National attribution of historical climate damages

Callahan, C.W., Mankin, J.S. (2022). “National attribution of historical climate damages.” Climatic Change 172, 40.

Abstract: Quantifying which nations are culpable for the economic impacts of anthropogenic warming is central to informing climate litigation and restitution claims for climate damages. However, for countries seeking legal redress, the magnitude of economic losses from warming attributable to individual emitters is not known, undermining their standing for climate liability claims. Uncertainties compound at each step from emissions to global greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations, GHG concentrations to global temperature changes, global temperature changes to country-level temperature changes, and country-level temperature changes to economic losses, providing emitters with plausible deniability for damage claims. Here we lift that veil of deniability, combining historical data with climate models of varying complexity in an integrated framework to quantify each nation’s culpability for historical temperature-driven income changes in every other country. We find that the top five emitters (the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, and India) have collectively caused US$6 trillion in income losses from warming since 1990, comparable to 11% of annual global gross domestic product; many other countries are responsible for billions in losses. Yet the distribution of warming impacts from emitters is highly unequal: high-income, high-emitting countries have benefited themselves while harming low-income, low-emitting countries, emphasizing the inequities embedded in the causes and consequences of historical warming. By linking individual emitters to country-level income losses from warming, our results provide critical insight into climate liability and national accountability for climate policy.

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