July 12, 2008

The Blame Shift

Judging by his comments at the G8 Summit, Prime Minister Harper’s green plan also involves a shift. I would call it the Blame Shift. According to Mr. Harper, in the coming years the developing countries will account for the overwhelming majority of the world’s GHG emissions. In making this statement, Mr. Harper would have us believe that the developing countries would then have to accept the overwhelming responsibility for the problem.


According to Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the responsibility for global warming is proportional to cumulative CO2 emissions (the amount a nation has emitted over time), not to current emission rates. “Despite rapid growth of emissions from China,” says Hansen, “the United States will continue to be the nation most responsible for climate change for at least the next few decades.” (See http://columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080528_KaineAndPawlenty.pdf.)

When examined on a cumulative per capita basis (the amount a nation has emitted per capita over time) the United States fares a little better. On this scale, of the eight nations with the largest total emissions, the UK ranks first at about 330 tons of carbon per person, the US second at 310 and Germany third at 280. What will surprise many people is that Canada ranks fourth with 210 tons of carbon per person, seven times that of China, which comes in seventh with about 30 tons per person.

Clearly, we have a responsibility to accept. But instead of accepting this responsibility Prime Minister Harper prefers to shift the blame. Mr. Harper should abandon this approach, accept our responsibility and take aggressive action on this climate change.

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