Climate change is a global injustice. A new study shows why.

In Climate, News by

We’ve underestimated the cost of climate change, and when you break it down by country, some of the countries least responsible will pay the highest costs. From Vox:

The social cost of carbon for individual countries in dollars per ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Nature Climate Change
The social cost of carbon for individual countries in dollars per ton of carbon dioxide emissions.

Countries at northern latitudes, like Russia, face a negative social cost of carbon. This implies that the warming wrought by climate change will actually boost the economies of these countries. Warming can improve agriculture or reduce heating demands in the far north, for example. However, Ricke cautioned that these costs were calculated based on macroeconomic factors within countries; they don’t account for things like international trade, which may suffer in a warming world.

This wonky chart (bear with me) from Ricke’s study explains the dilemma:

A figure comparing the social cost of carbon within a country to its share of global emissions.Nature Climate Change
A figure comparing the social cost of carbon within a country to its share of global emissions.

The chart compares a country’s social cost of carbon to its share of global emissions. The radiating lines show the ratios of a country’s share of global emissions to its share of the damages.

The United States is almost balanced, with its high social cost of carbon roughly proportional to how much carbon dioxide it emits. But India pumps out just 6 percent of global greenhouse gases and will bear more than 20 percent of the global economic burden from climate change. In other words, India faces almost quadruple the damages of global warming compared to its contribution to the problem. Zoom in further and you’ll notice that many of the wealthiest countries in the world stand to bear the lowest costs of climate change.

That makes climate change a global justice concern. In limiting global warming, wealthy countries face a moral imperative to look beyond their borders and GDPs, pushing even harder to cut their own emissions. The social costs of carbon also show why climate change really has to be tackled as a global problem rather than by individual nations. But as long as countries like Russia, the United Kingdom, and Germany face little financial fallout, that policy case becomes much harder to make.

You can add Canada to that list.

Read more about Climate change is a global injustice. A new study shows why. at Vox.Com - Energy and Environment