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Who contributes more to climate change than the affected?

Currently, Pakistan finds itself in the midst of a dire environmental crisis with more than a third of the country submerged under water. The severe flooding has left over 33 million people affected as their lives have been sunk as well as swept away.

According to the top Pakistani Climate Minister – Sherry Rehman – the rehabilitation of this crisis is expected to cost an approximate 12.5 Billion USD, which for a country on the verge of defaulting, is an amount that is currently very difficult to put together. Additionally, the destruction and damage to 2 million acres of cropland and its associated livestock, has left many of the affected without a source of income or sustenance.

However, of the 1.5 million displaced in rural areas, there is a lack of understanding regarding how little these people have contributed to the effects of climate change that have brought about the disastrous flooding. In fact, studies have conclusively and consistently shown us that it is in fact the urban-dwelling elite who contribute the greatest amount of carbon footprint and environmental damage. Yet, even more than our own country’s elite and ruling class, it should be noted that some of the biggest contributors to climate change consist of leading first-world nations.

Oxfam concluded that Pakistan actually only generates under 1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As of 2021, Pakistan has not declared a net-zero year goal, however, it has committed to cutting 50% of projected emissions by 2030. On the other hand, the US accounted for contributing 25% of historical emissions; this is twice more than China – the world's second-largest national contributor. Oxfam further published a report where they stressed the fact that the richest 10 per cent of people produce half of the planet’s individual-consumption-based fossil fuel emissions, while the poorest 50 per cent — about 3.5 billion people — contribute only 10 per cent. Yet those same 3.5 billion people are “living overwhelmingly in the countries most vulnerable to climate change,” according to the report. According to the data used by the report, individual consumers as opposed to consumption by governments and international transport makes up 64 per cent of worldwide climate emissions.

A 2013 assessment by Oxfam found that many low-income countries are experiencing (and will continue to experience as the climate changes) sea level rise, higher temperatures, unpredictable rainfall, and other extreme weather events. We are in the throes of witnessing this vividly in 2022 in Pakistan.

This leads us to the next step, which will hopefully be to call on nations such as the US, Russia and China to be charged reparations and penalties for the impact they have on global climate change.

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