News | Developing countries most vunerable to climate change

McGill study adds credibility to calls for greater aid from developed countries

A new study conducted by McGill PhD candidate Jason Samson, offers credibility to long-standing warnings that the effects of climate change will be the greatest for countries that contribute to global warming the least. The study presents the projected effects of climate change on the human population in 2050, identifying who will be the most effected and in what ways.

Samson used data on climate change and censuses that reached around 97 per cent of the globe. He mapped out the potential changes for the population based on the collected data and found that the climate will have a strong impact on population density.

“We think that our society is so advanced, so technologically developed, that our economy [is] so globalized that climate shouldn’t have anything to do with it,” he said.

Samson’s model shows that those considered highly vulnerable reside in hot, low altitude regions including South America, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of Africa.

“It makes sense that [in] areas that are already difficult to grow crops, you have a good chance that with climate change these areas will be more vulnerable,” he said. “What I found was there was an inverse relationship between the cause and the consequence of climate change.”

Samson’s research shows that the countries most severely affected will be regions near the equator. Regions such as Central Asia, Canada, and Northern Europe are the least vulnerable.

“After looking at this global picture you can clearly see that these areas are emerging economies; developing countries that have the highest vulnerability to climate change,” he said.

According to McGill Geography professor James Ford, these findings are nothing new.

“We have known that for quite a long time but it adds credibility to countries that say: ‘The climate is changing and we are being impacted the most’,” said Ford.

Samson noted the consistency he found in his results. “With the models I was doing I just kept obtaining the same results,” he said. “That was just mind blowing.”

Ford also emphasized the importance of Samson’s study in moving forward the creation of adaptation funding and aid to developing countries in order to help protect against their vulnerability.

“For the last five years at the international level we’ve seen a lot of talk about adaptation and adaptation funding. Whether its developing new crop types, developing new infrastructure, investing in irrigation, but it all comes down to basic money – money that developing nations often don’t have,” he said.

Samson reiterated the relationship between human societies and climate conditions.

“It is essential to develop alternative models to help the understanding of potential climate change. … [The study] was the first quantitative evidence supporting what many emerging countries and decision makers were suggesting,” he said.

“These kind of studies help show that climate change does impose costs,” said Ford. “It imposes costs on developing nations and there is an ethical responsibility there, on behalf of nations who are responsible for climate change, to support the nations that will be the most affected.”


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