"You say you love your children above all else and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes."

- Greta Thunberg

The protection of our climate is a matter of

The narrative of a coming climate catastrophe carries the notion that we all as human beings are in the same situation and we will all die together – democratic doomsday. At other times, I hear people say “humanity” get what it deserves for it’S abuse of nature. And after all, planet earth will just outlive human beings and then be cured from us.

The inconvenient truth is, that, while we might all be starting to feel the consequences of climate change, it will hit us in very different intensities – according to geographical position, vulnerability of the surrounding ecosystems and agriculture, personal and national economic power and – time when we are born..

Climate change hits those the hardest, who have contributed the least to the problem. 

1. The North-South divide

Source: Center for Global Development. Click the image to see the chart on their website in higher resolution

Climate change hits the poor the hardest

“Poor people are more exposed to the negative impacts of climate change and have fewer resources to adapt. Heat waves that have office workers reaching for the air conditioning will have farm workers facing heat stroke. Rising food prices that hit the rich in the wallet will hit the poor in the stomach. And storms that rattle windows in affluent homes will sweep away poor homes entirely.” – Jonah Busch, CGDEV 2014″ 

A recent study says that global warming is currently slightly benefitting the agricultures of Russia and Canada by a rate of about 10 $ per ton of CO2, while the social cost per ton of CO2 in India has already reached 86 US-$.


Now-developed countries have caused climate change

Since greenhouse gases can persist in the atmosphere for centuries, only taking present and historical emissions into account gives the whole picture. So, while China might be the biggest present polluter, developed countries have caused 78 percent of the carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere now. (See embedded pie chart and also this video that illustrates emissions since 1750.)

If we want to talk about responsibilities of individuals for climate change, we need to also look at per-capita emissions. This however leads to a similar view: Highest per-capita emissions are found in the developed world again, see this wikipedia world map here.

Source: Center for Global Development. Click the image to see the chart on their website in higher resolution

2. Intergenerational injustice

The promise of a future that is worse than the present

The word “climate crises” implies climate change was a phenomenon of a limited period of time and would be overcome at some point. The truth is that even the most ambitious action can only lead to a stagnation of warming – but generations to come will have to live with the level of warming that is reached up until then. Climate change is likely to cause irretrievable damage to our biosphere and make planet earth an uninhabitable place in many regions of the world. The promise of a better future from an older generation to a younger one has been twisted to the opposite: Into a severe deprivation of the right of younger generations to experience a living planet.

A guilt with high interests

Since the Stern report 2006 about the impact of climate change on the economy, it has become clear that inaction on climate change does not just mean to shunt off costs to future generations, but also that these costs increase to an extraordinary high level. This makes our refusal to tranform economies and habits appear even more reckless.

The German Federal Agency for the Environment estimates the social costs of one ton of CO2 to be 180 € and a recent study calculated the median of global social costs for just one ton of CO2 to more than 400 US-$.


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