Excessive greenhouse gas emissions from the US have caused nearly $2 trillion in damage to other countries, according to a new analysis.
A study from Dartmouth College evaluated the impact of US greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. It discovered that they have contributed to heatwaves, crop failures, and more natural disasters in other countries, most of them poorer. This amounts to more than $1.9 trillion in lost global income.
“The numbers really are very stark,” Chris Callahan, the lead author of the new study, told the Guardian. “For the first time, we can show that a country’s emissions can be traced to specific harm.”
Together, China, the US, India, Russia, and Brazil have caused around $6 trillion in losses around the world.
The study follows a 2021 report that found that the US is the biggest emitter of carbon in history. And that, together with China, it is the most historically responsible for the climate crisis, thanks to fossil fuel production, land use change, deforestation, and cement. (Russia, Brazil, the UK, and Canada were also in the top 10.)
These findings back up previous conclusions: poorer countries are suffering disproportionately from a climate crisis they didn’t create. And it’s not just economically. The World Health Organization Africa predicts that the climate crisis will contribute to an additional 250,000 deaths per year.
Co-author of the Dartmouth study Justin Mankin said: “In places that are already hot you are seeing it becoming harder to work outside, mortality from the heat is on the rise, it’s harder to grow crops.”
The role of the meat industry
Earlier this year, another study pointed the finger at rich countries. This time, over meat consumption.
Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany noted that rich countries need to cut meat consumption by at least 75 percent, as they are putting an unnecessary strain on the planet through excessive demand for animal products.
Not only is the meat industry incredibly resource-intensive (just one steak requires the equivalent of 40 bathtubs of water), but it also emits 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gasses and drives deforestation and habitat destruction.
Dr. Matin Qaim, who led the study, said at the time: “If all humans consumed as much meat as Europeans or North Americans, we would certainly miss the international climate targets and many ecosystems would collapse.”
In the Dartmouth study, researchers pointed out that while many poorer countries suffer, some rich countries in the north are benefitting from a change in the climate. (Canada, for example, has fewer deaths from the cold in the winter.)
“There is this huge inequity,” Mankin continued.
“Countries like the US have disproportionately damaged low-income countries in the global south and disproportionately benefited cooler, higher income countries in the global north.”
Activists are pushing for richer countries to take responsibility and provide financial compensation to countries suffering the most from the climate crisis.