Who Goes First on Greenhouse Gases?
2:15 PM, Apr 20, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
Later this year, the United States will join other U.N. members in negotiations in Copenhagen to update the Kyoto accord on greenhouse gas emissions. While the Obama administration says it is devoted to the treaty, reaching an agreement will be difficult. One of the most contentious issues facing negotiators is who goes first on greenhouse gas reduction.
There's an assumption on the part of many that the developed nations should go first, since they are wealthier and emit more -- at least right now. But AEI scholar Kenneth Green points out that the advanced West has been more 'responsible' than the third world -- adopting environmentally-friendly capitalist and pluralist reforms before undertaking industrialization. As a result, they hit their peak periods of greenhouse gas emission while their populations were comparatively small. Further, they created social welfare programs that enabled them to reduce population growth -- another factor which limits their overall production of greenhouse gases.
Green argues that the less-developed countries by contrast, are basically trying to act as 'free riders:'
This is more than just an academic argument. The U.S. is a responsible actor -- probably the world's most responsible actor -- in terms of leading the world to become more environmentally aware, and creating the wealth to tackle environmental problems. Why then should Americans disproportionately bear the burden of tackling the extremely-costly 'global warming challenge?' Further, is it even possible to do anything about the 'problem' if we look the other way while the world's biggest offenders get a pass and make the problem worse, at precisely the time the world is trying to fix it?
The global-warming alarmist community has argued that we're in a sinking boat and we need to start bailing. But what hope is there for our boat if the advanced west is bailing with a teaspoon while less-developed countries are hauling in water by the bucket? There's no point to a costly agreement that rewards the worst offenders and does nothing to solve the 'problem.'