Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Australia Overtakes the US as Leader in CO2 Emissions per Person

After being recently replaced by China as the number one greenhouse gas polluter in the world, the US has now been surpassed by Australia as the leading nation in CO2 emissions on a per capita basis. According to Reuters, the US emissions of 19.8 tons per capita annually was only good for second place, with Australia taking over the lead with 20.6 tons. In third place was Canada at 18.8 tons. Per capita emissions have become a major sticking point in the negotiations on a climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012 as developing countries, particularly China and India, have been arguing that developed countries should assume most of the burden for reducing emissions since on a per capita basis their emissions are several times higher. However, the British economist Nicholas Stern, who wrote an influential report on climate change, recently noted in a talk given in Beijing, China, that although China’s emissions on a per capita basis are much lower than those of developed countries, there were 13 provinces, regions, and cities in China that actually had higher emissions per capita than France and 6 with higher emissions than Britain. According to the AFP news agency, Stern has calculated that for the risk of dangerous climate change to be minimized emissions would need to be reduced to 2 tons per person worldwide. Unfortunately, with millions of people in China and India rapidly adopting Western lifestyles and many developed countries including the US refusing to commit to the necessary reductions in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 called for by the leading climate scientists the prospects for minimizing the risks of dangerous climate change appear to be rapidly diminishing.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

UK Royal Society Gives Geoengineering the Okay for Future Research

Geoengineering schemes to combat global warming got a boost from a study by the UK Royal Society which came to the conclusion that it is technically possible for geoengineering to play a role and research on the schemes should go forward. A report from BBC News says that the Society found that of the two basic approaches, carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere and reflecting sunlight, that the former was preferred. It may turn out that whether of not geoengineering schemes to alter the climate are technically possible may be beside the point as the study noted that “The greatest challenges to the successful deployment of geoengineering may be to social, ethical, legal and political issues associated with governance rather than scientific issues.” Yes, this could be one heck of a mess. Perhaps the best advice from this study is the recommendation for an international body to come up with some sort of procedure whereby treaties could be devised for determining who would have responsibility for carrying out the research that might have risks and benefits on a global scale. The situation we are in was nicely summarized by the chairman of the study group, Professor John Shepherd from the University of South Hampton, who said "Geoengineering and its consequences are the price we may have to pay for failure to act on climate change.” If things go unexpectedly wrong that could be quite a high price.