As of 2015, the United States bore responsibility for 40% of “excess global carbon dioxide emissions,” finds the analysis, authored by Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist, author and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. The Group of Eight (the United States, the European Union, Russia, Japan and Canada) is responsible for 85% of such emissions. And the Global North (defined as the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Japan) is responsible for 92%.
In contrast, the Global South — which is by far bearing the brunt of climate droughts, floods, famines, storms, sea level rise and deaths — is responsible for just 8% of excess global carbon dioxide emissions.
A study released by Oxfam International in 2015 found that the poorest half of the world’s population — roughly 3.5 billion people — are to blame for just 10% of “total global emissions attributed to individual consumption,” yet they “live overwhelmingly in the countries most vulnerable to climate change.” In contrast, the richest 10% of people in the world are responsible for roughly 50% of global emissions.
A 2015 paper published in Scientific Reports identifies “free rider” and “forced rider” countries. It explains, “‘Free rider’ countries contribute disproportionately to global [greenhouse gas] emissions with only limited vulnerability to the effects of the resulting climate change, while ’forced rider’ countries are most vulnerable to climate change but have contributed little to its genesis.”
The fact that the United States and Global North bear disproportionate responsibility for driving the climate crisis does not let China off the hook for cutting emissions.
Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist, explains “If China does not reduce emissions, and fast, then we are all doomed.”
“We know that the Global South suffers more than 90% of the costs of climate breakdown, and 98% of the deaths associated with climate breakdown, due to fires, floods, droughts, famine, disease, displacement and so on,” says Hickel. “So, just like under colonialism, the North is benefitting at the expense of the South.”
The leadership of the Democratic Party shows reluctance to curb the fossil fuel production driving the crisis — and hostility to radical solutions like the Green New Deal. The United States has contributed only $1 billion to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, meant to help “developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and enhance their ability to respond to climate change”
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