US Climate Expropriation Impacts all Humanity

U.S.-attributable climate damages. (a) Ensemble mean GDPpc changes in each country attributable to U.S. emissions, over 1990–2014 with territorial emissions accounting and a short-run (contemporaneous) damage function. Missing data (white countries) denotes countries without continuous GDPpc data from 1990 to 2014. bc U.S.-attributable damages in the five countries with the greatest GDPpc percent decreases (b) and percent increases (c). The black lines show the mean, the boxes denote the 95% ensemble range, and the colored portions denote the additive fraction of each 95% range due to each.

With its carbon footprint from 1990 to 2014, the US caused nearly $2 trillion in damages to other countries, finds a new analysis.

How much “aid”, in all forms, the country has provided to other countries? The motive, character, use, implication, beneficiary of the so-called aid are not questioned/discussed here.

This is the face of carbon footprint, actually, climate-plunder/expropriation, which is global and impacting the entire humanity, and all lives. This is expropriation of climate from the entire humanity; and the humanity is paying with life.

The colossal amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) released by the US over the period cited above has led to natural disasters, and economic damages including crop failures in countries, resulting in $1.9 trillion in lost income globally, the report found.

The study by scientists from Dartmouth College and published in the journal Climatic Change on July 12, 2022 (Callahan, C.W., Mankin, J.S. “National attribution of historical climate damages”, Climatic Change 172, 40 (2022).

Northerly countries

The study finds:

  • The most northerly countries are reaping tangible benefits from climate change, such as longer growing seasons and fewer cold-related deaths.
  • The disproportionate harm befalling poorer and warmer countries is likely even more skewed.

The scientists calculated resulting damages “using empirical temperature-growth relationship” after combining historical climate data with climate models and economic information.

In poor and poorer countries, the impact of climate expropriation is deadly: hundreds die every year, thousands turn destitute and migrants, and millions face uncertainty in terms of livelihood, shelter, health and education.

The study report said:

  • When emissions created by international trade are taken into account the US is placed even more starkly in the lead regarding climate-induced damages, responsible for 18%.
  • The damages caused by Russia and China correspondingly decrease by 15% and 9%, respectively while those caused by some European countries increase by as much as 20%.

Sue for climate-created harms

The study findings, as the scientists claim, could provide a basis for poorer countries to sue for climate-related harms.

The study report said:

Previous efforts have been hamstrung by a lack of scientific evidence linking individual carbon emitters to “the downstream impacts of warming.” These countries may be able to take legal action. Such methods of placing blame for climate harms can also be applied to individual corporations, the researchers point out.

Veil of deniability lifted

The report said:

  • Quantifying which nations are culpable for the economic impacts of anthropogenic warming is central to informing climate litigation and restitution claims for climate damages. However, for countries seeking legal redress, the magnitude of economic losses from warming attributable to individual emitters is not known, undermining their standing for climate liability claims. Uncertainties compound at each step from emissions to GHG concentrations, GHG concentrations to global temperature changes, global temperature changes to country-level temperature changes, and country-level temperature changes to economic losses, providing emitters with plausible deniability for damage claims.
  • The study lifts the veil of deniability, combining historical data with climate models of varying complexity in an integrated framework to quantify each nation’s culpability for historical temperature-driven income changes in every other country.

The report said:

  • Global income changes attributable to the US and China’s emissions over 1990–2014 each exceed US$1.8 trillion in both losses and benefits; losses and benefits induced by Russia, India, and Brazil each individually exceed US$500 billion. The US$6 trillion in cumulative losses attributable to those five countries alone is comparable both to some 14% of annual world GDP and to the economic losses associated with warming the planet to 2° C rather than 1.5° C.

Disproportionate contributions: The top10

It said:

  • Large emitters make disproportionate contributions to climate damages; the top 10 most damaging countries are together responsible for more than 67% of losses and 70% of benefits. The US contributes the most, responsible for 16.5% of losses and 18% of benefits, followed by China, responsible for 15.8% of losses and 16.8% of benefits; every other country individually contributes less than 10%.

Pakistan and Bolivia: A comparison

The report said:

  • Small differences in emissions can lead to major differences in attributable damages. For example, Pakistan and Bolivia have similar CO2 emissions, with Pakistan emitting an average of 35 MtC year of CO2 over 1990–2014 and Bolivia emitting an average of 32 MtC year. But that slight difference means that while Pakistan can be tied to $130B in statistically significant losses, Bolivia cannot be tied to any. So, while the result that heavy emitters have caused significant attributable damages may seem obvious, it is not possible to perform a quantitative attribution of precisely how much damage and to whom, nor how confident we can be in such estimates, absent an integrated framework that propagates uncertainty from each step in the analysis.

Gap in responsibility

It said:

  • Under consumption-based accounting, attributable damages increase by 1.5% for the US, increase by 10–20% for some European countries, and decrease by 15% for Russia and 9% for China, expanding the gap in responsibility between the US and all other countries.

