Who has to pay the costs of climate change?

September 29, 2022

The recent floods in Pakistan are just one example of how climate change hits poor countries the hardest. Tragically, these countries are the victim of a problem caused by others. It is thus no wonder that Pakistan is now asking the West to pay for the estimated $10 billion of damage caused by the floods. So far, only limited support has been committed to Pakistan and rich economies still refuse to accept responsibility for climate change in general. This could very well be a case of penny wise and pound foolish. First, there is a moral obligation to take responsibility for our extremely high carbon footprint. Per capita, rich economies emit 23 times more than developing economies and it thus clear who caused the problem in the first place. Second, if we don’t support these nations in their struggle against climate change, they are unlikely to contribute to global climate mitigation efforts. Third, the West is bound to lose geopolitical leverage in developing regions. China and Saudi Arabia, for example, will continue to invest billions of dollars in Pakistan and these investments are all about geopolitical and geo-economic ambitions and have little to do with sustainable development. All in all, refusing to support Pakistan and other victims of climate change may save some money on the short term, but it will cost us dearly on the long term.

Burning questions:
  • To what extent can individual companies also be held accountable, given their contribution to climate change?
  • Will it ever be possible to distinguish ‘regular’ natural disasters from climate-related ones?

Series 'AI Metaphors'

1. The Tool
Category: Objects
Humans shape tools.

We make them part of our body while we melt their essence with our intentions. They require some finesse to use but they never fool us or trick us. Humans use tools, tools never use humans.

We are the masters determining their course, integrating them gracefully into the minutiae of our everyday lives. Immovable and unyielding, they remain reliant on our guidance, devoid of desire and intent, they remain exactly where we leave them, their functionality unchanging over time.

We retain the ultimate authority, able to discard them at will or, in today's context, simply power them down. Though they may occasionally foster irritation, largely they stand steadfast, loyal allies in our daily toils.

Thus we place our faith in tools, acknowledging that they are mere reflections of our own capabilities. In them, there is no entity to venerate or fault but ourselves, for they are but inert extensions of our own being, inanimate and steadfast, awaiting our command.
Read the article
2. The Machine
Category: Objects
Unlike a mere tool, the machine does not need the guidance of our hand, operating autonomously through its intricate network of gears and wheels. It achieves feats of motion that surpass the wildest human imaginations, harboring a power reminiscent of a cavalry of horses. Though it demands maintenance to replace broken parts and fix malfunctions, it mostly acts independently, allowing us to retreat and become mere observers to its diligent performance. We interact with it through buttons and handles, guiding its operations with minor adjustments and feedback as it works tirelessly. Embodying relentless purpose, laboring in a cycle of infinite repetition, the machine is a testament to human ingenuity manifested in metal and motion.
Read the article

About the author(s)

FreedomLab Fellow Vivian Elion is an Advisor for Regional Approach at the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). In this role, she supports provinces, municipalities and entrepreneurs in adopting national sustainability policies concerning construction, the environment, and society. Vivian studied Global Business and Sustainability at Erasmus University Rotterdam, specializing in sustainability tensions. During her tenure at FreedomLab, she developed the Deep Transitions Framework into business services.

You may also like