Climate Change – Is it really the fault of Developing Countries?

Reports on climate change is nothing new but what’s new is the amount of carbon emission and the intensity of the change increasing day by day, year by year. Although many initiatives and conferences such as the Paris Climate agreement has been inaugurated to address the issue but the problem seems to be getting out of hand. Looking at the intensity of the situation, doesn’t it raise the question, “Who’s fault it is?”

There is no one individual, one country or one continent solely blamable for the current situation. Climate change is a collective responsibility as the inhabitants of the planet Earth. However, this doesn’t either mean that everyone is equally responsible for the climate change. But that not how the world view this, the compass of the blame is, if not always then mostly, pointed towards the developing world.

To debunk this idea/notion of developing countries being “mostly” responsible for the climate change, one needs to analyze following questions,

  1. What are the factors that contribute to the climate change?
  2. How much of these factors, the countries around the world are contributing to?

Greenhouse effect has been and is the key driver of the climate change. The greenhouse effect includes certain gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, acting as a glass barrier around the Earth. This glass barrier traps the sun’s heat and prevents it from going back into the space, thus, causing global warming. These greenhouse gases occur naturally and so is their concentration. However, certain human activities have resulted in an increased concentration of these gases in the atmosphere causing them to trap more heat in the earths’ inner atmosphere leading to an increase in global warming. How are humans contributing to this all?

Burning fossil fuels produce nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Since industrialization in the 1790’s, burning fossil fuel has been one of the key elements of the history of industrialization. The amount of fossil fuel burning and the contribution of these gases, especially carbon dioxide has been rising since then. As per some stats, by 2020, the concentration of carbon dioxide has been increased by 48% as compared to the preindustrial times.

Similarly, other greenhouse gases such as methane are contributing to the global warming but as compared to carbon dioxide, their lifetime in the atmosphere is short. Thus, their impact is also short-lived.

The developed countries such as US, account for the 12% of total world population but 50% of the greenhouse gas emission has come from these countries alone. For the past ten years or so, developed countries have been the largest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as these countries have heavily relied on burning of fossil fuels for running and growing their economy. Today, the situation is the same. In the meantime, other developing countries such as China and India have also begin to catch up to the carbon emissions. In case of china, it used to contribute only 14% to the total carbon and other greenhouse gases emission. However, due to its economic growth, it now. Alone, accounts for 31% of carbon dioxide emission.

But China alone cannot be accounted for the global warming that has been taking place since decades. The developed world has been long involved in the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emission and has been responsible for the global warming since decades. How?

Over the time, Earth’s temperature has increased by 2 degree Fahrenheit (1.1o C) resulting in stronger and deadlier famines, heat waves, wildfires, and floods. 2011 – 2020 was recorded as the warmest decades in the history of Earth. The change in the Earth’s temperature is increasing at a rate of 0.2o C per decade resulting in adverse impacts on the earth’s environment (heat waves, rising sea levels resulting in floods, droughts, famines) , human health(outbreak of infectious diseases), generally affecting the life on Earth.

The international community has recognized “Global Warming” as an emergency. Thus, for this matter, a pledge to keep the warming level below 2oC has been made by countries in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016. The aim is to limit the global warming to 1.5oC as now, it can’t be reduced or reversed. Since then, the countries around the world did put in efforts to stabilize the carbon emission. However, after three years of stabilization, the emissions raised again such as in case of China or North America as it higher emission intensity in the past few years.

What should be done now? What is the possible solution to this? It’s clear that the blame game will lead the world to nowhere. Although it is evident that the developed countries share the most responsibility for the historic global warming, a collective action is the only solution to this problem. The emissions should be reduced but how can one achieve that? Through decarbonization. It is a method through which carbon input in the greenhouse gas emission is reduced. As carbon dioxide is the most ling lived greenhouse gas, it has the most contribution in the global warming. Thus, reducing its induction can lead to more resilience to climate change.

Another possible solution can be shift in the energy sources. Rather than relying on burning of coal and other fossil fuels, industries should shift towards renewable power sources such as solar energy and hydropower.

There are countries that have been shifting their energy sources towards renewable energy, such as Kenya has ramped up its ample geothermal program. Similarly, Denmark has been improving its windmill energy. China is leading the world’s record in shifting towards solar energy, wind energy, and hydropower.

Although, there are efforts being made by the developed nations, as well as some of the developing nations, the road to completely giving up carbon and greenhouse gases emission is a long one. The global warming is and should be a global emergency. And to fight this global emergency, all nations should work together, aiding each other in taking collective actions rather the pointing each other for the responsibility of the current situation. It’s time to act now! Thus, the developing world should aid the developed world in taking measures that can lead to a successful climate action.

Published in June Edition of Global Affairs 2022

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Kainat Zahra Naqvi

Written by Kainat Zahra Naqvi

The author is an intern at Global Affairs. She is currently pursuing her undergraduate studies in Strategic Studies from National Defence University. Her areas of interest include emerging technologies, nuclear politics, and the middle east.

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