The U.S. Must Lead On Greenhouse Gases
hould the United States and other developed countries take the lead in restricting greenhouse gas emissions without parallel actions by developing countries? U.S. opponents of the Kyoto Protocol say no, predicting that such actions would be harmful to U.S. economic interests. Others say that because developed countries are mostly responsible for harmful emissions, they are thus obligated to take the first step. Who should we believe?
The current climate change debate is framed around metrics -- measurements that are used to determine current and future responsibility for the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. Policy debates frequently refer to annual carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning to assess how much developing and developed countries are contributing to climate change.
"Relying solely on the conventional measure of annual industrial emissions skews public and political debates," says Duncan Austin, co-author of a new report entitled Contributions to Climate Change: Are Conventional Metrics Misleading the Debate?, released by the Washington, DC-based World Resources Institute. "Looking instead at how much developed and developing countries have contributed to the long-term buildup of gases in the atmosphere reaffirms the need for developed countries to take the lead on emissions reductions."
Indeed, report authors Austin, José Goldemberg, and Gwen Parker emphasize that an alternative measure -- "stock contributions" -- more fairly measures regional responsibility. Stock contributions, the authors explain, reflect how much developed and developing countries have actually contributed to the buildup of the atmospheric stock of carbon dioxide that has occurred since preindustrial times. This measure takes into account not only the releases from fossil fuel burning but also from deforestation and land-use change.
Other significant findings from the report include:
Based on these research findings, the authors recommend:
For additional information, visit the World Resources Institute website at http://www.wri.org/wri/cpi.
-- From the World
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