Helping low-latitude, poor countries with climate change

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Author: S. Niggol Seo
Date: Winter 2015
From: Regulation(Vol. 38, Issue 4)
Publisher: Cato Institute
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,772 words
Lexile Measure: 1500L

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There is little evidence that low-latitude, poor countries will be greatly damaged by global warming if they adapt sensibly. Poor countries should strive to adapt to changes in climate on their own. They must not wait for international money from rich, industrial countries to do the magical work for them.

Climate funds to poor countries / A prevalent view in the global warming community is that low-latitude, poor countries will bear the brunt of global warming and climate change. This view leads to the idea that rich countries should financially help poor countries to cope with that change by financing the poor countries' adoption of low- or zero-carbon technologies and other adaptations.

This view has created a perennial divide in the global negotiations between rich and poor countries, most visibly so since the United States declared at the Copenhagen Conference in 2009--the first year of Barack Obama's presidency--that it will provide over $100 billion per year to assist poor countries in adapting to climate change. The U.S. financial commitment was interpreted as a political maneuver to avoid a new global climate "protocol" at that time that would be legally binding and apply to all countries without exception, described as "cutting the legs out" from under the messy United Nations framework on climate change.

After the Copenhagen meeting, global negotiations have deteriorated into a political deadlock between rich countries and poor countries with regards to when, how, how much, by whom, and where such funds should be delivered to the poor countries. Low-latitude, developing countries cannot afford to legally commit to any cut in greenhouse gas emissions, but they are still adamantly calling for financial assistance clauses to be explicitly written into a global agreement on climate change that is legally binding according to international laws as a pre-condition for the poor countries' participation in the treaty process.

Developed countries, on the other hand, have been sluggish and reluctant to make pledges to fund the international climate adaptation finance program known as the Green Climate Fund (GCF). By the end of July 2015, pledged and signed contributions amounted to $5.8 billion for the four-year initial period through 2020, which amounts to approximately $1.45 billion per year. There is no information available on how much money the GCF has actually received.

Devastation in poor countries? / The predominant perception that low-latitude, poor countries will be devastated by global warming is grounded on fragile assumptions.

First, it is assumed that agriculture will be the most vulnerable sector if the climate were to warm up, accounting for one-third of the total market and non-market damages that arise from global warming, even in the United States. (See Readings...

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