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‘Industrialized Nations Are Facing CO2 Insolvency’


| Sourced From Spiegel.de |

In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the German government’s climate protection adviser, argues that drastic measures must be taken in order to prevent a catastrophe. He is proposing the creation of a CO2 budget for every person on the planet, regardless whether they live in Berlin or Beijing.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Schellnhuber, the goal that is to be set at the climate summit in Copenhagen in December for global warming is to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. How can this goal be reached?

Schellnhuber: Humankind has to limit itself to emit only fixed amount of carbon into the atmosphere until 2050. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) has conducted an audit to determine which countries should be allowed to emit how much carbon dioxide in order to remain within the two degree limit. The findings are sobering.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why?

Schellnhuber: Because the industrialized nations have already exceeded their quotas if you take into account past emissions. To have a two-in-three chance of reaching that target, we can only emit 750 billion tons between now and 2050. For a three-in-four chance, we can only emit 660 billion tons. If you divide these emissions per person and compare them with the current output you see that Germany, the US and other industrialized nations have either already used up their permissible quota, or will do so within the next few years.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Seven-hundred-fifty billion tons sounds like a lot though.

Schellnhuber: It isn’t really. It means that each person on earth would only be able to produce about 110 tons of CO2 between 2010 and 2050. An average German emits about 11 tons per year, meaning that his “budget” would be used up within 10 years. According to our calculations, the probability of us reaching these goals is very slim. Who would play Russian roulette with a revolver with six chambers, two of which are loaded? The total permissible quantity of CO2 is incredibly low compared to the current amount we are emitting from power stations, cars and factories. If the Chinese continue to release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as they did in 2008, they will have exhausted their budget in 24 years — way before 2050.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why did you base your calculations on an equal division of the total permissible quantity of CO2 among the world’s total population when each country is different from the next?

Schellnhuber: Our basic principle is that all humans have equal rights to the atmosphere. This is a basic right. This is also what German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided at a meeting in 2007. Why should a German be allowed to emit more CO2 into the atmosphere than someone from Bangladesh? No, we must divide the quota equally and fairly among all nations.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But in Germany, for example, we need central heating more often than in warmer climes.

Schellnhuber: And in hot countries they may want to use air conditioning more often than in Germany, which also requires a lot of energy. This year New Delhi had temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) for months on end. If you consider how much fuel we use to heat in winter, it would be fair for them to use fuel-powered coolers.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What conclusions did the WBGU reach?

Schellnhuber: The aim of reducing the rate at which CO2 should be cut from 25 percent in 1990 to 40 percent now, is just not enough. Germany, for example, is striving for a 40 percent reduction of emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. If it realistically wanted to achieve the set goals, however, it would need to reduce emissions by 60 percent, or half of what they are today. The industrialized nations are facing CO2 insolvency. This means that they have to notch up their efforts to reduce climate change, otherwise they will use up the CO2 budget actually designated to poorer countries and future generations.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is there no way out?

Schellnhuber: In a special study we describe a possible way out. The WBGU has also come across countries that pump a lot less CO2 into the atmosphere than the quota would entitle them to. Most of these countries are the poorest in the world, where climate protection and the future are central issues. These nations are saving us from climate change happening at an even faster rate. This should finally be recognized and rewarded. For that reason we came up with a scheme whereby industrialized nations can buy emission quotas from countries with lower levels of CO2 output. The money made through this global trade in emissions could then be put towards financing environmentally friendly technology and developments in those countries.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So industrialized nations would have to pay massive sums of money?

Schellnhuber: Yes. Up to

Related posts:

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  2. From carbon insolvency to climate dividends
  3. From carbon insolvency to climate dividends
  4. New Plan Aims for Fairness in Carbon Emission Cuts
  5. UNFCCC: Rising industrialized countries emissions underscore need for action

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