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Monday, June 1, 2009

The United States' share of Global Warming

Climate Progress posted today on a report by Greenpeace that used WRI data to approximate the relative share of carbon that had been emitted by countries over the past 150 years.

Its finding's weren't particularly surprising — the United States had emitted the most of any country, followed by China. From what I could tell from the breakdown of the data, if the countries from the EU were totaled, they would rank somewhere near China.

But while the findings of the study weren't particularly surprising, it's statistics like these which will dominate the negotiations between the United States and China. Developing countries like China argue that Western Nations are using climate change as a way to maintain the status quo. After using "dirty development" to establish dominance, they're asking the rest of the world to develop using more expensive standards, which will slow growth in developing countries.

It's logic like this which kept China and India from participating in the Kyoto Protocol and will likely complicate the Copenhagen negotiations (referenced earlier as "one of the most complex in the history of the world," by Sen. Edward J. Markey).

From China/India's prespective, this makes a lot of sense, even if you agree that access to cleaner energy is the way of the future (which, based on their investments, it seems like they agree). Why give your biggest competitors a leg up on you as you develop?

The United States, meanwhile, allowed this attitude to keep them from ratifying the Kyoto agreement. This time around, I think they should do the opposite — push for the highest standards possible, as a matter of principle. Then, use this principle to justify levying a "carbon tax" on imports, revenue from which will be used to offset American emissions. Doing this would use the power of the American Consumer to force our biggest suppliers to comply with the same standards we are, while allowing us to claim the moral high ground while we begin to re-tool our economy for a more energy efficient future.


Chris said...

Hey great post! I would like to touch base with you about your blog. Please contact me directly at chris@greenpress.com

Look forward to hearing from you.


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