terrible though, is that the countries that do not contribute to the pollution have to deal with it worse than the countries that are the causes of the problem. If the developed countries had to deal with the same problems as the underdeveloped countries then we would probably see change occur in those countries.

Omer Aitzaz said...

“We are at these climate conferences essentially moving chess figures across the board without ever being able to bring these negotiations to a conclusion,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said in a telephone interview.
The whole issue of environmental crisis management could not have been illustrated better; for years countries, especially developed countries, have done everything but implement initiatives to reduce our global footprint. The quantity of natural disasters thus far in the year of 2013 are indicative of what the future hold. The most pressing problem is that the immense pollution that is contributed by developed nations is directly taking a toll on developing nations. The developing nations are far less likely to defend themselves from natural disasters then compared to developed nations. Insufficient funds and lack of better technology has inflicted the most damage to developing nations then compared to disasters in developed nations. For instance, 100 Billion dollar aid was given to hurricane sandy whereas only 60Billion $ were awarded for the disaster caused by the worst storm to hit earth, Typhoon Hiayan. There is an obvious disparity between the risk management of the two sides of the world. Although nations all over the globe have awakened to the reality of the nightmare of global warming, we can only hope that its not too late and we can still dodge the silver bullet that is in plain sight and is heading straight towards the advent of human existence.

Taylor Vogt said...

I followed the work of President Nasheed from the Maldives during the Copenhagen climate change conference and up until his ousting by the military under the auspices that he was not a proper leader, with the former dictator being forcefully reinstated. I personally think that was orchestrated by the fossil fuel industries because of his outspokenness against the carbon economy. He echoed the same message as the ASIS, that they will not be around if climate change continues. I read a couple of articles about the UNEP and UNDP estimations that there will be upwards of 300 million environmental refugees by 2050 if climate change and environmental degredation continues in the fashion it currently is. I find that appauling, much in the same vein that these leaders who are emotionally appealing at this conference do.

Megan Spaulding said...

This article was really interesting because I've never considered (let alone heard of) the idea of environmental compensation. It's an interesting thought and on paper it may make sense, but the reality of the situation is that it will not be done. As explained in the article, it would take years upon years to PROVE for certain which countries have been the root cause of these environmental issues devastating under-developed countries and ( as we all know) money trumps all in this world. Unless they can 100% prove who and what caused these environmental disasters (which again, may not even be possible) no country will give up a sufficient amount of money to make a difference.

My favorite contributer/quote of the articles was as follows:

"Juan Pablo Hoffmaister Patiño, a Bolivian who represents the alliance of developing nations known as the Group of 77 and China, said the issue was not so much about assigning culpability for the looming climate disaster as doing something to help those nations hardest hit.
“Trying to assign the blame is something that even scientifically could take us a very long time, and the challenges and problems are actually happening now,” he said in an interview here. “And we need to begin addressing them now rather than identifying who is guilty and to what degree. We can’t make this issue hostage to finding the responsible ones or not.”

He perfectly sums up the reality of the situation. It reminds me of something my mother used to tell me when I was growing up and something went awry....who is to blame may play a role in the problem at hand, but it shouldn't be the focus. What needs to happen now is we need to zoom in on the issue at hand and find out a way to fix it. I sound like a hippie but all of the divides and marks we've made on this planet, i.e. claiming lands, marking borders, etc... are really irrelevant. We all live on the same planet and to fix the issues we have caused, despite who is more at fault than others, needs to be fixed. Pointing fingers isn't going to do anything but cause angst and drama.

Jonh Bananas said...

I do not believe there is any climate crisis going on. What is happening is a work of God. If he wants the temperature a little warmer or if he creates a few natural disasters here and there, then let it be so! What you are discussing is merely God's way of changing things up for us.
But, altogether, very interesting. God bless you!

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