The Arc of Climate Justice
As world leaders prepare to meet at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Pakistan is reeling from the aftereffects of devastating floods. Next month's negotiations must result in a binding international mechanism to ensure that the global costs of climate change are distributed fairly.
ISLAMABAD – It is a painful irony of climate change that those least responsible for the problem are often the most exposed to its ravages. And if any country can claim to be the victim of this climate injustice, it is Pakistan. As world leaders prepare to meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, the country is reeling from the aftereffects of devastating floods that damaged buildings, destroyed crops, swept away bridges, and killed 238 people.
Such weather-related tragedies are not new to Pakistan; what’s different is their frequency and ferocity. Deadly floods have become a yearly occurrence; in 2010, record-breaking rains killed nearly 2,000 people and drove millions from their homes. Even as Pakistan fights one of the world’s most pitched battles against terrorism, increasingly violent weather is pushing up the cost of food and clean water, threatening energy supplies, undermining the economy, and posing a potent and costly security threat.
There is little doubt that the country’s climatic woes are caused, at least in part, by the greenhouse-gas emissions that industrialized countries have pumped into the air since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Even today, Pakistan produces less than 1% of the world’s emissions. Meanwhile, Pakistan is consistently ranked among the countries that are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of climate change, owing to its demographics, geography, and natural climatic conditions.