Statkraft Climate Roundtable - Chasing New Ideas - page 8

Ocean waters creeping up the shores will rather exclusively hit
the poor and unprivileged parts of societies (just like tropical
storms or almost any other impact of climate change affect
the infrastructural and logistical backbones of our economies),
at least as long as there will be hideaways for the well-off, where
the amenities of modern civilization continue to exist.
But climate change involves yet another type of fundamental
inequalities. There is no better way of visualizing this than
looking at the historical emissions of carbon dioxide as they
unfold across the globe since the early times of the Industrial
Revolution. In the entire world, only Great Britain churns out
carbon dioxide from the mid-1700s until the early 19th century,
when the Industrial Revolution finally reaches the European
continent. By the early 20th century, significant carbon dioxide
emissions occur in the Eastern United States, Central Europe,
and Japan. Only in the 1970s other regions of the world, such
as China and South Africa, start to clearly appear on the global
emissions map as well. And since the emission of greenhouse
gases has always been and – unfortunately still is - so closely
connected to the accumulation of wealth and power, that very
’c-story’ also largely explains the distribution of rich and poor
in the world of today.
It directly follows from this analysis that the global rich have
contributed most to human-made climate change. And a 'fair'
international distribution of future emission rights – consistent
with the principle of historical responsibility and the 2°C target –
would look rather drastic, if one did not allow for the possibilities
of offsetting and international emission trading. Countries like
the United States, Germany and even China would have to
entirely decarbonize their economies by 2020-2035 (!), while
countries such as India or Burkina Faso would be allowed to
continue emitting through much of the 21st century.
Last but not least, I cannot emphasize enough that although the
decarbonisation of our economies implies costs, it also entails
huge opportunities. If the international community – including the
major players in the business arena – strengthens its ambitions
and starts to effectively curb global emissions now, the world
still has a chance to avoid major planetary nonlinearities while
tackling many of today's inequalities.
The emission of greenhouse gases has
always been and – unfortunately still is
– so closely connected to the accumulation of
wealth and power.
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber
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