Open letter to Obama: an alliance with the vulnerable

Earlier today,  the Guardian published online an open letter to the recently re-elected President of the United States, Barack Obama. However, this wasn’t a congratulatory note on his election victory, a call to work with his Republican foes, or a critical perspective on his last four years.

Instead, Pa Ousman Jarju, chair of the Least Developed Countries group at the UN climate change negotiations, solicited the President to help the poorer countries of the world deal with climate change, particularly because they face the bulk of the danger.

“As researchers at Brown University’s climate and development lab have shown, climate-related disasters such as droughts, extreme temperatures, floods, and hurricanes have caused an estimated 1.3 million deaths since 1980. Two-thirds of these deaths (over 909,000) occurred in the least developed countries. We are only 12% of the world’s population, but we suffer the effects of climate-related disasters more than five times as much as the world as a whole.”

Alongside a request to firm up international commitments on climate change, Jarju wanted the President to commit extra funding to LDCs in order to help them tackle these unfairly weighted concerns. The headline fact is that in 2010 the wealthiest countries (an unhelpfully vague moniker) spent $400bn paying for fossil fuels, but only directed $1.5bn to help developing countries adapt to the climate change this very fossil fuel was helping to bring about.

Of course, that particular comparison is an awfully unfair one – the whole world has been fascinated with fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution – but it serves as a helpful nudge to remember where the worse effects of climate change are being felt. Not only should that lead to increase aid, but greater communication of the troubles around the world will hopefully effect changes in consumer behaviour as well.

The letter is a desperate cry from poorer nations that desperately need the powerful ones to sit up and take notice. In addition, the video from the Watson Institute at Brown University gives a fantastic visual representation of the figures involved.

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