It's no secret that the Third World and the emerging economies see the entire global warming issue far differently than we in the West. In fact, they often see global warming as a plague inflicted on them by our greed and gluttony. An article in today's Times of India gives a glimpse into the anti-Western slant being taken to climate change:
"If the current fleet of 25-40 million gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in the United States were to shift to more fuel-efficient cars such as those available in Europe, more than 1.6 billion people in the world currently living in the dark can be provided electrification without any increase in the levels of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.
Phasing out the oversized, power-packed SUVs, considered the hallmark of a Midwestern dream in the US, would reduce global emissions by a whopping 36 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, according to the World Bank's yet-to-be-released World Development Report 2009.
This is only one example of the "duplicity" of the industrialized nations that the WDR highlights to prove that "carbon space" is inequitably powering the luxurious lifestyles of the rich at the cost of the poorer nations. Carbon space is an individual's or a country's share of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
The report, the draft overview of which was seen by TOI, now points out that the 1 billion people living in the high income countries are using 63% more carbon space than is their fair share on a per capita basis if one were to analyze the emissions since 1990.
India, for decades, has demanded at the UN climate negotiations that it must be given a greater 'carbon space' in the atmosphere to allow its 600 million poor access to electricity. The industrialized nations have argued that if India grows and powers its poor, the already limited space left in the atmosphere to spew out GHG gases would lead to irreversible and dangerous climate change.
It's a good argument, unwelcome perhaps but damn good. It takes our cherished principles of fairness and equity and beats us over the head with them. It's not just that the West has and continues to take more than its "fair" share but, in the process, the Third World (which the emerging states are mustering behind them) are paying the price for it. Ouch, burn, sizzle.
The global warming argument is now indeed coming around to "carbon space." Here's a hint - that's not good for us. At least two credible research papers released this year have approached the climate change problem from fudgy numbers about percentage reductions over proposed timetables to a hard assessment of just how much carbon dioxide we've actually pumped into the atmosphere and how much more the atmosphere can carry before we absolutely exceed our 2 degree target. The remainder can be called "carbon space" and the emerging economies want to ensure they get their fair share of it.
The problem with their argument is that for the West to give the emerging economies (and presumably the Third World) their fair share of the remaining carbon space, we'll have to immediately slash our carbon emissions by 63%. Not 80% of some notional figure by 2050. 63% tomorrow. And then they poke their pointy stick in our eye by pointing to our precious SUVs.
It looks as though the West has two choices. We either come up with some argument to refute the complaints of the emerging nations or we ignore them and maintain that we must continue to have a superior right to the residual carbon space. After all, we are the West, aren't we? Just who do they think they are?