Climate inequality—or climate change effects and mitigation both placing a heavier burden on poor nations—has figured in almost all climate negotiations. Poor countries are confronted with a vastly shrunken room for emission today, limiting the room for hydrocarbon fuelled growth, and battling and adapting to climate change effects is also going to impose a larger cost on them. Luke Harrington, at the University of Oxford, has developed a map of “equivalent impacts” which shows that global temperatures would have to rise by 3oC before wealthy nations start to notice “departures from familiar climate conditions” that are equal to what poorer nations would have suffered under moderate warming.
Though the Paris climate accord aims to limit rise in global temperatures to 1.5o-2oC, the fact is that the mean temperature is already higher by 1oC since pre-industrial levels, and the efforts announced under the accord are hardly enough to contain the rise to under 2oC. As per a Nature report, Harrington’s map show that when it comes to changes in regional heat extremes, countries in the tropical and sub-tropical latitudes, largely poor, are going to suffer much earlier than countries in the mid-latitude regions—where the largest chunk of greenhouse gases is emitted. Africa, swathes of South America and large reaches of India are set to experience climate change effects by the time the temperature has risen by 1.5oC. With the preponderance of agriculture in many countries in these regions, large parts of their respective populations are sitting on a climate time-bomb. The new map should arm them to seek far greater mitigation efforts from richer nations.