Friday, November 13, 2009

Arguments against per-capita emission limits are arguments that support massive HFC-23 releases by developing countries

I think the takeaway that India and other countries should get, from the reasoning why industrialized countries must be allowed higher per-capita emissions, is that India should pump up its own emissions.

The reason why people think we Americans and Europeans should have higher per-capita emissions, as far as I know, are that we can do it, we make money doing it, and we've been doing it. As far as being able to do it, India might not be able to create an industrial economy overnight, but they could easily start creating and venting HFC-23 to the atmosphere, with 11,000 times the greenhouse gas effect of CO2.

Venting HFC-23 might not make money for India immediately, but if future emission reductions are based on each nation's baseline emissions, then it could make economic sense to pump up that baseline so reductions are less difficult.

The last argument by industrialized nations, that we've been polluting the atmosphere for a while and therefore should be allowed to continue at a higher rate than those who haven't been polluting, doesn't work quite as well as an argument for this thought experiment. However, it does mean that potential polluters should hurry up and start polluting as much as possible and as early as possible. It still says to India to get in line right away with high emissions to make as long a claim as possible the right to continue polluting.

Obviously it would be a disaster for India or any other developing country to carry out this idea, but it's no worse a disaster than what is already happening in the US and other developed nations who are already causing a high rate of per-capita emissions.

The alternative, I think, is to acknowledge that some form of per-capita emission limits are appropriate, that high-emission countries don't want low-emission countries to act as we do, and that we're willing to make it worth their while not to increase their emissions.

Bonus unrelated blogging: since I've disagreed with Joe Romm elsewhere in this blog, I'll just also note here that he's done a lot of good work, particularly on American climate policy issues. I'm adding Climate Progress to my blogroll.

More unrelated blogging: from TPM, Sarah Palin "rembers being a voracious reader [in her youth], favorites including John Steinbeck's 'The Pearl' and George Orwell's 'Animal Farm.'" I'd be more impressed with her voracity if it included books over 100 pages long.

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