Climate Winners And Losers — In Two Maps

We didn’t start the fire


The two maps as a GIF, modified heavily from Our World In Data

MyMy country leads the world in very little. Marco Polo said we were the world’s finest island for our size, which seems like a backhanded compliment now that I think about it.

We usually lead the world in sex-related Googling, and we export a lot of cinnamon. Oh, and we’re #2 in the list of countries most at risk from climate change. So… there’s that.

My country is Sri Lanka. If you look at the map above, it’s the flaming island off the tip of a flaming India.

Climate change is already happening here, it is already hotter and we have more and more unpredictable weather. Our neighbors in the Maldives and the further Pacific Islanders are already going under. Our future looks much worse, rising sea levels (big trouble on an island), unreliable harvests, not to mention plain old heat in an area that’s already hot.

However, we didn’t start the fire and we’re not burning it now. As much as we try to develop our economies sustainably, the problem is very much out of our hands. Here’s the second map, showing the people that have caused and continue this crisis.

Compare it to the map above. It’s not the same people at all. In economics this is called a ‘negative externality’. Some people get the benefits, other people get the bill. This only measures GDP btw, there’s a more robust map here if you’re interested.

America, Europe, Russia, and China have gotten the benefits of pollution and fossil fuels. Which is perhaps why they are pretending the problem doesn’t exist. Or asking for timid solutions. Because they’re making money off it, and someone else is paying.

It is the brown and black countries of the global south — the ones that are just lifting their heads after centuries of colonialism — that will see their environments, agriculture, lands and ways of life destroyed from afar. Africa, Central and South…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at