Jul 10, 2008

The Hokkaido conference

One change has certainly been made by the Hokkaido G8 conference of July 2008. The baseline for calculating global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases was previously 1990, i.e., when a ten per cent reduction was proposed by a certain date that always meant ten per cent of 1990 emissions. The conference decided to agree to talk about a fifty per cent reduction by 2050, but when asked if that was still from the 1990 baseline, the chairman replied “No, from today.” Contrary to all promises to reduce them, emissions have increased by twenty five per cent since 1990, and are still increasing. Do your own math.

The only really fair way to calculate how much carbon dioxide and other pollutant emissions everybody should be allowed to produce is to start by assuming that everybody has exactly equal rights, i.e., every German can emit as much pollution as every Frenchman, every Swede has the same rights as every American, and every Brazilian has the right to as clean an atmosphere, and is allowed to pollute the air we all breathe by exactly as much as every Chinaman. Any other system is clearly going to land us in arguments without end about how special each country is and why it needs to be an exception.

To adopt that system of measurement, the USA, which currently uses up about twenty five per cent of the world’s resources, and produces about thirty per cent of its polluting gases, would have to, like other wealthy countries, reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by around eighty or ninety per cent, not by fifty per cent in forty two years time.

Any wonder that the exact plans have been left pretty vague?

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