Friday, October 02, 2020

You Silly Bugger. We're Rich and the Rich Don't Take Responsibility.


Donald Trump pissed off a lot of people back in March when questioned about whether he felt responsibility for America's Covid death rate. He replied, "I don't take any responsibility at all."

Outrageous that he should shirk responsibility for his own dereliction. What kind of a human being was this man?

Sticking to that theme, what about us, when will we take responsibility for the damage we have and continue to cause others? By "we" I refer to the affluent, developed nations and how we shirk responsibility for the damage our prosperity has visited upon the poorest and most vulnerable nations.

Jason Hickel has written a paper published in the journal, Lancet Planetary Health, examining, "consumption-based emissions from 1970 to 2015) to determine the extent to which each country has overshot or undershot its fair share."

Hickel takes a per capita approach to his calculations. Everyone is entitled to an equal share of the atmospheric commons.

Research Matters offers this summary of the paper.

There is nothing to cheer about the bluer skies of the COVID-19-forced lockdown for climate change has not stopped. Just a few days ago, the western coast of the USA, engulfed in massive wildfires, woke up to orange skies. Earlier, fuelled by the hottest summer on record, the Australian bushfires were raging. As you read this, the Brazilian Pantanal, the largest wetlands of the world, is burning at an unprecedented rate. The Arctic is on fire too, destroying large peatlands that stored carbon, now releasing carbon dioxide — the gas that drives global warming. Global heating and the climate crisis is real and here. Who is responsible for this catastrophe?

The world is divided on the answer. The current annual emission may point to developing countries as the source of carbon emission. The developed parts of the world, or the Global North, maybe reminiscing in a déjà vu as they had all ‘been there, done that’. A recent study, using the largest historical dataset of emissions, has shown that today’s economically developed countries of the world are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, amounting to as much as 92% of the historic emissions. Countries including the USA, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, and those in Europe, have played a very big role in the climate crisis, which began in the 1990s. The question however is, will they own up, or will they continue to pass the buck.

The analysis revealed that more than half of the world’s countries –– 108 out of 202 –– have emitted less than their national fair share, gaining ‘climate credit’. Amongst these, India has the largest climate credit, a total of 90 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 34% of the total credit, followed by China at 11%. Bangladesh, which has a high population density, trails them with 5%, along with Indonesia.

Among the debtors, the USA has the largest ‘climate debt’ of 380 billion tonnes, accounting for 40% of the total climate debt. It is followed by Russia and Germany at 8% each, the UK at 7%, Japan at 5%, and France and Canada at 3% each. “The climate debt of the Global North means that these countries have a responsibility to reduce emissions faster than the rest of the world,” urges Jason. 

The thrust of Hickel's analysis is not that the non-polluters should get some GHG pass for the future. No, every nation must pare its emissions to the bone just as rapidly as possible.  Squaring the accounts, in Hickel's argument, means that the over-emitters - the U.S., Russia, Germany, the U.K., Japan, France and Canada need to shell out hundreds of billions of dollars for mitigation and to help those who have been harmed to adapt to the change they cannot avoid. It's a case of damages. A lot like a car accident.  

Is it the right thing to do? Absolutely. Will we do it? Not a chance. We're rich and the rich don't take responsibility. Just like Donald Trump.



Trailblazer said...

Monbiot suggests every individual having fixed and equal carbon credit that was tradable many years ago.
I have yet to see a more practical, honest or workable solution to our problems.


The Disaffected Lib said...

That'll never happen, TB. It would require the OECD nations to decarbonize overnight, collapsing their economies. They don't have to do it and they won't.