A Few Things Ill Considered

Why Should the US Join Kyoto?

This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


Objection:

Why should the US join Kyoto while India and China haven’t?

Answer:

The United States puts out more CO2 as a nation by far than any other nation on Earth, including China and India. Considering the relative populations (1 billion+ for each of China and India versus 300 million in the US) the per capita emissions are many times those of either of these other countries. On top of that, this has been the case for the past 100+ years of CO2 pollution.

For the US to refuse to take any steps until India and China do exactly the same, is kind of like the fattest man at the table, upon realizing that the food is running out, continuing to eat faster than anyone else while simultaneously demanding that the hungry people who just sat down must cut back just as much and at the same time.

There is no morally sane way to look at the global emissions problem that does not place a greater burden on the United States, the worst polluter. Perhaps we should divide global emissions by global population and allocate carbon credits according to census data? Or using a Kyoto 1990 levels approach, perhaps we should demand that as a start all nations cut back to the per capita levels that the US had in the 1990’s? If you live anywhere but inside the US borders, these proposals do not sound preposterous.

All that aside, it is simply untrue that China and India have not joined the Kyoto treaty, they have, they were simply not required to return to the third world level emissions they produced in 1990. What comes next for them has yet to be negotiated. Further, this framework of differing responsibilities and the acknowledgement of differing social needs was explicitly accepted in the UNFCCC treaty that was ratified by the United States. The US has already agreed that China and India should be held to different standards!

Paragraph 3

Noting that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, that per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs

Paragraph 6:

Acknowledging that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions

So clearly the notion that larger reductions from the largest historical polluters is unfair is not only wrong but it is a violation of an already signed and ratified treaty on the issue of global warming.

But now that the world’s biggest polluter has refused to make any sacrifices when the time came, what do you think China will have to say when the renegotiations come in 2012?


This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


“Why Should the US Join Kyoto?” was first published here, where you can still find the original comment thread. This updated version is also posted on the Grist website, where additional comments can be found, though the author, Coby Beck, does not monitor or respond there.

Comments

  1. #1 Adam Nieman
    December 4, 2009

    There’s an illustrated discussion of this point here:

    http://carbonquilt.posterous.com/who-should-pay-for-climate-change

    It includes this chart comparing cumulative emissions with emissions for a single year:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonquilt/4014194070/

Current ye@r *