Jul 09 2009
Predictably, we’re seeing a lot of hot air from world political leaders who refuse to cooperate at the G8 summit discussing greener policies climate change targets. What’s changed now is the exact source of that hot air.
The USA’s President Obama has rightly backed targets to cut emissions by 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels (Of course, in the USA, not everything a President wants gets done – we’ll see if the Senate approves). So now the world’s worst polluter per capita (except us carbon-spewing Canucks) are off eco-defenders’ hate-mail lists, at least for the moment. But developing nations, where fast population growth and gradually-rising living standards are quickly boosting carbon footprints, still aren’t buying in.
India’s rep says reaching climate change targets should not be borne on the backs of the developing world’s poor. This is shorthand for saying that since the developed world got to enjoy the benefits of high living standards from rampant resource exploitation, pretty much guilt-free before the recent green revolution, then India, China, Indonesia and all the rest of the developing world – most of the planet’s population – should be able to exploit resources and emit carbon to their heart’s content, at least for the next 100 years or so.
Bad idea. We’re already seeing evidence of climate change, and guess where the worst of it is happening? Drought in Africa, murderous heat in India, mass flooding in Bangladesh, crop failures in Asia… while developed nations have the resources to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, developing nations don’t. They’ve got huge incentives to cut back on their carbon output right now. These nations want their people’s living standards to continue to rise. But doing nothing about climate change means sitting back and watching their land turn into deserts or their cities to be reclaimed by the sea.
The excuse from developing nations previously has been that they couldn’t be expected to lower their carbon footprint when even the rich nations couldn’t afford to do so.
Now that the wealthy nations have stepped up, the rest of the world will need to do their part.
This doesn’t necessarily mean curtailing the developing world’s economies. Carbon can be reduced through better efficiency. Smarter uses of resources, better public transportation, recycling programs, better enforcement of regulations protecting nature preserves, moving away from the disastrous suburbian model we’ve largely adopted in the West… all of these will help. All that’s required is the will.