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Countries With Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions Most Vulnerable To Climate Change

First Posted: Feb 11, 2016 01:35 PM EST

Countries that produce the least amounts of greenhouse gases might be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Researchers from the University of Queensland and WCS conducted a study that indicated a global mismatch between countries that generate the most greenhouse gases and those that are most vulnerable to climate change effects.

The researchers found that countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions were somehow the least vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as human health and industrial impacts, change of habitats and natural disasters. However, countries with the least greenhouse gas emissions are most vulnerable.

"There is an enormous global inequality in which those countries most responsible for causing climate change are the least vulnerable to its effects," Glenn Althor, lead author of the study, said in a news release. "It is time that this persistent and worsening climate inequity is resolved, and for the largest emitting countries to act."

The team noted that some of the most vulnerable countries are the African and Small Island States, which are exposed to grave environmental changes such as desertification and oceanic inundation. These countries are undeveloped, where they have very little or almost no available resources to help resolve environmental issues.

"This is like a non-smoker getting cancer from second-hand smoke, while the heavy smokers continue to puff away," said James Watson, coauthor of the study. "Essentially we are calling for the smokers to pay for the health care of the non-smokers they are directly harming."

The team that 20 out of the 36 highest greenhouse gas emitting countries, which includes Canada, the U.S. Australia, China and Western Europe were the least vulnerable to the effects of climate change. They found that 11 of 17 countries with low or moderate emission levels were the most vulnerable to climate change. Many of these countries were located in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. These countries that are most vulnerable will become worse by 2030 as the effects of climate change will escalate, resulting in more floods, droughts, and a loss in biodiversity along with the increase of diseases.

"The recent Paris agreement was a significant step forward in global climate negotiations" said Richard Fuller, study coauthor. "There now needs to be meaningful mobilization of these policies, to achieve national emissions reductions while helping the most vulnerable countries adapt to climate change."

The findings of this study were published in Scientific Reports.

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