The United States has caused more than $1.9 trillion in damage to other countries from the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new analysis that provides the first measure of states’ responsibility for hoarding the climate crisis.
The massive volume of planet-heating gases pumped out by the United States, the historical largest emitter, has caused such damage to other, mostly poor, countries through heat waves, crop failures and other consequences that the United States is responsible for $1.91 trillion in lost global income. The study has existed since 1990.
This puts the United States ahead of China, which is currently the world’s largest emitter, and Russia, India and Brazil as the next largest contributors to global economic damage through their emissions. Combined, these five major culprits have caused total losses of $6 trillion worldwide, or about 11% of annual global GDP, since 1990 by fueling climate collapse.
“It’s a huge number,” said Chris Callahan, a researcher at Dartmouth College and lead author of the study, of the overall economic loss. “It is not surprising that the US and China are at the top of that list but the numbers are really quite stark. For the first time, we can show that a country’s emissions can be traced back to specific damage.”
The Dartmouth researchers combined a number of different models, which show factors such as emissions, local weather conditions and economic changes, to ascertain the exact impact of a country’s contribution to the climate crisis. They searched for these links over a period from 1990 to 2014, with the research published in the journal Climatic Change.
What they found was an insidiously uneven picture – rich nations in northern latitudes, such as those in North America and Europe, did their best to fuel climate change but were not hit hard economically. Countries such as Canada and Russia have benefited from longer growing seasons and reduced cold-related deaths as winter temperatures rise.
Conversely, poorer countries, such as those in the tropics or low-lying Pacific islands, have done the least to harm other nations, yet suffer the brunt of the economic damage from climate change. The research did not take into account things not included in GDP, such as biodiversity loss, cultural damage and deaths from disasters, which means the damage is actually much greater.
“In places where it’s really hot, you see that it’s becoming harder to work outside, heat mortality is going up, and it’s hard to grow crops,” said Justin Mankin, a geographer at Dartmouth and co-author of the paper. “If you put that above which countries emit the most, you get a near perfect storm.
There is this enormous injustice. Countries like the United States have done disproportionate harm to low-income countries in the Global South and benefited disproportionately from the cooler, higher-income countries of the Global North.”
Developing countries and climate activists have paid “loss and damage” payments to those suffering the most from global warming through heat waves, floods and droughts. But the United States, which is responsible for about a quarter of all emissions so far, has resisted creating such a fund, citing concerns that it would be legally liable for damage from its voracious appetite for fossil fuels like oil and coal. and gases.
Pressures to change this position are waning again ahead of the UN climate talks in Egypt later this year, with a coalition of young activists from more than 40 countries recently writing to the head of the talks urging action on casualties and damage. Issues.
The letter stated that the climate crisis “has escalated disproportionately humanitarian crises affecting poor countries in the Global South,” noting that the United Nations estimates that up to 3.6 billion people around the world now live in areas highly vulnerable to climate disasters.
“For too long, efforts to reduce emissions and scale up adaptation have been completely inadequate beyond people’s ability to adapt. Therefore, losses and damages are now part of the reality of climate change and must be addressed.”
However, progress was fraught with danger. Rich nations have been slow to deliver on their promise to provide $100 billion in climate aid to countries at risk and any legal avenue for reparations from the United States or China is complicated by the fact that neither country has recognized the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
“The main impediment to one country’s claims against another country over climate damage is not their scientific basis, it is their legal basis,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabine Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. “Countries have sovereign immunity from most types of lawsuits unless they waive them.”
This impasse means that some sort of negotiated agreement remains the most likely way to mitigate climate inequality. “It is a positive step that this study is beginning to quantify the damage to these national actors, and we can see the scale of the massive damage,” said Carol Moffett, CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law.
We are slowly moving towards some kind of accountability for this. “As evidence mounts and the record of US obstruction is established in the context of climate, I don’t think other countries will be able to get away with it forever,” Moffett added.
“The costs of climate damage are escalating, and eventually someone will have to pay that cost. The question is who that will be and how it will be done.”