Douwe Osinga's Blog: Saving the world, plan B

Friday, December 12, 2003

The current plan of saving the world from global warming, called the Kyoto protocol, isn't going so great. The countries that signed, represent less than half of the total emissions and they aren't reducing much so far. New Science has a plan B.

The thinking is that we should keep the global warming below 2°C, above that things get danerous, i.e. storms, huge sealevel rising and other disaster movie stuff. Even with Kyoto, we'll never get there. By 2050, we'll need a reduction of 60% in emissions and by that time India and China might have caught up in wealth, industrial production and emission levels.

Plan B calls for Contraction and Convergence. Now, average CO2 emission is 1 ton per head or around 5 in the US. In 2050 this should be 0.3 in order to avoid disasters. C&C just says that we every country should converge to the 0.3 in 2050. This means big reductions for the big polluters and leaves some room for extra polution in the poorest countries. Trading shall be allowed.

Fair and simple. I like the plan. But it could be more fair and even simpeler. Why converge so that in 2050 everything will be fair? Why not start fair right now? We'll give everybody on the planet a limit of 1 ton CO2 emission. This limit will be reduced year after year until in 2050 we'll hit 0.3 and we're safe. It effectively means that the big polluters (read the rich) are going to have to pay a lot for pollution rights to the non-polluting (read the poor).

The current environmental mess is mostly due to the pollution of the rich countries. Partly this can be forgiven, because we didn't really know. But agreeing now that we'll converge on some target in 2050 is the same as a thief who promises to stop stealing, but only in 50 years. If something is wrong, we should fix it now.