Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The Climate Change Deal We Cannot Live Without
Just what does all this squabbling about greenhouse gas emissions really mean? What has to go into an effective climate change agreement? What factors are in play?
Here, courtesy of Vox.com, are a few charts that reveal a climate deal is both urgently needed and extremely difficult to craft.
First up, where we stand today. Annex B countries are the wealthy nations that participated in the Kyoto Accords. Non-Annex B countries, the poor nations and the emerging economic superpowers, now account for the lion's share of global emissions.
Next is an illustration of per capita emissions. While we're still higher than the developing world they are catching up. In fact, China's per capita emissions have now overtaken Europe's.
Emissions records, however, can be misleading. While China is an easy target for criticism, it fires back that most of its emissions result from "outsourcing" of Western production. Attribute those emissions back to the land of WalMart and you more than offset our supposed emissions cuts.
The thing is, we don't really have the luxury of time to squabble about who is responsible for what. Without a regime of substantial, global emissions cuts we're on course to exhaust our total carbon budget by 2045. Once there we can kiss goodbye any reasonable hope of keeping global warming within the 2C cap.
Yet, here's where it gets tricky. We have accurate figures on the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases already emitted. We have accurate figures on the total amount of greenhouse gases we can emit into the atmosphere before we blow through the 2C target. There are only a few ways to stay within that target and that's going to mean sacrifice with some advantaged countries called upon to make the greatest cuts.
The western world's current share of emissions is 31%. Our "suppliers" - China and India - account for another 32%. That leaves the Third World with just 37%.
The "Equity" model reflects how emissions would be allocated by population. There, the Third World would have a legitimate claim to 53% of the remaining capacity. The western world would be slashed back to around 11% (from the current 31%). That would pretty much kill off our fossil-fuel based economy and require a rapid and radical transition to non-carbon, renewable energy. Given how successfully our governments have conditioned us to believe that losing fossil fuels will be the end of life as we know it, we're not going to accept the Equity model and, let's face it, we have all the guns.
That leaves the Blended model that gives the West an undeserved 'extra' share but increases the Third World share nominally.
Bear in mind that this proposal incorporates both a major cut in total emissions compounded by substantial reductions in our share of those reduced total emissions. The pie has to get smaller and our slice of it even smaller yet. Which goes a long way to explaining why our supposed prime minister ducks a world leaders' summit on climate change.
The reality depicted in these charts utterly confounds Stephen Harper's vision of Canada as a filthy fossil-fuel superpower. Like it or not, the world is going to have to squeeze into the equivalent of Carbon Spanx. That's a tight fit and leaves little room for high-cost/high-carbon energy like - oh, I don't know - Athabasca bitumen.