Paul Tullis's Grim Tidings

Bitter musings on politics and policy

Showdown at the G8 corral

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The world’s major industrialized countries say they’ll cut their emissions by 80% before 2050 with the goal of cutting total global emissions by 50%, but developing nations are wary.

Reports the LA Times:

Leaders of the Group of 8 industrial nations said they would issue a statement committing to the standard later today, pledging to cut overall emissions by 50% by the middle of the century and reducing those of industrialized nations by 80%. But leaders of developing nations balked at the plan…

It’s basically a situation of who’ll-blink-first: The US doesn’t want to make a move without commitments from the countries with economies bound to grow the most in the next 40 years, but the those countries don’t want to commit unless the US and the rest pledge to first, thus ensuring they’re not at a competitive disadvantage.

The developing nations, represented most powerfully by the countries known as BRIC–Brazil, Russia, India and China–understandably don’t want to threaten their chance at improving their standard of living to the level of Europe’s and most of North America’s. To do that they need to expand their economies and the cheapest way to power industrial output is by burning coal (plentiful in all BRICs but B; Indonesia, another huge and growing country, is also a major exporter [PDF] of coal). They also feel their people are entitled to the stuff of modern life we take for granted, such as refrigerators and automobiles, and don’t see why they should have to pay more for these privileges,  through more expensive energy sources, than we did.

Here’s where their quest for fairness runs into trouble: developing nations stand to suffer more from climate change than do developed ones, and developing nations are less equipped to deal with the consequences than developed ones are (by virtue of their relative lack of wealth).

According to the UK Meteorological Office, though CO2 emissions come largely from areas of the globe that will see less of a corresponding rise in temperature (i.e., the US and Europe), the regions that will see greater temperature change are those that can least afford to deal with it.

Here’s some of what the Met Office’s Integrated Climate Programme found in 2007:

Countries least well-equipped to deal with flooding, water shortages and valuable agricultural land turning to desert could be major flashpoints

The largest coastal agricultural land areas at risk of flooding from sea level rise lie on the world’s major river deltas, particularly on the Asian sub-continent [emphasis mine]

There could be large decreases in water availability across west Asia, the Middle-East, Central America and the Mediterranean and Amazon basins

A map of the countries facing a rise in temperature of 5-10 degrees Celsius by the end of the century shows nearly all of India, much of China and Russia, and about a third of Brazil so affected.

Maybe standing their ground against the big bad emitters isn’t such a smart long-term strategy?

What do you think?

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Written by ptullis

July 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

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