The cost of fossil fuels goes beyond what we pay when we purchase
From excavation through
transportation to utilization, fossil fuels have devastating impacts on
environment, human health, species and ecosystems.
bronchitis, cancer, nasal congestion, pulmonary inflammation, acidic rain,
earthquakes, pipeline explosions, hazardously abandoned infrastructure are just
but a few of the impacts.
Of all the impacts,
global warming is the most catastrophic, widespread and inestimably costly.
The financial and
emotional cost of interring loved ones who die in global warming instigated conflicts and natural disasters or hospital bills for those injured; the
cost of maintaining refugee camps for the displaced; the losses incurred when
crops fail or economic downfall experienced when the number of tourists to
Africa plummet; the costs incurred when we dig bore holes several meters into
the ground to offset water scarcity… are all climate related.
In 2013, for example,
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) killed over 6,300 people, displaced 4 million others,
damaged 1 million houses and caused approximately US$2 billion in damage in
In Kenya, the 1997 El
Nino destroyed crops, roads, bridges, schools, houses and commercial buildings.
Thousands of people were left homeless and livestock swept away. In November
2015, over 80 people died, several others injured and thousands displaced as El
Nino rains hit a total of 9,123 households the across the country.
As climate change continues to devastate
the world, especially the poor and vulnerable third world, various solutions
and recommendations have been proposed, and some implemented, to ameliorate the
situation: mitigation, adaptation and compensation for loss and damage.
To mitigate climate
change, the world agreed in Paris to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming below 1.5oC to avoid tragic impacts.
However, the fossil fuel
industry has been working so hard, applying underhand tactics, to sabotage climate deals to continue raking in huge profits
despite being clearly aware of the impacts of fossil fuels on climate.
This has prompted
activists to lobby for expelling the industry from climate negotiations.
However, even if
emissions are stabilized now, temperatures are still expected to increase to
between 2.7–3.7oC by 2100, meaning, climate change
and already occurring adverse effects will last for years.
Adaptation is therefore
necessary to miimise climate change vulnerability and threats to life, human
health, livelihoods, food security, properties, amenities, species and
Sadly, most developing
countries cannot afford the cost of putting in place adaptation measures.
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The annual adaptation
costs are estimated to be between US$ 14 and 15 billion in sub-Saharan Africa
and about US$ 2.5 billion in the Middle East and North Africa. But the cost
projected to rise to US$50 billion per year in Africa and US$250-500 billion
across all developing countries by 2050 even if global warming is limited to 2oC this century.
Nonetheless, even in the
best mitigation and adaptation scenario, climate instigated loss (irreversible
impacts of climate change such as deaths, extinction of species, loss of
heritage) and damage (recoverable impacts of significant economic cost such as
damage to property and infrastructure) are likely to remain for years.
The cost of loss and
damage is high and rising.
The global cost of
residual damage is estimated
at US$275 trillion between 2000 and 2200 for all countries. This does
not include non-economic losses though. The cost is extremely high if little or
no action is taken (~US$1,240 trillion).
The estimates for
residual damages by 2060 alone range from US $ 0.3 to 2.8 trillion with an
average of US $ 1.2 trillion per year.
According to Africa’s Adaptation Gap Report,
Africa will still suffer large residual damages (loss and damage) estimated at
$100bn per year by 2050 for below 2oC and $200bn per year by 2040 for above 4oC even if all cost-effective adaptation is
To adapt and deal with
loss and damages associated with climate change, the poor and vulnerable
countries need financial and technological support.
To assist the countries, Loss and Damage Mechanism was established to address loss and
damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and
slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to
the adverse effects of climate change
Among its mandates is
enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and
capacity-building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse
effects of climate change.
Sadly, climate finance
is inadequate. Developed countries objected to inclusion of legally binding
loss and damage compensation mechanism in the Paris Agreement and instead
pledged only $100 billion to a Green Climate Fund for adaptation and mitigation of
This is peanut going by
the magnitude of the situation. A new source of finance is urgently needed! But
we shouldn’t look any farther.
As a way of phasing out
fossil fuels, after kicking the industry out of climate negotiations, we need
to move to the next step: to make the perpetrators pay for adaptation, loss and
The fossil fuel
companies have not only contributed to climate change but also amassed huge
profits in the process!
Top five oil and gas
companies alone - ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips - made
over $1 trillion in
profits from 2002 to 2012 (and nearly
$120 billion in 2012). Moreover, post-tax subsidies for oil, coal and gas
producers amounted to $4.9 trillion in 2013 and are projected to reach $5.3
trillion in 2015.
The industry should either
be fined or a legally binding framework should be established to make the
companies finance Loss and Damage Mechanism including the cost of establishing
the accurate cost of loss and damages or both.
On top of perpetrating
climate change and making huge profits out of human suffering, fossil fuel
companies knowingly mislead the public by hiding and
manipulating crucial information and have manipulated climate negotiations
despite knowing the impacts of fossil fuels on climate and human health.
Therefore it is not only
legally logical but also morally right to contribute towards cleaning their
We can borrow a leaf
from the tobacco industry’s precedence.
In 2006, tobacco
industry was declared guilty and fined $10 billion for fraudulently misleading
the public about the risks and dangers of cigarette despite knowing the health
Since then, stiffer laws
and regulations have been enacted to regulate the industry.
Article 19 of Framework
Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC)
gives Parties the power to use the law to hold the tobacco industry legally and
financially accountable for its abuses.
United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should emulate the FCTC to hold the fossil fuel
industry accountable for the damages they have created.
As individuals, we can
help push the cause by launching legal cases, creating awareness through
various media and reaching out to government representatives to voice the issue
during the COP 22.