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Climate Justice - The Facts

Climate change is happening now

Global greenhouse gas emissions by sector pie diagram

Who is being affected?

*Climate change is causing human suffering all over the world, due to rising sea-levels, extreme weather events, water and food shortages, and disease.*

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast causing 1,836 deaths.

In October 2005 Hurricane Stan hit Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, causing more than 1,500 deaths.

In April 2008, a week of protests and riots in Haiti over rising food prices left at least five people dead and 200 injured.

The thawing of the Arctic permafrost is affecting the traditional way of life of its indigenous people, making hunting and travelling difficult and dangerous.

The 2003 heatwave killed approximately 35,000 people from nine countries.

In summer 2007, Britain suffered widespread flooding following one of the wettest months on record. It caused $4 billion worth of damage and prompted the biggest rescue effort in peacetime Britain.

Floods in Mozambique in February/March 2000 killed several thousands.

In September 2007 torrential rain triggered flash floods across Africa, affecting over a million people in 22 countries. The heavy rains destroyed thousands of acres of land and prompted an outbreak of cholera, which killed at least 68 people.

In India a record 944 mm of rainfall in Mumbai in July 2005 claimed over 1,000 lives.

Cyclone Nargis ripped across Burma in May 2008 killing an estimated 150,000 and severely affecting 2.4 million.

In Canberra wildfires killed 4 in January 2003.

Since 2003, Australia has been undergoing its worst drought on record, with many cities facing severe water shortages and crops and farms affected.

The low-lying island of Tuvalu has already evacuated 3,000 of its inhabitants to New Zealand.

The 2,500 residents of the Carteret Islands are being forced to relocate to nearby Bougainville as their island disappears under the waves.

Who is responsible?

*Just 23 rich countries, home to only 14% of the world's population, have produced 60% of the world's carbon emissions since 1850. Today they produce 40% of the world's total. Despite committing to reduce annual emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012, their collective emissions are continuing to rise.^9^*

2007 carbon emissions per person bar chart
carbon emissions by region 1990-2004 diagram

Future scenarios

*Unless urgent action is taken now, the world faces terrifying consequences.*





*Sea-levels are set to rise dramatically. If we continue 'business as usual' we are likely to see a rise of at least 1-2 metres this century, possibly much more.^13^*



*Today, renewable energy sources account for only 13% of the world’s energy use. As much as 80% of energy still comes from fossil fuels, and the remaining 7% from nuclear power.*

  1. BBC News, 'Billions face climate change risk', 6 April 2007, tinyurl.com/5fzkur
  2. World Meteorological Organization, 'Top 11 Warmest Years On Record Have All Been In Last 13 Years', 13 December 2007.
  3. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fourth Assessment Report, 2007, www.ipcc.ch
  4. World Health Organization, 'Climate and health fact sheet', July 2005, tinyurl.com/5fnu4m
  5. Ronald Parker, 'Development Actions and the Rising Incidence of Disasters', World Bank Independent Evaluation Group, June 2007.
  6. K. Emanuel, 'Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years', Nature 436, 2005.
  7. Joachim von Braun, 'Responding to the world food crisis', International Food Policy Research Institute, 2008.
  8. Carbon Dioxide Information Analyisis Center, cdiac.oml.gov
  9. World Resources Institute, 'Climate Analysis Indicators Tool 5.0', 2008, www.cait.wri.org
  10. Tao Wang and Jim Watson, 'Who Owns China’s Carbon Emissions?', Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, October 2007.
  11. Based on figures from CIA World Factbook, tinyurl.com/3d6bhw and Energy Information Administration, tinyurl.com/yoxmh8
  12. Dr Norman Myers, quoted in 'Human Tide: The real migration crisis,' Christian Aid, May 2007
  13. Christian Aid, 'The Climate of Poverty: Facts, fears and hope', May 2006.
  14. DFID, submission to the Stern Enquiry into Climate Change and Developing Countries, Nov 2005.
  15. Anwar Ali, ‘Vulnerability of Bangladesh Coastal Region to Climate Change with Adaptation Options’, 1999.
  16. James Hansen, Testimony to the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, US House of Representatives, 26 April 2007.
  17. All figures taken from Greenpeace, 'Energy [r]evolution: a sustainable global energy outlook', 2008, tinyurl.com/6fdqgy

New Internationalist issue 419 magazine cover This article is from the January-February 2009 issue of New Internationalist.
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