86% of emissions are from half the world's population.

Inequality in emissions between countries is staggering: the countries defined as high and middle-income were home to 51% of the world population in 2016 but were responsible for 86% of global CO2 emissions that year [1]. Per person, North America has the highest CO2 emissions, followed by Oceania, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and then lastly Africa [1]. The average North American is responsible for about 17x more emissions each year than the average African [1]. However, inequality in emissions within countries is estimated to be as big as it is between countries [1,7].

The poorest countries and their vulnerable inhabitants will be the most severely affected by climate change [2]. This is in large part due to poorer people being more vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, such as droughts and floods, as a result of living in areas with greater exposure to extreme weather[4]. It’s predicted that the percentage of people exposed to droughts will rise from 9% to 17% by 2030, if emissions continue to increase at the current rate, thus hitting the poorest hardest [4]. Between 2030 and 2050, it’s predicted that climate change will cause about 250,000 deaths from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress [6], and particular groups, including children in poor countries, will be disproportionately vulnerable to such effects [6].

It is a great injustice that the people who have contributed the least to climate change feel its negative effects most severely [2]. This has sparked calls for ‘climate justice’: protect the human rights of all people, and ensure that the burdens and benefits of climate change are spread fairly between people and nations [2,5]. This means that developed countries need to both accelerate their own emissions reductions as well as supporting efforts in developing countries [5].


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