Monday, March 30, 2009

History

ChinaDialogue reports: A top Chinese state think tank – the State Council Development Research Centre -- has proposed a global greenhouse-gas trading plan to reflect the varying historic emissions of rich and poor nations, indicating deepening discussion in Beijing about climate-change policy, Reuters reported. Researchers from the centre presented the plan in the current issue of the Economic Research Journal. The think tank recommends setting emissions rights for each country based on historic accumulation, and then allowing nations to trade portions of those rights in an international market. The plan would draw China and other developing countries into clearer obligations to curtail greenhouse gases in the long term. However, it would give them larger per-capita emissions quotas than rich countries, reflecting the developing world’s historically low emissions and “right to develop”. All countries should develop a “historic account” of past emissions, according to the plan. That account would be used to measure whether current emissions fall above or below appropriate levels calculated from population, accumulated emissions and total global-reduction objectives. How countries keep their own future emissions entitlements within agreed levels would be left for governments to decide. Countries could trade emissions rights, on condition that they eliminate their “emissions rights deficit” by a set date – for example, 2050.
How much history should matter depends on some thorny conceptual issues. First, how should we treat the rate of re-absorption of CO2? Depending on where that figure is set, you need to calculate how much of old CO2 output is still in the atmosphere. But even if CO2 put up in (say) 1800 is largely gone from the atmosphere, its effects on ocean warming are not – that has a much longer life. Then there is the issue of population. Suppose you add up historic use. Do you then allocate shares based on population now, in the future (when) or the actual population at the time of output. The United States may be 5% of the World’s population now, but in 1800 it was much less. Finally, in making such calculations, should you take the was figures for usage, or calculate use age above basic needs? Historically, the (now) Developing World has produced about 50% of total CO2. But nearly all of that was used merely to survive.

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