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20 Oct

Two threats to our existence

the first threat to human existence is climate change, the refusal of developed states to take responsibility for it and address it comes a close second.

Climate change is widely acknowledged to be the greatest threat facing humanity.

It will lead to small island states disappearing from the face of the earth, serious global threats to our food and water supplies, and ultimately the death of hundreds of millions of the poorest people in the world over the course of this century.

No other threat -- including war, nuclear disasters, rogue regimes, terrorism, or the fiscal irresponsibility of governments -- is reliably predicted to cause so much harm to so many people on earth, and indeed to the earth itself.

The International Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Prize for its evaluation of thousands of research studies to provide us accurate information on climate change, has predicted that under the current scenario of "business-as-usual", temperatures could rise by as much as 10 degrees Celsius in some parts of the world.

This would have horrendous consequences for the most vulnerable people in the world.

Consequences that the past spokesman of 136 developing countries, Lumumba Diaping, described as the equivalent of sending hundreds of millions of Africans to the furnace.

Yet for more than two decades, states have failed to take adequate action to either prevent climate change or to deal with its consequences.

A major reason for this is that many wealthy industrialised countries view climate change as at worst an inconvenience, or at best even a potential market condition from which they can profit at the expense of developing countries.

Indeed, history has shown them that because of their significantly higher levels of population they have grown rich and been able to enslave, exploit and marginalise their neighbours in developing countries.

They continue in this vein.

Still, government representatives, led by the United States and other developed countries, continue to stand in the way of even the most basic action.

They are blocking legally-binding minimally adequate emissions limits with the result that temperature rises are inevitable and will cause deadly harm to people in many developing countries, and will eventually destroy the planet.

Ironically, these same rich countries are calling for developing countries to carry the greatest burden of cutting emissions.

If developing countries were to shoulder this burden this would lead to an even greater difference in living standards between the world's richest and the poorest.

But it is unlikely they could even do so if they wanted to carry such a disproportional burden.

The reason is that they have neither the technology that is needed to cut emissions without literally killing their people and the richest countries and private entities therein that have the technology are not willing to share it.

As if to rub salt into the wounds of the developing countries facing the inevitability of climate destruction, the developed countries are also refusing to provide even a fraction of the estimated resources needed to carry this burden and at the same time protect their people.

It is true that the resources needed to stop the planet from overheating and to protect people from the climate change that we can already not prevent is not a small sum of money.

According to the World Bank, it is as much as $750 billion a year at 2009 rates -- today over $1 trillion in light of the collapsing US dollar.

To date, developed countries have made a top offer of $30 billion now and 100 billion by 2020.

In fact, they have put more effort into mysteriously revising the World Bank figure downwards while the costs of the actions needed have risen and the damage already done has increased.

Still, despite offering too little and fiddling the books to decrease the amount that they need to offer, developing countries have disbursed less than one per cent of even their inadequate pledges.

It would seem to be a classic case of the rich just not caring about the poor.

Indeed, they don't seem to need to care.

Developed countries seem to have such disproportionate financial resources advantages that they can even purchase the support of developing countries.

The tiny island archipelago of Maldives, which will already most certainly disappear because of the rising sea levels caused by climate change, has, for example, given up on trying to take adequate action on climate change.

Instead, it frequently supports the proposals of developed countries to take inadequate action.

In 2009, its president publicly declared at the annual climate talks that he could agree to nothing better than a deal that would lead to his country disappearing under the sea.

Whether the words were his or actually those of developed countries is unclear, as his speaking points are sometimes written by advisors who are paid and made available to the Maldives by rich developed countries.

Regardless, it is getting harder for developed countries to ignore the "ticking clock" of climate change that has already condemned many people in the Global South to lives of misery.

The year 2010 was a stark reminder when average global temperatures reached their highest level ever and natural disasters became regular occurrences.