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Sydney: Nations producing less greenhouse gases are most vulnerable to climate change, while the highest emitting countries are ironically least exposed to environmental change effects triggered by global warming, according to a new study.
This dramatic global mismatch was highlighted in a study by researchers at Australia's University of Queensland and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
"There is an enormous global inequality in which those countries most responsible for causing climate change are the least vulnerable to its effects," said lead author Glenn Althor of the University of Queensland.
"It is time that this persistent and worsening climate inequity is resolved, and for the largest emitting countries to act," Althor added.
The majority of the most vulnerable countries are African and small island nations like Maldives, Mauritius, Fiji and Antigua and Barbuda.
These countries are exposed to serious environmental change such as oceanic inundation or desertification. They are also generally the least developed nations, having few resources available to cope with these issues, researchers said.
"This is like a non-smoker getting cancer from second-hand smoke, while the heavy smokers continue to puff away. Essentially we are calling for the smokers to pay for the health care of the non-smokers they are directly harming," said co-author James Watson of the University of Queensland and WCS.
The study found that 20 of the 36 highest emitting countries -- including the US, Canada, Australia, China, and much of western Europe -- were least vulnerable.
The number of acutely vulnerable countries will worsen by 2030 say the authors as climate change related pressures such as droughts, floods, bio-diversity loss and disease mount.
The study findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Scientific Reports.