The Inequality of Climate Change

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from The New York Times,

Typhoon Haiyan has left an estimated 10,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the Philippines. And it has once again underscored for many development experts a cruel truth about climate change: It will hit the world’s poorest the hardest.

“No nation will be immune to the impacts of climate change,” said a major World Bank report on the issue last year. “However, the distribution of impacts is likely to be inherently unequal and tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions, which have the least economic, institutional, scientific and technical capacity to cope and adapt.”

That is the firmly established view of numerous national governments, development and aid groups and the United Nations as well. “It is the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit,” said Rajenda Pachauri of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaking to reporters in Brussels back in 2007.

The reason is twofold. First is the geography of climate change itself. The higher the latitude, the bigger the temperature increase. And generally, the farther from the equator, the wealthier the country — meaning rich countries like Norway and Canada might see a disproportionate impact from global warming.

But poorer, lower-latitude regions are expected to face desertification and more-intense storms. The increase in the sea level might be 15 to 20 percent higher in the tropics than the global average, meaning flooding for coastal cities in regions like southern Asia.

Droughts are also expected to increase significantly in lower-latitude areas, including in Africa and the Middle East. (The United States and Australia might also be hard hit, as the map below shows.)

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