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Global Justice

Climate change is outrageously unfair.

The poorest countries in the world have done least to cause the problem, but they are set to suffer most and soonest from its effects. A one metre rise in sea level could permanently flood 21% of Bangladesh, including its best agricultural land, pushing 15 million people out of their homes.1 Ethiopia has suffered successive years of drought since 2004 caused by failure of the spring rains that may well be linked to climate change.2 The droughts caused crop failures that have left millions at risk of starvation. The IPCC predicts that drought and food shortages will affect hundreds of millions in the developing world in the coming decades if climate change continues unchecked.

Ethiopians emit about 0.06 tonnes of CO2 per head annually. Bangladeshis emit 0.24 tonnes. The corresponding figures for the UK and US are 9.5 tonnes and 20.0 tonnes respectively.3 Citizens of the developed world contribute hundreds of times more CO2 to the atmosphere per capita than most people in Africa.

It seems superfluous to cite detailed Jewish sources to prove that such a situation is wrong. The injustice of it cries out to Heaven. The Torah repeatedly stresses our responsibility for widows and orphans, the weakest and most vulnerable in society.

“Do not oppress the widow and the orphan. If you oppress then, they will surely cry out to Me and I will surely hear their cry.” (Exodus 22:21-2.)


1Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001, Working Group II, Table 11-9, quoted in George Monbiot, “Heat” London 2006.
2
3Figures for 2003, from US Energy Information Administration.International Energy Annual, 2005 quoted in Monbiot ibid.