(Part of the How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic guide)
Objection: Why should the U.S. join Kyoto while India and China haven’t?
Answer: The U.S. puts out more CO2 than any other nation on earth, including China and India, by a large margin. Considering the relative populations (a billion-plus each for China and India versus 300 million in the U.S.), per capita emissions in the U.S. are many times larger. This has been true for the past 100-plus years of CO2 pollution.
For the U.S. to refuse to take any steps until India and China do the same is like the fattest man at the table, upon realizing the food is running out, demanding that the hungry people who just sat down cut back just as much as him, at the same time.
There is no morally sane assessment of the global warming problem that does not place a greater burden on the U.S., the worst polluter. Perhaps we should divide global emissions by global population and allocate carbon credits according to census data. Or, using a Kyoto 1990-levels approach, perhaps we should demand that all nations target the per-capita levels of the U.S. in the 1990s. If you live anywhere but inside U.S. borders, these proposals do not sound preposterous.
All that aside, it is simply untrue that China and India have not joined the Kyoto treaty. They have. They were simply not required to return to the third-world level of emissions they produced in 1990. What comes next for them has yet to be negotiated. Further, this framework of differing responsibilities and the acknowledgement of differing social needs was explicitly accepted in the UNFCCC treaty — which was ratified by the U.S.
The U.S. has already agreed that China and India should be held to different standards!
Noting that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, that per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs …
Acknowledging that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions …
Clearly, the notion that it’s unfair to expect the largest historical polluters to make the greatest reductions is not only wrong, but it is a violation of an already signed and ratified treaty on the issue of global warming.
But now that the world’s biggest polluter has refused to make any sacrifices, what do you think China will have to say when renegotiations come around in 2012?