Wednesday, December 15, 2010

There'll Never Be an Effective Global Warming Treaty. Here's Why.

 Can you imagine North America reducing its carbon emissions by 74% by 2020, 95% by 2030 - from a 1990 baseline to boot?   Roughly put that's what we would do if the balance of the atmosphere's safe carbon carrying capacity was divided up on a per capita basis.

A 74% reduction from 1990 levels within just 10-years.  Never in our wildest dreams is that going to happen.  So we're going to need help from the low-emitting nations, the poor countries.   And that's going to be costly.  It is going to require the transfer of an awful lot of wealth from the industrialized world to the Third World.   And that's going to be an ongoing thing.  We're going to have to pay them to adopt the green technologies that our locked-in carbon dependency won't allow except through a slow transition.

We've dithered so long that we're now pretty much reduced to schemes like this.  Probably the worst thing about this solution is how vulnerable it is to attack by its opponents.  You'll hear the usual battle cries about "world government" and devious, liberal plots to effect massive and pointless transfers of wealth to the undeserving Third World and all the other claptrap they still fling from their pants about global warming.

This does not exactly arrive at an auspicious moment.  The rich people have suddenly found themselves up to their necks in government, commercial and individual debt.   We don't know how to provide for our own societies so where are we going to find those extra trillions for the poor countries?   Even if we found the money and the will to part with it, this won't save us from the pain of decarbonizing our economies and our societies nor will it spare us from the climate change impacts already in the pipeline.

These are policies that would be a very tough sell even to very cohesive societies in periods of general affluence.   Yet the success of these policies falls to very divided societies driven by wedge politics in a period of protracted and deep financial uncertainty.

This has the makings of a political football unlike any we have ever seen.  And the longer the forces of delay prevail, the more enormous that football becomes.  It's the sort of thing that breeds its own inertia even as time to adopt it is running out.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter what country...they need to get on and do what is needed to stop Global Warming in North America. What a bunch of babies! There are some countries who are trying to do something.

saskboy said...

Wild dreams actually would describe getting our pollution level to sub-1990 levels (which as you know may not even be enough).

We wrote pretty much the same thing, at the same time. So we're either both crazy/wrong, or crazy/smart.

The Mound of Sound said...

Saskboy, I don't want to have to make that choice.