The report said:

  • Emissions released early in the twentieth century may have more severe effects because of the longer time period over which the growth effects of such emissions accumulate; at the same time, carbon sinks are stronger at lower emissions levels and the growth effects of warming are milder when baseline temperatures are cooler, so the opposite could be true.

Developing countries

The report said:

  • Developing countries’ attributable damages and benefits only increase modestly while many countries in Europe experience > 400% increases, given their large shares of pre-1990 emissions.

Political choice

It said:

  • Damages and thus potential liabilities depend on when emissions accounting begins and on what emissions are considered. These choices are ultimately political.
  • The analysis provides a quantitative grounding to inform these political choices.

Warmer and poorer

It said:

  • Countries that lose income are warmer and poorer than the global average, generally located in the tropics. Countries that gain income are cooler and wealthier than the global average, generally located in the mid-latitudes. Global warming to date has amplified, and will continue to amplify, this extant pattern of global economic inequality.
  • Our results provide an additional dimension to this globally unequal pattern: The cool, relatively wealthy countries that have gained from anthropogenic warming are also those that (1) have emitted the most and (2) caused the most damage to other countries from their emissions. Nearly all the high-emitting nations in North America and Eurasia are in the top two GDP per capita income quintiles over 1990–2014, though China, India, and Indonesia are exceptions. These top several income quintiles have caused income losses in the poorest two quintiles, while they have caused income gains for themselves that exceed those losses in magnitude (Fig.4, according to the study report.).

Income distribution of damages caused and experienced. Bar heights show the average GDPpc change experienced by countries in each income quintile that are attributable to the average emitter in each income quintile (colors). Error bars show + / − one standard deviation of the mean across the distribution of pattern scaling coefficients, FaIR realizations, and damage function parameters (Methods). Inset map shows each country’s income quintile, calculated using 1990–2014 average GDPpc. [Source: The study report]

  • On the other hand, countries in the lowest income quintile, primarily in Africa and central and south Asia, have caused nearly zero effects on other countries while suffering the greatest disadvantages from the emissions of larger economies. While uncertainty is large for the gains experienced by higher income quintiles, uncertainty is relatively low for damages in the bottom two quintiles. As such, the distributional picture of culpability and equity in climate damages is evident, despite the myriad complexities involved in linking individual nations’ emissions to climate impacts.

The results shown in Fig. 4 use territorial emissions accounting over 1990–2014 as in our [the study] baseline analysis, but many high-income, high-emitting countries have also imported additional emissions through their demand for products from the developing world.

At the expense of the poorest people

The report said:

  • These results are consistent with previous work that shows increases in global inequality from historical warming. However, our [the study] findings emphasize that the culpability for warming rests primarily with a handful of major emitters, and that this warming has resulted in the emitters’ enrichment at the expense of the poorest people in the world. Our work [the study] shows that anthropogenic warming constitutes a substantial international wealth transfer from the poor to the wealthy.

High-income countries harmed low-income countries

The study report said:

  • GHG emissions from high-emitting countries have caused substantial economic losses in low-income, tropical parts of the world and economic gains in high-income, mid-latitude regions. Critically, these economic changes are attributable to the largest emitters despite the substantial uncertainties at each step in the causal chain from emissions to impact. Our results are robust despite the wide range of carbon cycle parameters and climate sensitivities, global-to-local forcing strengths, and temperature-growth specifications we test.
  • These results have two key implications. Firstly, they illustrate that physical climate uncertainty may constitute the dominant source of uncertainty in losses in tropical countries that are attributable to major emitters. While uncertainty in the relationship between the climate and economy is the dominant uncertainty in global losses from warming, our results demonstrate that this does not hold at the country level. In the low-income tropical countries that are most vulnerable to warming, internal climate variability and differences in model structure can produce a wide range in damages attributable to major emitters like the US. Scientific efforts to narrow uncertainty in regional climate change may therefore pay large dividends for countries seeking legal recourse for climate damages.
  • Secondly, the actions of specific emitters can be tied to the downstream monetary implications of climate change. Emerging discussions about climate liability have been limited to date by a lack of scientific evidence supporting causal linkages between individual countries’ emissions and the consequent local impacts.

The scientists claim their “framework shows that such linkages can be quantified using state-of-the-art climate models and empirical approaches and that we can process-trace exactly who has caused economic losses from their emissions, and how much.”

Firms, and farmers

The report said:

  • While previous studies have illustrated the economic harms of global warming, our work shows that these harms can be assigned to individual emitters in a way that rigorously accounts for the compounding uncertainties at each step of the causal chain from emissions to local impact. Finally, it is worth noting that our approach can be generalized to other actors, such as individual firms, or to other harms, such as the economic losses suffered by farmers due to extreme heat. These results therefore contribute to resolving a key barrier to climate liability efforts and advance these critical emerging discussions.

The findings, etc. of the above mentioned study are significant. The study findings show that climate movement, poor peasants and agricultural labor movement, working class movement, rights movement, anti-imperialism movement, these are parts of democratic movement, even, rich farmers’ movement, have ground to raise climate related demands; and demands are political. The politics of the exploited classes have no scope to ignore the issue of climate, to be exact, climate expropriation.

