The lack of funding for vital research that underpins humanitarian response, as well as disaster risk preparedness, is something the international community is still grappling with.
During the talks in Bonn, ideas for alternatives started to emerge. “There is a big campaign launched by civil society organisations that calls for a loss and damage tax on polluting companies," said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at Bangladesh's Independent University, and a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development.
The idea is that this money could compensate people who suffer as a result of their products, in this case fossil fuels, Huq explained. "These companies are still producing pollution and causing loss and damage — they need to pay."
Until recently, the issue of compensation was contentious because there was no way to prove the responsibility of a single big polluter in any one extreme event, or a slow-onset disaster. But the science of extreme weather attribution is now so sophisticated that researchers can put their finger on human responsibility for a given weather event, and call out individual companies.
Brenda Ekwurzel, a senior climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists in the United States, is the author of a study that names and shames the 90 fossil fuel giants that are responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the global temperature rise that has occurred since 1880.
"We have known for a long time that fossil fuels are the largest contributors to climate change, but people haven't really tied it back to specific products," she told SciDev.Net.
"They [the companies] knew their product was going to be used for energy, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” added Ekwurzel. “We have lots of evidence that the companies knew the harm they were causing by at least the 1980s”.
The world is close to missing the target set in Paris
, of keeping global warming within 2 degrees Celsius. New studies suggest that at the current rate of emissions, global warming would remain below 1.5 degrees for just two decades — a tight deadline but still achievable, if implementation of the Paris commitments is sufficiently scaled up in the coming years.
The alternative of failing to curb global temperatures involves extreme events such as floods and intensely hot summers becoming so frequent, that without a plan to address loss and damage and prepare, the consequences could be catastrophic.