From the BBC:
We have been pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in ever increasing quantities since the industrial revolution. Some countries in the developed world are, of course, responsible for the bulk of this. Since 1850 the US and the nations which are now the EU have been responsible for more than 50% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
So shouldn’t they pay to fix the problem? The inhabitants of The Maldives – made up of more than 1,200 islands, most of which are no more than one metre above sea level – are already feeling the effects of climate change. They are victims. But they didn’t cause the problem. Should those countries with historical responsibility for emissions be obliged to compensate The Maldives?
The old industrialised world might respond that for much of the period since the 1850s nobody knew about man-made global warming. Does that mitigate its responsibility? And why should the current generation be punished for the crimes of its forebears? Is that really fair?
Then there’s the question of who’s polluting now – when we do know the damage it’s doing. China belts out more CO2 than the United States, and the gap between the two is expected to grow as China continues to develop. So perhaps it is China, not the United States, which should bear the greatest burden?