It's Official: Climate Change Will Be Worst for Those Least Responsible for the Problem It's Official: Climate Change Will Be Worst for Those Least Responsible for the Problem
The Planet

It's Official: Climate Change Will Be Worst for Those Least Responsible for the Problem

by Ben Jervey

March 10, 2011

Proving a disturbing irony long suspected by scientists and climate activists, a McGill University study has found that those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are those who are least responsible for causing the problem.

The research team, lead by Jason Samson, mapped out the so-called "climate demographic vulnerability index," which uses the same analytic tools currently in place to predict wildlife and plant migrations, and applied them to human populations. The red areas in the above map (larger version: PDF) are where the impacts on local populations are likely to be greatest.

The CDVI finds that, if populations keep at expected rates of growth, the people most vulnerable to climate change are those who live in low-latitude parts of the globe, or the hottest regions in the world. "In these areas, a relatively small increase in temperature will have serious consequences on a region’s ability to sustain a growing population."

Samson explains:

It makes sense that the low latitude tropical regions should be more vulnerable because the people there already experience extremely hot conditions which make agriculture challenging. An increase in temperature over the next few decades will only make their lives more difficult in a variety of ways.

The aforementioned irony is outright tragic, and is not lost on the study's authors. "Take Somalia for instance," Samson writes.

Because it’s so hot there, it’s already very difficult to grow things, and it will only become more difficult if the temperature rises. It’s also clear that Somalia is not a big contributor of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. Now thanks to this map, we have concrete quantitative evidence of the disparity between the causes and the consequences of climate change at a national level.

Let's hope that this map can help world leaders realize the moral injustice of climate change, and get moving on ways to help these vulnerable populations deal with the crushing impacts.

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It's Official: Climate Change Will Be Worst for Those Least Responsible for the Problem