The Tech Herald

U.S. study pins blame for climate change on wealthy

by Rich Bowden - Jul 7 2009, 10:15

In the context of the ever tricky debate of how to involve developing nations in the battle against global warming, a group of researchers at the U.S.'s Princeton University has said a fairer method of controlling carbon emissions would be to focus on the highest emitters in each country (ie the rich).

The new study, released at a time when the world looks to a new global compact for cutting carbon emissions at the Copenhagen climate talks in December, contends that a more practical way of combatting excessive emissions is to concentrate on those wealthier individuals in all countries who contribute most to increased greenhouse gases.

"Most of the world's emissions come disproportionately from the wealthy citizens of the world, irrespective of their nationality," explained physicist Shoibal Chakravarty, a lead author of the report and a research scholar at the Princeton Environmental Institute.

"We estimate that in 2008, half of the world's emissions came from just 700 million people," he said.

"We are not actually suggesting you go after the high using individuals. But we are using this approach to better capture the notions of equity and fairness in bettering national targets," Chakravarty said in an interview with Scientific American. "So, if a country has a lot of high-emitting people, it must do more to reduce carbon emissions."

The authors of the report say their system is a fairer way to apportion "blame" for global warming and may lead to a breakthrough in the impasse in climate negotiations.

Many developing nations, such as India and China, say because their contribution to greenhouse gases is far lower historically and per capita than those countries of the affluent West, they should be exempt from stringent emission cuts levels. However critics of this approach say that a global approach is required to combat the climate crisis.

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