The rich are different from you and me: they spew more carbon

July 7, 2009

Yachts do it. Limousines do it. Even air-conditioned mansions by the sea do it. The trappings of wealth tend to emit lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide. Which is sort of the idea behind a new strategy for sharing the burden of fighting climate change. Take a look at the Reuters story on this here.

Instead of the two-tier world envisioned by the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol — where developed countries have the lion’s share of responsibility for cutting emissions, while developing countries including China and India have few requirements — environmental strategists from Princeton, Harvard, the Netherlands and Italy say it might be better to track the wealthy, who live in every country.

On the grounds that individual rich people emit more carbon dioxide than most other people, these strategists suggest setting an international individual cap on the emissions that spur global warming. Rich people in rich countries are likely to hit this cap sooner than rich people in poor countries, so rich countries are likely to have to do something about their emissions before poor countries do. But eventually, every country that emits more than its share will have to take action, under this scenario.

At least one conservative blog has taken aim at this plan as a tax on the rich, but that’s not necessarily the idea, according to the study’s authors. They just want policy-makers to have this as an option to help persuade reluctant countries to join a global effort to reduce greenhouse emissions.

This report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is meant to help climate diplomats figure out where to go after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. And if negotiators at this week’s climate meetings in Italy at the fringes of the Group of Eight industrialized nations take note, that would probably be fine with the study’s authors too.

Photo credits:
REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (Luxury yachts are moored in the port of Cannes May 11, 2009.)
REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (Security guard stands next to one of Michael Jackson’s limousines on display in Beverly Hills, California April 13, 2009.)


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It’s about time that a per-capita cap on emissions was proposed – Western governments are trying to screw developing nations when they know what the truly fair solution is. Of course, they don’t have the guts or the integrity.

Posted by Developing Nations Unite | Report as abusive

You ought to read up on the relationship of CO2 and the “warming” patterns. You have it dead wrong. Visit sometime. Also, the travesty that just passed in the US House of Representatives shows what a sham the climate change issue truly is. How can a 1200 page bill with 300 pages of amendments pass without even being read by congressmen? It’s about control. Always has been, always will be. Where is common sense??

Posted by Van W | Report as abusive

Van, is propaganda and unscientific opinion. The claim that we only have to worry about an ice age is a welcome scenario were it true. Civilization could withstand that.It matters not whether global warming is anthropogenic or natural. You would be well advised to go to Wikipedia or Google the the Eocene Epoch and Permian extinction. If you knew the reality of a global warming event you would understand the urgency in mitigating it. It will not be possible for civilization to sustain 6 billion people should temperatures continue to rise.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

[…] the richest of the rich, adds Zabarenko, leave the biggest footprint of all: “Yachts do it. Limousines do it. Even […]

Posted by Too Much | Beyond Kyoto: Time to Switch Targets? | Report as abusive