The Reasoned Review

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Sino-American Bickering

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Hopeful observers of the Copenhagen climate talks have been holding their breath to see when the first major dispute between China and the US would erupt. The two countries, after all, come to the conference with irreconcilable goals – the US wants the world to forget that most of the CO2 already in the atmosphere was made in America, while China wants the US to quit hoggin’ all the carbon, and let someone else try burning for a while. It seemed only a matter of time before these two viewpoints clashed, and behold, they just have.

China refuses to allow international inspectors to see firsthand its promised carbon cuts, which is leading many to assume that, like their vaunted GDP figures, their emission reductions will be true on paper only. The US also believes that China’s stated target (a reduction of “carbon intensity” by 40 percent) is “disappointingly low”. Carbon intensity means emissions per unit GDP, so carbon emissions could still grow precipitously, even if “intensity” is cut, provided GDP also grows (a safe bet, given China’s decade-long 8% annual growth).

This, of course, makes the US “reluctant” to adopt emissions cuts of their own, and it is clear that without a firm committment from both the US and China, the Copenhagen talks will have been a failure. After all, Zimbabwe isn’t exactly the one we need to convince.

One question which every American needs to answer, but which few have so far been willing to concerns per capita emissions, of which the US stands at the head. US per capita emissions are 4 times that of China and more than 10 times that of India. What gives an American the right to emit four times as much carbon as a person from China? Don’t bother asking our delegates to Copenhagen! (They either don’t know, or don’t care.)

Written by pavanvan

December 15, 2009 at 11:30 am

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