How to deal with climate change: Prompt intervention or Laissez Faire?

by Tobias Kalmbach

Trouble in paradise – Will Atlantis become reality within the next 50 years?

Low-level countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia and island states in the Pacific like Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga as well as the Marshall Islands are the countries who will suffer most from the impacts of climate change. The rising sea level as well as severe weather events threaten people’s lives. The groundwater has already mixed with the seawater and therefore the drinking water supply is a problem already.

Map of Island States in the Pacific

Map of Island States in the Pacific

The livelihood of many residents of small pacific island states who rely on agricultural and sea based professions is also in danger as agriculture already starts to become impossible on some islands. Moreover, some of those nations will disappear beneath the sea until the end of this century. Therefore, some residents do not see a future in their homeland and plan to immigrate to other countries.

The term climate refugee can apply to a person displaced by a natural disaster as well as to those who are forced to migrate from their homes due to consequences of longer-term climate change. Unfortunately, climate refugees are not recognized in the Refugee Convention of 1951. Therefore, the Refugee Convention has to be extended to bring certitude to people fearing to lose their homeland before millions of people start to apply for asylum. The first refugees are already coming to New Zealand.

Climate Refugee Camp

Climate Refugee Camp

“If you were faced with the threat of the disappearance of your nation, what would you do?" has asked the Prime Minister of Tuvalu Mr. Enele Sopoaga once. By pointing out that climate change is human-induced and no natural disaster, he wants to make the other nations aware of the fact that all of them have to reduce their CO2-emissions drastically as well as immediately. Tuvalu has also presented its renewable energy target.

By 2020, the small island state will have to use 100% energy of renewable sources. However, by being such a small nation, the country does not have the power to change the world. Hence, major emitters like the USA or China must play a leading role. They have to be role models instead of trading away their emission obligations.

Furthermore, developed countries have to support especially the Least Developed Countries (LDC), the Small Island Developing Countries (SIDS) and other countries which suffer droughts and floods by transferring knowledge and providing financial aid. After polluting the environment over the centuries, the industrialized countries have the duty to compensate the most vulnerable countries for their suffering. Dams have to be built and fresh water supplies protected.

Mr. Anote Tong, the President of the Republic of Kiribati, does not even see a way to save his country from disappearing: “For our people to survive, then they will have to migrate.” Kiribati tries to provide a very high education for the new generation to enable them to find a good job in other countries. "Either we can wait for the time when we have to move people en masse or we can prepare them – beginning from now ..." Kiribati also starts buying land from Fiji to be able to exist a little bit longer.

Not recognizing the problem - Putin: “Two or three degrees of warming could be good for Russia”


Russia cannot deny the existence of climate change and global warming, but Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin is convinced that it is cyclical. Sometimes it becomes warmer and sometimes it becomes colder.

Climate is a very complicated system. Therefore, human beings have a very limited impact on global warming. According to Mr. Putin, human-induced climate change is a “fraud-plot” from Western countries to restrain industrial development of several countries including Russia. Therefore, the Russian authorities see NGOs like Greenpeace as Western agents. NGOs are often funded from abroad and according to Russian authorities, they only bring their Western propaganda to Russia.

The Russian economy is dependent on its coal and gas exports and does not make any progress in introducing green energy. Therefore, the Russian government fears stigmatization of gas, coal and oil.In 2003, Mr. Putin even claimed that two or three degrees Celsius of warming could have positive impacts for Russia. “Residents wouldn’t need to spend as much money for coats”, he said. Moreover, warming decreases the need for indoor heating as well as it raises the potential of agricultural production in Russia. Additionally, it creates new possibilities for oil and gas extraction in the Artic shelves and it opens up northern sea roads.

Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions from G20 & non-G20 countries in 2009

Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions from G20 & non-G20 countries in 2009

The majority of the Russian population is not aware of possible negative impacts of climate change. The issue is not topical for society as well as for the media. For now, Russia’s first priority is the country’s economy, not the attempt to intervene in an unstoppable natural evolution. Russia wants to
regain its status as one of the world’s major powers.