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Global Vaccine Crisis Sends Ominous Signal for Fighting Climate Change

Global Vaccine Crisis Sends Ominous Signal for Fighting Climate Change

The gap between rich and poor countries on vaccinations highlights the failure of richer nations to see it in their self-interest to urgently help poorer ones fight a shared crisis.

The stark gap in vaccination rates between the world’s rich and poor countries is emerging as a test for how the world responds to that other global challenge: averting the worst effects of climate change.

Of the more than 1.1 billion vaccinations administered globally, the vast majority have gone into the arms of people who live in the wealthiest countries. The United States, where nearly half the population has received at least one dose, sits on millions of surplus doses, while India, with a 9 percent vaccination rate, shatters records in new daily infections. In New York City, you hear cries of relief at the chance to breathe free and unmasked; in New Delhi, cries for oxygen.

The vaccine gap presents an object lesson for climate action because it signals the failure of richer nations to see it in their self-interest to urgently help poorer ones fight a global crisis. That has direct parallels to global warming. Poor countries consistently assert that they need more financial and technological help from wealthier ones if the world as a whole is going to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. So far, the richest countries — which are also the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases — haven’t come up with the money.

More immediately, this year’s vaccine shortages in the nations of the global South could hinder their ability to participate in the United Nations-led climate talks in Glasgow set for November, minimizing their voice in critical policy decisions about how to wean the global economy away from fossil fuels

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