Photo: Patrick Hendry / Unsplash
Photo: Patrick Hendry / Unsplash

This frog won’t leap

China and India must collaborate to force the West to pay for past excesses rather than plead for a ‘humanistic’ approach that delivers concessions to the developing world.

Finding an American scientist who disagrees with the postulate of what is called DAI – dangerous anthropogenic interference – is difficult. Of course, climate is variable, and there have been long periods of warming and cooling that mark the planet's history. But scientists can today show that over the past two centuries, human action has contributed immeasurably to the disruption of the planet's climate. The culprit here is our carbon-based society. At the 1992 UN conference on climate in Rio, all countries accepted the dangers of DAI, and pledged, in general terms, to do something about it. After discussions in Berlin and Geneva, the countries came to Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997 to give some teeth to their pledge: the Annex I parties (industrialised countries plus countries with economies in transition) would reduce carbon emissions by various percentages. Developing countries would be exempt from these compulsory reductions, the principle being that the countries have "common but differentiated responsibilities". The United States, which spews the lion's share of carbon, balked. It was one thing to accept the principle, and another to take responsibility for it.

In the lead-up to Kyoto, the US Senate passed a unanimous resolution that asked the government to reject any agreement that committed the country to reduce carbon emissions unless the same strictures applied to the developing world. American policy under George W Bush's administration, 2001 to 2008, took this refusal as grounds on which to go still further: the Bush team rejected the science of climate change, and refused to commit to any reduction in carbon emissions. Even today, the basic assumption of US policy remains that nothing can come of any climate discussion unless the developing world (mainly Brazil, China and India) accepts cuts in carbon emissions that are as stringent as those to be imposed on the Group of Seven (and Russia). Such a posture makes it unlikely that anything positive will emerge when the countries meet in Copenhagen this December to thrash out another climate treaty.

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