Climate Impacts in the Developing World A Case Study of the Small Island States

Nasir Khattak

The disproportionate vulnerability of developing countries to climate change, the appropriate responsibility for both developing countries and those with high emissions in moderating and adapting to these impacts, and the appropriate role of developing nations in limiting future emissions are all highly contentious issues in global politics. As such, these issues tend to lead to protracted meetings and delays in any nation undertaking any sort of measures. Only by understanding and coming to agreement on these vulnerabilities, their causes and what actions need to be taken will international negotiations be able to move forward.

Developing countries are particularly susceptible to climate change because most lie in regions of the world where the most intense and damaging impacts are likely to occur, and because they lack the resources to prepare for and adapt to those impacts. To cite just one example of the vulnerability of those in the developing world, the 2004 floods in Bangladesh, which killed 600 people and displaced 20 million, showed how ill-prepared that region is for excessive monsoon rains (POST-UK, 2006). As storms become more intense and damages and loss of life mount, the increasing losses will make it more and more difficult for development to raise the standard of living in developing nations, unless aid and assistance from the outside rises as well.

With respect to the role of developing nations in contributing to the pace of climate change, it will be difficult to stabilize the Earth's climate without developing countries keeping their emissions very low. Though the average resident of a developing country emits only a small fraction of the greenhouse gases of the average person in a developed country, the massive and growing populations of the developing countries, coupled with their rising standards of living, will eventually render that fact irrelevant. Many argue, however, that demanding restrictions would be unfair, given that the already-developed countries had no similar restrictions on their historical development and growth (Najam et al, 2003). Any future climate policy must strike a delicate balance between these issues of equity and efficacy if it is to succeed.

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