Monday, June 8, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 2

Current discussion about international climate change is in part a dance about who goes first. It is also a dance about who will follow. The Developed World is expected to go first (at a credible level) to establish its bona fides and, then, and only then, will the Developing World follow. Will? Or might? And either way, follow in equal measure or if not, how much? Suppose China signals the United States to give enough assurances that it will follow, and follow enough, for the United States to decide to go first, and first at a credible level. What is “going first” going to involve? It has been generally assumed that, whatever else, it is going to involve massive technology transfer to the Developing World as a way of offsetting the United States over production of carbon. The only way to seriously reduce carbon output in the United States is to buy the shares of other countries. As their energy output increases, the carbon they could put out, as within their fair share (on, for example, a per capita allotment) gets produced by clean energy that the Developed World pays for. In the comforting graphs people like to draw, the Developed World carbon output trends downward, prompted by domestic measures, and is offset by a slowed upward trend in the Developing World output - slowed by technology transfer. And if all is to end well, these two trends will sum to a total carbon output in 2050that yields a stable level of atmospheric carbon at 450ppm. So what is wrong with this picture?

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