Barb wire separates the outside world from government negotiators at the Johannesburg Earth Summit.
There is a fundamental irony and injustice at the heart of the
climate change problem. Today's growing body of evidence indicates
very clearly that the first and worst impacts of climate change are
felt by the poor in the developing world. The responsibility for
the problem, however, lies primarily with the rich industrialised
nations, and increasingly the rapidly industrialising nations.
Since all countries are potentially affected by and contribute
toclimate change, they should all be involved in the solution.
Countieswithout a mature and entrenched energy structure stand to
gain by"leapfrogging" to modern energy sources like solar and wind.
However,for both practical and moral reasons, it is the
industrialised worldthat must take the initiative:
- Industrialised nations are responsible for the bulk of
greenhouse gas emissions - both today and historically. In the
past, economic progress was linked directly to carbon dioxide
emissions (via the burning of oil, coal and gas to generate
energy). Renewable energy sources change this, but only a small
number of nations have begun to implement them in earnest.
- Two billion people - one third of the world's population - have
no access to electricity for basic needs such as lighting or
cooking. Getting people the clean and reliable energy necessary for
essential needs such as clean water, health care facilities,
heating and lighting is one of the most pressing problems facing
- Industrialised nations have the capital, resources and
expertise to jump-start their renewable energy industries.
Obviously, countries with advanced space programs, established
higher educational systems and abundant cash for investment are
better positioned to implement these new energy technologies then
countries still struggling with basic energy needs.
Perhaps part of the problem, though, isthat industrialised
nations are also better positioned to adapt toclimate change. Their
populations can migrate more easily, newconstruction (of sea walls,
etc.) is more feasible and their financialstructures are more
stable (including availability of insurance). Oneneeds only think
about the different level of response to a naturaldisaster, such as
a hurricane, in a rich industrialised nation comparedto a less
wealthy developing one to realise how climate change willlikely
impact people around the world disproportionately.
However,the industrialised nations must also realize that there
will be a point(perhaps already reached) beyond which adaptation
alone is no longerthe cost effective choice, and beyond that a
point where simplyadapting to climate change is no longer
Fundamentally, we have one Earth, and only one global
Climate Analysis Indicators
Tool by World Resources Institute