Editor’s Note: Paul Hockenos is a Berlin-based writer focusing on renewable energy in Europe. He is the author of four books on European issues, most recently “Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall and the Birth of the New Berlin.” The opinions in this article are those of the author. View more opinion on CNN.
August will be one to remember for all the worst reasons. From epic flooding in Pakistan and along the Mississippi, to drought in China and out-of-control fires in Europe, the climate crisis is wreaking havoc on planet Earth on a new scale.
Yet, these disasters and their fallout are not evenly distributed. The Global South – low or middle income countries in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean – is suffering disproportionately, as climate scientists say it will for years to come.
If indeed it is global warming that is causing or even simply aggravating these extreme weather events, as scientists generally concur, then the South’s ever angrier nations are completely justified in their demands that the world’s wealthier regions – those ultimately responsible for this made-in-the-developed-world crisis – pay for its losses. In particular, the historically largest emissions sinners – the United States and Europe.
But these poorer countries shouldn’t count on it because not only is most of the Global North in denial about its oversized role in creating the crisis – it is dead set against condoning the principle of liability.
Pakistan is currently suffering this catastrophe – let’s call it “climate breakdown,” since this is what scientists say is happening – more acutely than anywhere else in the world. More than 1,300 people have lost their lives and 33 million others are affected in what Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif last week referred to as “the worst [monsoon season] in the country’s history.”
The grim images of washed away houses, stranded refugees, children and elderly people in rushing floodwaters vividly underscore the gross inequities of the crisis that is reverberating across the Global South. Indeed many of the 3.6 billion most vulnerable people shouldering the worst of climate breakdown live in the Global South.
According to the UN World Food Program, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe extreme weather resulting from rising temperatures is forcing millions of already poor people into hunger. The current figure of up to 828 million people going hungry every night around the world will soar if global heating is not checked, it says.
While the human cost is unquantifiable, the economic price tag isn’t. In Pakistan, a third of the country is underwater. The torrential rainfall and flooding, now in its second month, has destroyed one million homes, about 2,200 miles of roads, and submerged a third of the country – including more than two million acres (809,371 hectares) of farmland, robbing the residents there of their livelihoods. The damage thus far is estimated at more than $10 billion, or 4% of the country’s annual gross domestic product, according to Pakistani officials.