Reducing emissions in the undeveloped world

As the climate change conference ends in Poznan with the developing countries led by the Europeans deciding that protecting the short term interests of their economies is more important than protecting the interests of their children and grandchildren, we are seeing the nations of the developed world making a choice. It is the wrong choice.

Most climate modelers (and I agree that the science is imprecise and needs much more development) reach the view that on doing the mathematics we need to half greenhouse gas emissions now, if we are to keep climate change at its present level. That is not going to happen, even with the direst economic depression.

The point about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or more particularly carbon dioxide emissions, to half their present level is that the planet’s natural carbon cycle can absorb carbon dioxide levels at about half the present emissions. The rest remains unabsorbed and causes climate change, according to the most eminent minds.

With the European Union promising half heartedly (and with many exceptions) to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020 and Mr Obama promising to reduce United States emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 the outlook is not terribly promising for mankind. Of course the developed nations fear the consequences of drastic immediate emission cuts now, which they fear will impact on prosperity, and are trying to compromise between the short term and the long term positions. It is not the kind of compromise that will work.

It is expected that this will cause average surface temperatures to rise by only two and a half degrees Celsius; we are far from certain what the effects of such a temperature rise will be although we do know the lower we can keep the temperature rise the more beneficial it will be.

There is another compromise being sought and that is between the efforts to reduce emissions of the developed world and the obligations, if any, upon the undeveloped world to reduce emissions. It seems that if the developed world were to reduce emissions by 60% in 2050 the developing world would also need to reduce emissions by 23%. However their low figure is probably harder for the developing world to achieve because of their rapidly growing populations. A 23% reduction for developing nations translates into a per capita reduction of 60% – above the per capita developed nations figure by a margin.

This brings us to the second area where the politicians will seek a compromise. What is a fair way to reduce emissions?

The answer is that there is probably no fair way. Individual carbon emission allowances might work, but the figures can be too easily fiddled and will be set, if the world takes this path, by compromise. I also have some difficulty in granting licences to pollute, and in doing this we would positively encourage population growth in the undeveloped world where a child would become a tradable carbon allowance in the hands of its parents.

If we set carbon allowances on a nation by nation basis, which is what is purportedly happening now with examples such as the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Act, then those with growing populations are penalised. If we exclude key carbon emitting activities such as aviation and shipping, we understate the actual reductions that we are targeting.

I am sure that there are many ways of reducing emissions throughout the world. There are simple ways and complex ways. Whatever we do it is important to reduce population growth in the developing world and the only way of doing this would be to bring prosperity to the developing world. Usually, the more prosperous a nation, the lower the birth rate.

So it is in all our interests, not just to stave of the effects of famine, flood and natural disasters by passing the hat round for the undeveloped world but to undertake positive projects that bring sustainable prosperity to it.

3 Responses

  1. […] bookmarks tagged prosperous Reducing emissions in the undeveloped world saved by 5 others     pimey bookmarked on 12/11/08 | […]

  2. It’s a big conundrum for me and obviously governments around the world! What policies do we need to put into place that will allow the world to stop polluting?

    I don’t think much was archived at Poznan apart from the fact Poland can not commit to reducing carbon emissions because it’s cheaper to burn coal for energy and costly to invest in lower carbon technologies.

    It’s the same in South Africa energy is cheap because they have lots of coal to burn and are happy to carry on burning more coal to keep energy cheap.

    It’s cheaper to pollute the planet then it is to protect the planet

    How can we turn this around and how long will it take us to have a positive impact at reducing pollution. Is it as simple as if you pollute! you pay!

  3. […] Vote Reducing emissions in the undeveloped world […]

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