Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Carbon Dioxide Emissions Per Capita Problem

If there is any issue that appears to be an insurmountable obstacle to reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally it appears to be the issue surrounding per capita emissions of carbon dioxide. Spokesmen for China, which has recently been crowned as the number one greenhouse gas polluter in the world, displacing the long-time reigning champion the United States of America, are quick to point out that on a per capita basis their emissions are far below those of the US, which is correct since each of us in America on average is responsible for more than four times the amount of emissions than those who live in China.

If global emissions of carbon dioxide are now about 30 billion tons a year, then on average the 6.5 billion inhabitants of our planet are responsible for about 4.5 tons each. With the average American responsible for emitting about 20 tons annually we are way above the average. The climate scientists say that to have a decent chance of avoiding the most serious consequences of global warming we have to reduce our emissions globally by about 80% by 2050. So the 30 billion tons a year would have to fall to roughly 6 billion tons a year. It is predicted that there will be 9 billion people on Earth by 2050 so on average they would have to be responsible for emitting only about 0.7 tons of carbon dioxide a year. Hopefully the math here is wrong (it probably is) because that seems like a very difficult goal to achieve, particularly in face the demands for equality in emissions per capita between the developed countries and developing countries.

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