Whether the damage caused by extreme weather events can be linked to human emissions of greenhouse gases is one of the hottest topics in climate science. And that debate leads directly to another: if this link can be established, who bears the responsibility? Both of these questions are at the center of an inquiry by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, whose latest hearings took place in London in November 2018. It is the first time a human-rights commission has heard evidence on whether large emitters violate basic human rights by causing climate change…
Where the hearings become more unusual is in investigating the link between the damage caused by climate change and the behaviour of large industrial companies. This is predicated on recent efforts to trace greenhouse-gas emissions back to large corporate and state-owned producers of fossil fuels and cement, dubbed the “carbon majors”. The latest analysis by cdp (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), a non-governmental organisation that works with companies, cities and states to measure their environmental impact, published in 2017, found that 100 of them had produced just over half of emissions since the Industrial Revolution.
The Philippine hearings will come to a close in December in Manila. The commission does not have the power to compensate victims of typhoons or to sanction emitters of carbon dioxide. According to Roberto Cadiz, one of the commissioners, that isn’t even the point. His wish is to open a dialogue about possible solutions to climate change that includes the industrial emitters. So far, however, only one side of the story is being heard. The emitters have declined to participate.
Excerpts from Climate Change: The Blame Game, Economist, Nov. 17, 2018