Why America must act first.

Whilst the footprint graphic I posted may seem to suggest that China is the chief culprit now facing the greatest obligation to act, there’s strong reason to think the ball remains firmly in America’s court. Some more staggering facts from Gardiner:

[T]he USA is responsible for 29% of global emissions since the onset of the industrial revolution (from 1850-2003), and the nations of the EU 26%; by contrast, China and India are responsible for 8% and 2% respectively. Second, theories based on moral equality support the consensus because the developed countries consume many more emissions per person than developing countries. For example, in 2005 average global emissions per capita were 1.23 metric tons of carbon. But the US average stood at 5.32 tons, the UK was at 2.47, China at 1.16, India at 0.35, and Bangladesh at 0.08 (Boden et al 2009). Third, theories that prioritize the interests of the least well-off endorse the consensus because the developing countries are much poorer than the developed countries. Internationally poverty and inequality remain profound. In 2007, average per capita income in 2007 in the United States and United Kingdom was above $45,000 per year; in China it was $2604, in India $976, and in Bangladesh $428 (United Nations 2009). Moreover, these averages conceal some of the worst problems. In 2005, more than 10% of the world’s population lived in absolute poverty, on less than $1 per day, unable to meet their basic needs.

Graph: Carbon dioxide emissions due to consumption in China, via Wikipedia.

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