Hard truths

Researchers at the London School of Economics published some concerning findings last week. Emerging economies – namely Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey – hold the key to preventing dangerous climate change in the coming century. Stabilising emissions of greenhouse gases in these countries, they forecast, would avoid about twice as much warming as an 80% emissions reduction among developed countries.

In 2008, chinadialogue published the work of David Wheeler, Kevin Ummel and Robin Kraft who came to similar conclusions:

the conventional wisdom is dangerously misguided. The south cannot relegate mitigation to the north until it achieves prosperity. In fact, cumulative emissions from a carbon-intensive south have already reached levels that are dangerous for the south itself. They are more than sufficient to create a global climate crisis, even if the north eliminates all of its emissions immediately.

An immediate and legitimate response would be to emphasise that developed countries need to do their share – cutting emissions hard and fast. But it’s important to note that, even with this action, leading developing countries will have to do their bit as well. It’s time to re-open some awkward conversations about when emissions in these countries should peak.