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[Feature] [20 Must-know GEI] 2. Climate change deepens inequality?

by Eco Generation | 17-06-2016 08:45 Comments 6 recommendations 0

20 Must Know Series-Title

2. Climate change deepens inequality?

20 Must Know Series-Image 2-1 

1. All types of suffering due to climate change.

     Do you feel problems caused by climate change? You might not, because air conditioners in the summer and heating systems in the winter allow us to enjoy a pleasant life even during extreme weather events. 
     However, extreme weather events are happening around us. For extreme examples, it was reported that 35,000 people died as a result of the continuous heat waves over 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) in Europe in the summer of 2003. In 2013, more than 20 disasters caused by climate change occurred, including Typhoon Haiyen in the Philippines and heat waves in Shanghai, China. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), extreme weather events are likely to get worse in the future. In East Asia in the late 21st century, the frequency of heat waves will be shortened from 20 years to 2-5 years, and the heavy precipitation frequency from 20 years to 5 years we will have more heat waves and torrential rains. 
     The problem is that extreme weather events are not just about changing weather, but natural disasters that can cause problems for humans, societies and countries. If farmlands in major rice exporting countries get too much rainfall as the UN predicts, global food prices will surge. What is worse is that Male, the capital city of the Maldives where 100,000 people live, will disappear from the face of the Earth within 50 years. It might sink beneath the ocean due to sea level rise. As for Tuvalu, whose highest altitude above sea level is merely 2m, ended up declaring that it will abandon its national territory in 2001.

2. Views from Environmental Justice and Climate Justice
20 Must Know Series-Image 2-2 
source: Samson et al. (2011) 

     Many insist that the current situation is very unfair, as damaged countries are not those responsible for these extreme weather events. That is, an 'unfair' system between countries holding 'historical responsibility' by emitting a lot of carbon dioxide and causing climate change and those suffering from various environmental disasters due to climate change has appeared. As time goes by, the existing inequality between the two national groups is getting worse. 
     We can think about this from the viewpoint of environmental justice. Environmental justice means that benefits from environmental conservation are distributed evenly without any discrimination, being protected from any environmental risks or disasters equally, and people damaging the environment pay for the damage they have incurred. Therefore, if countries, groups and individuals who have wasted energy and resources do not get harmed but people in more vulnerable areas or countries or future generations do, it can be said that 'environmental justice has been denied.' When environmental justice is related to climate change, it is called 'climate justice.' It is unjust when developing countries or the needy who emit less greenhouse gases suffer more from climate change than advanced countries or groups who have gone through industrialization earlier, consumed more fossil fuels, cut more trees and emitted more greenhouse gases. This is called 'climate injustice.'   

3. International efforts to restore climate justice.
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     As climate change issues cannot be solved by one country, international society as a whole is participating in actions against climate change. One of the most representative cooperative actions is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) led by the UN and with the participation of more than 197 countries. Many countries that joined the UNFCCC have held the Conference of the Parties (COP) annually from 1995, since the UNFCCC went into effect in 1994, to discuss greenhouse gas reduction. 
     In the opening ceremony of COP 19 held in Warsaw, Poland in 2013, an unusual scene was observed the delegate of the Philippines broke down in tears talking about how Filipinos had been suffering from the tropical typhoon Haiyan due to climate change. This is a case in which a developing country with little historical responsibility is suffering from climate change more than advanced countries that are historically responsible for the current climate change by emitting a lot more greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution. "We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering from devastation and misery, having to count our dead, is becoming a way of life," said the Filipino delegate, asking for results from an international meaningful discussion, adding, "We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw." 
     Fortunately, we have developed methods for developing countries to be compensated for natural disasters inevitable even with adaptation to climate change and gradually occurring damage such as extreme weather events and sea level rise through the 'Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage' established in the same year. In the mechanism, a special executive committee is formed to manage losses, damages and risks due to climate change establish relative organizations connect stakeholders and provide financial and technological support for developing countries especially vulnerable to climate change. For this, the Paris Agreement adopted by the most recent COP organized a special task force to establish information exchange centers for sharing information on risk management strategies and delivering recommendations.

4. Efforts we need to make

     What can we do to help developing countries solve climate inequality? We can save our allowance to support civic groups working for climate justice for developing countries or take initiative by giving a careful look at wasted energy, turning off power strips or unplugging for energy-saving, and using the stairs. The most important thing, however, is to always remember that greenhouse gases that we emit are related to others' lives.   

[Learn more!] 

Years of Living Dangerously (James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others, released in 2014) 
This documentary series on environmental disasters is made by Director James Cameron who made <Titanic> and <Avatar>.

No Impact Man: The documentary (Directed by Laura Gabbert, Justin Schein, released in 2010)
A documentary about a family having sustainable zero impact on the environment.


YOON Soon-jin. (2003). [Issues on Climate Change] Climate Change and Environmental Justice, Environment and Life, 36-69.

Peter Wenz (2007) Environmental Justice. Hanul Academy. 10.30.2007. 

IPCC (2015) IPCC The 5th Assessment Report – 2014 Climate Report: Summary Report for Policy Makers.

UNFCCC COP 21(2015) Adoption of the Paris Agreement

Script by : Prof. Yoon, Sun-jin's Environment & Energy Lab
                Seoul National University
Illustration by : Kim, Jeong-kyeom


  • says :
    This is a very enlightening report on climate change and its effects in the society especially in developing countries. Thanks Eco Generation.
    Posted 27-07-2016 16:50

  • says :
    Rich countries should contribute in the environmental justice and the climate justice. Poor countries are continuing to pay the price of the industrialisation of rich countries.Where are we going?
    Posted 13-07-2016 05:33

  • Anishka Jha says :
    Very factual and interesting information:)
    Posted 12-07-2016 23:56

  • says :
    yup, we must do this together :)
    Posted 01-07-2016 10:17

  • says :
    Very informative report on challenging issue of climate change. Thank you Eco- gen :-)
    Posted 26-06-2016 22:23

  • says :
    Meticulously selected report Great reading
    Posted 26-06-2016 17:09

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