Bill the US for natural disasters

The cost of US inaction on climate change is colossal

Published: Wednesday 15 December 1999

Today , those who claim that climate change does not exist are fooling themselves. Especially after 1998 went on record as the warmest year of the century and natural disasters claimed 50,000 human lives, resulting in losses exceeding us $90 billion. So, by that logic, at least five of the 10 presidential candidates for the 2000 elections in the us are in need of education. They have stated, variously, that evidence on climate change is 'ambiguous', 'inconclusive' and 'deeply flawed', and that the Kyoto Protocol is 'ineffective, inadequate and unfair' to the us . Actually, the reason why the us government is unwilling to act is that climate change is not expected to affect usa . The rest of the world be damned (see p20: Another crawl for humankind ).

The us should be sent the bill for natural disasters across the world. Christian Aid, the official relief agency of 40 British and Irish churches, has published a report that draws a direct link between the dramatic climactic changes the world has seen in the last two years and the consumptive lifestyles of industrialised countries. The report, entitled Who owes who? , estimates that the group of seven industrialised countries (G-7) is running up 'carbon debts' -- the accumulation of surplus carbon dioxide ( co 2 ) that is beyond the capacity of the environment to absorb -- in economic efficiency terms this amounts to around us $13 trillion each year.

Meanwhile, the so-called highly-indebted poor countries were actually running up credits of us $141-612 billion annually because of their under-use of fossil fuel resources. Christian Aid draws two conclusions. Firstly, this growing debt removes the last shred of moral legitimacy to keep holding poor countries hostage to their own, smaller financial debts. Secondly, industrialised countries should accept their responsibility for climate change and act fast to reduce its effects.

The us , which emits one-fourth of the co 2 in the atmosphere, has run up the largest natural debt. But its Senate either denies that there is a problem or refuses to take action until developing countries cut co 2 emissions as well. This, despite the fact that opinion polls have shown that us citizens consider global warming a real problem and favour action to cut co 2 emissions. Is us democracy only for rich industrialists in usa ?

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