Our Hot Mess: From one planetwalker to another
Typically, the relations among the various impacts are unknown in the general population. How does driving car emit greenhouse gases that stay in our atmosphere and trap heat, leading to warmer climates and, well, everything else people following the climate discussion are worried about? That’s just not a common conversation, and it doesn’t get a whole lot of concern from the average Joe. So if you’re the kind of person who isn’t affected by predictions and chemical equations, this is the information for you.
You should care because climate change paralyzes the voiceless, the people who hardly contributed to the problem.
The hurricanes. The droughts. The coastal flooding. The wildfires. Climate change is causing large variances in weather patterns, making the largest, most devastating impacts on developing countries. As evident in the increasing graph below that shows only a small fraction of time, there is a prevalent upward trend in serious weather events. In fact, 95% of fatalities from natural disasters in the last 25 years occurred in developing countries.
|“29% of 2013 insured catastrophe losses in Europe, 54% in U.S.: Munich Re” - artemis.bm|
And all of the top ten countries on the Germanwatch Climate Risk Index, which ranks the countries according to their extreme weather risks, are developing countries, led by Bangladesh, Myanmar and Honduras. These endangered nations are depicted by the deeper red colors in the map below.
|from “Global Climate Risk Index 2016” - Germanwatch|
But these countries aren’t the ones primarily responsible for the events. As shown in the pie chart below, the largest emissions of one of the most guilty greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide - come from the United States, Europe, China, and Russia.
|from “6 Graphs Explain the World’s Top 10 Emitters” - World Resources Institute|
Our developed countries have the largest carbon footprints. I apologize for the upcoming regurgitation of statistics, but they are worth your time. We Americans are big culprits, accounting for less than 5% of the global population and consuming about one-quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources - nearly 25% or the coal, 26% of the oil, and 27% of the natural gas. Calculations also show that the planet has available 1.9 hectares - each hectare equivalent to about 2.5 acres - of biologically productive land per person to supply resources - food, living arrangements, etc. - and absorb wastes; the average human already uses 2.3 hectares worth. This doesn’t seem so bad until you look at the range: The average American uses 9.7 hectares while the average Mozambican uses 0.47 hectares.
After all of that, it’s an obvious conclusion that we developed countries are responsible for climate change. “It’s important... to understand that the 100 poorest countries in the world are responsible for less than five percent of emissions, but are the most affected,” Christoph Bals, a spokesperson for a German non-profit that focuses on global equity and preserving livelihoods.
It’s unfair and immoral. But we have families and communities and nations crying out for our help, for our sympathy and humanity. We consume, indulge, and waste while countries pay the price with rising seas literally overtaking their homes and lengthening droughts brutally wipe out sustenance and income. Drowning because of our high class lives. We are killing our planet and our people because we want luxuries. And developing countries will continue to bear the burden of climate change until we face our moral responsibility as a developed nation to help our fellow planetwalkers.
I don’t mean to be the high-and-mighty humanitarian or the reprimanding environmentalist, but we need to start thinking of the people we are affecting. So, if you’re interested, how can you do your part? It’s pretty simple and well-known: Reduce your carbon footprint. Carpool. Eat fewer animal products. Take shorter showers.
And remember, don't be trashy.
--Elke Arnesen, LSNews.org Columnist