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The climate index risk and Italy…

16 December 2009 Beatrice Mosello No Comment

Discussing about Copenhagen seems to be very trendy these days. Instead of talking about football, people in the pubs seem to find it more interesting to comment on the latest developments of the climate summit in the Danish capital, and newspapers are literally invaded by articles on the environment: being ‘green’ has never been so cool (at least in words!). Maybe one reason why it is so cool to talk about climate change (instead of actually act against it) is linked to the false perception that the majority of us has that climate change is something that will happen, and, more importantly, will happen elsewhere. In the end, climate change should be a worry only for the children, or even grand-children, of today’s African people and/or today’s inhabitants of small states islands. Yes, we can show our solidarity to them by noisily demanding that leaders in Copenhagen take the right decisions, yes we can complain about the current mud in which the negotiations are stuck; yes we can switch the lights and our computers off when we leave the office. But no, we cannot do much else. False.

False because climate change is already having an impact now, and false because its impacts affect also our daily life of rich citizens of rich countries in the so-called global North. I am Italian, so let’s look at Italy. According to Germanwatch, a German NGO working on scientific and socio-economic research on global change, Italy places itself at the twelfth position (out of 176 countries) with reference to its “climate index risk”. The climate index risk measures the climate vulnerability of a country on the basis of indicators such as the number of fatalities caused by extreme events per year, and the cost of climate-related disasters as a percentage of total GNP. Of course, the first ranks are occupied by developing countries, in particular in the African continent, and by the small islands states. It is quite surprising, however, to find Italy amongst them. This is because of the recurring landslides and floods that my country frequently experiences, as well as its peculiar vulnerability to heat waves, which can cause thousands of victims, as it happened in 2003.

I am generally skeptical towards indexes and numbers: they often risk categorising problems, so that we end up loosing their true nuances.  But I thought that the one presented by Germanwatch was quite significant for conveying an important message: we are all affected by climate change now, and we should all act now and ask that actions are taken nowto combat it. And this is not because of a moral commitment we feel towards future generations or poor people living in far away countries. Humans are oftentimes very egoistic beings, we generally decide upon a certain course of action on the basis of the benefits it is going to bring us, right? Yes, so let’s be egoistic, and let’s care only about ourselves and about the present:  still, the abovementioned case of Italy shows us that if we want to maximize our well-being we cannot postpone any longer a decision on climate change.  And let’s also remember that Copehagen is not only about taking a decision: we need a decision that makes sense and matches scientific data and findings about climate change, and we need the political and individual willingness to then implement this decision, so that it does not remain a dead letter on a white paper.  

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