With his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si,” Pope Frances went further than perhaps anyone has before to reframe the entire debate around climate change by focusing on the world’s poor and the duty to protect them from environmental harms that they did not cause themselves.
Now, new research in the journal Scientific Reports has underscored the pope’s message by showing that when it comes to climate change, it is indeed the countries with the most to lose that tend to contribute to the problem least — and also the other way round. The countries that contribute most to the problem — such as China and the United States, the current top two emitters — tend to show less relative vulnerability to the impact compared with nations that have quite low levels of emissions, the research finds.
“The general rule is, at a global scale, if you’re a nation that is going to suffer from climate change, you’re very likely not contributing to the problem,” says James Watson, a professor in the school of geography at the University of Queensland in Australia who also works with the Wildlife Conservation Society on climate change. Watson conducted the study with two colleagues from the University of Queensland.