Thursday, October 22, 2009

Equity, Equity, Equity

Last week, I wrote about what I believe to be the biggest obstruction in getting a global deal at Copenhagen: equity.

This week, further confirmation that the equity issue is going to derail any chance of an agreement comes from the New York Times:
Negotiators have accepted as all but inevitable that representatives of the 192 nations in the talks will not resolve the outstanding issues in the time remaining before the Copenhagen conference opens in December. The gulf between rich and poor nations, and even among the wealthiest nations, is just too wide.

Remember, the United States refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol because the protocol did not limit emissions in India and China.

Now, most of you have probably heard over and over and OVER again about how there is no point for Americans to lower their emissions if China does not because any drop in American emissions will be offset by an increase in Chinese emissions. We have all heard this meme so much, that perhaps it's not surprising to see this FT/Harris poll. According to the poll, 63% of Americans believe that China must lead the way in emissions cuts, and only 1/5 are in favor of offering aid assistance for adaptation from the developed world to the developing world.

I swear, this poll makes me want to cry.

So let me repeat a few points.

Number one, America outstrips China in terms of historical emissions.

Number two, America outstrips China in terms of per capita emissions.

Number three, America outstrips China in terms of luxury versus survival emissions.

Number four, if carbon emissions were calculated correctly* (where carbon emissions are consumed, not where they are produced), America would once again outstrip China in terms of annual emissions. China's emissions are high in part because they are responsible for manufacturing cheap crap Americans CONSUME. They are not high because the Chinese people are cruising the streets of Shanghai in their pink Hummer limos.

The country that absolutely MUST lead the way in cutting emissions is: America.

That's it.

Until America starts getting serious about cutting emissions, we will have no real global deal.

*I understand that this is a normative statement, but it's my blog.


Green Bean said...

Even if all those facts that you cite weren't true (e.g., US leading the way in carbon emissions), why sit and wait for someone else to act?? Don't we pride ourselves on being leaders? I think everyone should give it all we've got. It's now or never, people. Of course, probably nothing will happen and that is beyond disheartening.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear! Or, here here! Whichever one is right... great post, which very succinctly explains why the U.S. needs to take initiative.

Stephanie said...

You know, I really wish more people read your blog. Maybe it should be showcased on mainstream media. "Hey everybody! Think about for a second what's going on. Here's Arduous's opinion."

Yes, I hate how childish the U.S. can be about lowering their emissions.

Lee said...

"Yeah, but why should we cut our emissions when all those rich Africans get to wash their fish in Omo before eating it? I have to use generic powder! I'm not cutting my emissions until those rich Africans do!"


Whatever happened to America's ability to lead and innovate? And since when did *anyone* decent have to wait for others before doing the right thing?

Diane MacEachern said...

My mother always said, "Two wrongs don't make a right." In this case, we shouldn't be debating whether China can emit as much as the U.S. or even more. We should be debating how all nations can reduce their emissions and yet create quality of life. As long as the "China deserves to catch up with the U.S." debate rages, we will never solve climate change.

Linda A said...

I so agree with you, Ruchi. Most Americans are very rich and blessed compared with the average person in developing nations like China. We have enjoyed and squandered more of the earth's resources that we should have. I think this is a moral issue. Even if no other country on Earth lowers carbon emissions, the US should because it is the right thing to do.

Citizen Green