Rich Nations Have Moral Duty to Compensate Bangladesh for Climate Change Damages

bangladesh sunset bike commute photo

photo: b k via flickr

Two pieces coming out of the Bangladeshi media drive home a sometimes uncomfortable ethical imperative regarding climate change: Considering that radical inequalities between those nations most responsible for causing climate change and those least responsible, rich and industrial nations have a moral responsibility to foot the bill. Which is exactly what a number of NGOs are saying.The Daily Star reports that speakers from Assistance for Slum Dwellers and Network on Climate Change Bangladesh said,

Rich nations are solely responsible for the alarming situation created by the climate change [sic], posing formidable threats to the country's weather, agriculture, irrigation, navigation, ecology, biodiversity, environment and underground water levels.

The speakers said the situation is now fast worsening due to rise in temperature leading directly to melting of ice, caused by unbridled emission of green house gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydroflourocarbons, perflourocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride in the developed countries.

The industrialized countries are not taking any step to protect the poor nations constantly facing the most disastrous threats from the global climate change, a phenomenon resulted from the reckless human interventions for eras, they added.

This comes on the same day that The New Nation reports on how Bangladesh's environment minister says up to eight districts (essentially, counties) will be submerged by 2050 due to the expected 32cm increase in sea level. If that doesn't drive home the point, I don't know what would.

Similar situations exist in many more poor countries' low-lying areas; certainly Bangladesh isn't alone here.

bangladesh flooding photo

photo: Richard via flickr
Rich Nation's Emissions 63 Times Higher Than Bangladesh's - China's Are 20x
Bangladesh's per capita carbon emissions (based on 2007 data) are just 0.3 tons, 181st in the world. In Asia, only Cambodia, Burma and Nepal rank lower; the rest of the nations emitting less per capita are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Per capita greenhouse gas emissions and the associate levels of resource consumption could increase ten fold, with significant quality of life and standard of living improvements, and still be fully sustainable.

Based on 2009 data coming out of the Netherlands, the United States was slightly above 17 tons per capita (a notable drop from 2000 levels, thanks to the Great Recession). Australia's were even higher at 18.8 tons; Canada's were slightly lower at 16.3 tons. Saudi Arabia's were 13.6 tons; South Korea's were 11.5; Russia came in at 11.2 tons per person. Moving down the list: Taiwan was 10.7, Japan was 9.2, the EU as a whole emitted about 8 tons per capita, as did Ukraine and South Africa. Iran was 7.7 and China was 6.1 (higher than France's).

The point is that at the top of the scale, Australia, the United States and Canada emitted 63, 57, and 54 times as much as Bangladesh on a per capita basis. The EU emitted just under 27 times as much. China emitted 20 times more. Even India, at just 1.4 tons per person, emitted four and two-thirds more.

Admittedly there isn't currently any legal responsibility to enforce compensation here, ecocide isn't yet a recognized national or international crime, but there certainly is a moral case--which only grows by the day.

bangladesh rice farmer photo

photo: International Rice Research Institute via flickr

Before you immediately jump to the conclusion that this is just nonsense--either conceptually or logistically--consider for a moment how you'd feel if you were the one whose life and livelihood is being erased by actions 63 to 20 times not your doing and you're watching as the world's collective political hands are alternating between 'you go first, no, you go first' finger pointing, and being thrown up into the air gesticulating 'who, me?'

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More on Global Climate Change:
Bangladesh Wants $4 Billion From Wealthy Countries for Climate Change Adaptation Projects
If We Can Attribute Natural Disasters to Climate Change, Who Could Victims Sue for Damages?
Guilty! Rich Nations Slammed At Climate Change Court

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