Despite a sharp decrease in carbon emissions due to the pandemic, the world remains on pace to warm several degrees this century, threatening poor and developing nations with the full gamut of natural disasters and displacements
The richest one percent of people are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the poorest half of the world's population — 3.1 billion people — new research showed on September 21.
Despite a sharp decrease in carbon emissions (CO2) due to the pandemic, the world remains on pace to warm several degrees this century, threatening poor and developing nations with the full gamut of natural disasters and displacements.
An analysis led by Oxfam showed that when annual emissions ballooned 60 percent between 1990 and 2015, rich nations were responsible for depleting nearly a third of Earth's carbon budget. The carbon budget is the limit of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions mankind may produce before rendering catastrophic temperature rises unavoidable.
Just 63 million people — the "one percent" — took up nine percent of the carbon budget since 1990, research conducted for Oxfam by the Stockholm Environment Institute found. Highlighting an ever-widening "carbon inequality", the analysis said the growth rate of the one percent's emissions was three times that of the poorest half of humanity.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"It's not just that extreme economic inequality is divisive in our societies, it's not just that it slows the rate of poverty reduction. But there is also a third cost which is that it depletes the carbon budget solely for the purpose of the already affluent growing their consumption. And that of course has the worse impacts on the poorest and least responsible," Tim Gore, head of policy, advocacy and research, told AFP.
The 2015 Paris climate deal commits nations to limit global temperature rise to "well below" two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But emissions have continued to rise since then, and several analyses have warned that without a thoroughly re-tooled global economy prioritising green growth, the pollutions savings due to Covid-19 will have an insignificant mitigating impact on climate change.
With just 1C of warming so far, Earth is already battling more frequent and intense wildfires, droughts and super storms rendered more powerful by rising seas.
Gore said governments must put the twin challenges of climate change and inequality at the heart of any Covid-19 recovery plan.
"It's clear that the carbon intensive and highly unequal model of economic growth over the last 20-30 years has not benefited the poorest half of humanity. It's a false dichotomy to suggest that we have to choose between economic growth and (fixing) the climate crisis," he said.
Commenting on the Oxfam report, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an environment activist and president of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, said that climate change could not be tackled without prioritising economic equality."My indigenous peoples have long borne the brunt of environmental destruction. Now is the time to listen, to integrate our knowledge, and to prioritise saving nature to save ourselves," said Ibrahim.