The report, compiled by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute, warned that rampant overconsumption and the rich world’s addiction to high-carbon transport are exhausting the world’s “carbon budget”.
Such a concentration of carbon emissions in the hands of the rich means that despite taking the world to the brink of climate catastrophe, through burning fossil fuels, we have still failed to improve the lives of billions, said Tim Gore, head of policy, advocacy and research at Oxfam International.
“The global carbon budget has been squandered to expand the consumption of the already rich, rather than to improve humanity,” he told the Guardian. “A finite amount of carbon can be added to the atmosphere if we want to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. We need to ensure that carbon is used for the best.”
The "global carbon budget" describes the amount of greenhouse gas we can continue to emit without triggering catastrophic, runaway global heating. Science has pretty accurate estimates of how much man-made greenhouse gases are already in the atmosphere. Science has an accurate estimate of how much more atmospheric loading will cause us to break through the "do not exceed" point.
For years rich and poor nations have debated how this remaining capacity should be allocated. Poor countries contend that their people, who have contributed so little to the emissions problem, should have a preferential claim. They would even settle for per capita equality.
Rich countries don't agree. We're the industrial nations whose people expect to live the good life. We've got to keep this party going. Besides, there are so many poor people that if we divvied up the budget on a per capita basis the developed countries would have to decarbonize their economies and societies almost overnight. We need the lion's share of that carbon budget. Ask our prime minister if you don't believe it. Ask your premier.
This is why we're not going to come up with answers to the climate breakdown. We don't want to. We're not having it. It's inconvenient.