The issue is also found in many other studies. A 2012 study (Wei T, Yang S, Moore JC, Shi P, Cui X, Duan Q, Xu B, Dai Y, Yuan W, Wei X et al (2012), Developed and developing world responsibilities for historical climate change and CO2 mitigation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (32) said:

  • Negotiations on emission reduction among countries are increasingly fraught with difficulty, partly because of arguments about the responsibility for the ongoing temperature rise. Simulations with two earth-system models demonstrate that developed countries had contributed about 60-80%, developing countries about 20-40%, to the global temperature rise, upper ocean warming, and sea-ice reduction by 2005.

Seven years later, another study (Diffenbaugh NS, Burke M (2019), Global warming has increased global economic inequality, Proc Natl Acad Sci, 116(20) PMID: 31010922, PMCID: PMC6525504, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1816020116) said:

Understanding the causes of economic inequality is critical for achieving equitable economic development.

To investigate whether global warming has affected the recent evolution of inequality, the study combined counterfactual historical temperature trajectories from a suite of global climate models with extensively replicated empirical evidence of the relationship between historical temperature fluctuations and economic growth. Together, these allowed the scientists to generate probabilistic country-level estimates of the influence of anthropogenic climate forcing on historical economic output.

The study found:

  • Very high likelihood that anthropogenic climate forcing has increased economic inequality between countries.

As example, the study cited the following facts:

  • Per capita GDP has been reduced 17-31% at the poorest four deciles of the population-weighted country-level per capita GDP distribution, yielding a ratio between the top and bottom deciles that is 25% larger than in a world without global warming. As a result, although between-country inequality has decreased over the past half century, there is ∼90% likelihood that global warming has slowed that decrease. The primary driver is the parabolic relationship between temperature and economic growth, with warming increasing growth in cool countries and decreasing growth in warm countries. Although there is uncertainty in whether historical warming has benefited some temperate, rich countries, for most poor countries there is >90% likelihood that per capita GDP is lower today than if global warming had not occurred. Thus, our results show that, in addition to not sharing equally in the direct benefits of fossil fuel use, many poor countries have been significantly harmed by the warming arising from wealthy countries’ energy consumption.

This year, a study (Beusch, L., Nauels, A., Gudmundsson, L. et al., Responsibility of major emitters for country-level warming and extreme hot years, Commun Earth Environ 3, 7, January 6, 2022, quantified contributions of the five largest emitters – China, US, EU-27, India, Russia – to project 2030 country-level warming and extreme hot years with respect to pre-industrial climate.

The study found:

  • Under current pledges, their cumulated 1991–2030 emissions are expected to result in extreme hot years every second year by 2030 in twice as many countries (92%) as without their influence (46%). If all world nations shared the same fossil CO2 per capita emissions as projected for the US from 2016–2030, global warming in 2030 would be 0.4° C higher than under actual current pledges, and 75% of all countries would exceed 2° C of regional warming instead of 11%.

The study report said:

  • The US is the largest per capita emitter, followed by Russia, China, EU-27, and finally India.
  • The top five emitters — China, US, EU-27, India, and Russia — are playing a major role in driving global and regional warming and are increasing the probability for extreme hot years, both since the first IPCC report of 1990 and even only since the Paris Agreement of 2015. In the context of their current Paris Agreement emissions pledges, the US, Russia, China, and EU-27 would experience even more severe warming by 2030 if the whole world were to follow the same per capita fossil CO2 emissions as them.

There are, according to the report, “small countries with large per capita emissions, such as Switzerland and similar-size countries” also. These countries are, the report said, to “pursue more stringent mitigation efforts”.

There’s no scope to confine the climate crisis issue within the narrow discussion of climate-only, if the findings cited above are considered from people’s, especially the poor, working people’s perspective. The issue is not also to be handled by NGOS only. Rather, the issue should be handled by political organizations/parties, as this issue (i) involves capitals, (ii) capitals’ conflict with people, (iii) is political, and (iv) this involves political decision. These make the issue of climate one of the major and immediate tasks of political organizations, especially, the political organizations of people, especially the poor.

The climate-reality is a reflection of climate plunder. Capitals involved in this climate business, and, to be specific, the world capitalist system is just expropriation and plunder of the climate. This is in addition to appropriation of surplus labor the world around. In the case of climate, it’s not only the labor chained by capital that pays for capitals’ climate plunder, but the entire population, parts of the population don’t always sale their labor power to capital, makes the payment. Even, deterioration of climate harms labor productivity, an issue of concern to related capitals. The findings of the study also help identify contradictions related to climate and the world capitalist system. There are people on one pole and climate-expropriating capital on another. Considering the issues, the new study cited above is significant as climate expropriation by capital has turned out as crime against humanity.

Note: Mostly quoted, directly/indirectly, from the studies.

Farooque Chowdhury is a freelance writer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His books in English include Micro Credit, Myth Manufactured (ed.) (2007), The Age of Crisis (2009), and The Great Financial Crisis, What Next?: Interviews with John Bellamy Foster (ed.), Dhaka: Books (2012), 190 pp. Read other articles by Farooque.