September 30, 2008

Emission Rates

There’s no denying that Canada’s per annum rate of CO2 emissions as percentage of the world’s seems insignificant, but to use this figure to justify inaction on the environment or as reason to absolve ourselves of responsibility is ludicrous (“We’re powerless to help”, Letters, The Edmonton Journal, Sept. 24).

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. On this scale the United States ranks number 1.

When examined on a cumulative per capita basis (the amount a nation has emitted per capita over time), 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 on this issue, and unless we do our part, we’re in no position to convince anyone else to do theirs.

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