Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Chait gets it

The focus on per-capita emissions, the obligation to look at total emissions that have brought us to this point instead of ignoring the disparate emission levels between nations in the last decades, and the completely ignored commitment (okay, something of a commitment) by India and China not to reach American levels of per capita emissions.

Best paragraph:

The United States has emitted far more carbon into the atmosphere than India or China — indeed, more than India and China combined. The United States continues to emit several times more carbon per person than either China or India. Since China and India have vastly more people and are industrializing, they are likely to increase their per-capita emissions over time. I have seen no morally cogent explanation as to why the entire burden of sparing the world from runaway global warming should fall on the countries that have contributed the least to its existence. Developing countries have already made the significant concession that they will not be allowed to follow the cheap dirty-energy developmental path used by the West.
Read the whole thing.

UPDATE:  from the comments, Raypierre has a well-developed paper on the whole issue. I'll quibble with one point:
Perhaps there should be a statute of limitations for carbon emission. This cannot be justified on the basis of ignorance of consequences of carbon emissions, since that has been known for well over a century,
I can understand a start date of responsibility for past emissions in 1896, but I think the stronger argument is that the scientific notice given to the public and policymakers of a substantial risk from GHG emissions was insufficient prior to the 1960s or 1970s. The latest start date could even be the Rio Declaration, when you transfer from a risk of a problem to a near-certainty of a problem. I think the better argument is that a realistic and reasonably understood possibility of risk, communicated to the broader community, should be the start date of responsibility.

This part nails down the overall issue:
Some forms of unequal circumstances at birth (being born black, or female, or poor) are clearly irrelevant to the question of access to something like education or adequate health care, and need unconditional redress. The question of whether a person should suffer a reduced share of the Carbon Commons simply because she was born African or Indian falls naturally into the same category.


Anonymous said...

So now we have runaway global warming?

So China is currently emitting more CO2 than the US, but they have 4.29 times the population, so it is ok? I don't think AGW theory says "as long as your per capita emissions are lower than that of the USA it's all good."

J Bowers said...

A lot of those Chinese emissions were outsourced by the USA and EU. Who needs per capita?

Jeffrey Davis said...

If I spare Anonymous a recounting of the sordid details of his depravity, would I currently be recounting for Anonymous the sordid details of his depravity?

Fernando Leanme said...

I don't get the guy's point. Is he trying to say the USA has some kind of debt because it emitted CO2 in the past? Sounds quite impractical. He's going to run into a brick wall with that argument line. I wonder, are USA democrats working hard to lose the Senate in the next round of elections? I stopped voting GOP in 2000, but if they keep it up I'll vote libertarian.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Fernado, are you claiming that there's no actual burden involved in responsibility? That it's merely a word like "stigma"?

raypierre said...

Regarding the importance of historical emissions, this is pretty much the same point I discussed in my article "Cumulative Carvon and Just Allocation of the Global Carbon Commons," available at:

Anonymous said...

Using the logic of Brian and friends, we here in the USA should focus on curbing CO2 emissions in Wyoming and North Dakota. Those two states have the highest per capita CO2 emissions.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, I always thought the only people who like to talk about "personal responsibility" more than conservatives, were libertarians.
Maybe they're just talking about everyone else taking personal responsibility, while they enjoy the socialism of a lifestyle subsidized by the rest of the world.


Fernando Leanme said...

Jeffrey, I have given this a lot of thought for around 47 years. The subject entered my mind when I was in high school and I tried to volunteer to join the IDF together with some friends. I should add that the Israeli consular official laughed at us and told us to go donate blood.

This got me in very tight with my Jewish friends, and they allowed me to sit in during the discussions they had about Zionism and whether the Jewish people had the right to force Palestinians out of their land to repair a 2000 year old injustice, the endless persecutions, and the holocaust.

So, over the years I have continued thinking and discussing what's the proper course of action to repair previous harm. For example, would it be fair to return the black hills in South Dakota to the natives? What about the descendants of former slaves? Should I expect revenge or justice because my family lost everything to a band of communists whose main hobby has been to abuse human rights?

In this case, like all of the previous cases I would hold it's not practical nor sensible to advocate "reparations" for CO2 emissions. If you do, I'll counter I want credit for antibiotics, light bulbs, and equal rights for women (this last point being one most of those male do animated societies in the third world reject but which I'm sure the 50 % of the population which happens to be female would consider a positive development).

So you see, you have entered an old mine field which has been discussed for many years. And which gets very little traction in most nations. Therefore, my point stands. You are advocating a position which will definitely lose elections. Look, I can get pretty radical, but I'm also pragmatic. What I see is an emerging arrogance which makes many democrats forget how politics works in the USA.

As for Europe, given the continents history, and the low economic growth, the emergence of radical parties and the zany policies we see here....I think we may be about to see a huge backlash. Start introducing that point around here and we will see demonstrations asking for the return of 8 million Palestinians to Israel.

Anonymous said...

Who is going to pay the US for all the additional CO2 that went into the crops they grew more productively?

and for the water they didn't have to use for those crops because stomates were less open?

and for all the scientific research that came from those well lit, well heated, well networked US universities?

and for the disaster relief that flew in those C-130 jets?

and for defending Europe repeatedly?

and for all the other components of global GDP that was fueled by fossil fuels?

It is those who have fallen into a trap of Hollywood fantasy about disaster that cling to this wrong notion of harm.

Yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
And yes, immoral conjuring by the likes of Schneider sold 'Scary Story' lies about the extent.

Please stop being irrational.


J Bowers said...

Dim Star says...

"and for the water they didn't have to use for those crops because stomates were less open?"

That just means the crops are more prone to their enzymes denaturing, and stomata closing is a sign of a lack of water due to elevated temeprature to conserve what moisture the crop already holds before it evaporates.

"and for defending Europe repeatedly?"

Hitler declared war on the US, not the other way around. He had a treaty with Japan in case you're conveniently forgetting.

Anonymous said...

I guess J Bowers forgot about the US's aid to Britain before Germany's declaration of war.

Marco said...

Anonymous, do you mean with "aid" the "cash and carry" act? You know, the one that had the UK *buy* stuff from the US?

Or do you mean the "Destroyers for Bases Agreement". The agreement in which the US gained the control (either permanent or a long lease) over British bases?

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

'Scary Story' lies

Which scary story lies are you talking about, there are a couple of dozen scary stories on the list for you to lie about. But you are right, adults shouldn't be informed about all those scary stories. What you don't know about can't possibly hurt you, little child.

Please stop being irrational.

No scary stories to read or hear her folks. Move along. Move along.

Anonymous said...

Cash and Carry was an impediment that was worked around with Lend Lease.

More reading for you.

J Bowers said...

"I guess J Bowers forgot about the US's aid to Britain before Germany's declaration of war."

Not at all, but you had no choice in sending troops to Europe and don't try and kid yourself you didn't with your Texas Sharpshooting.

Susan Anderson said...

Fernando Leanme, that was one of the best rants I've seen lately, and I've seen a few. Good points all. We might not agree but I'm grateful any time somebody makes me think.

However, before you start choosing based on reaction, make sure the consequences of your reaction aren't worse than not reacting. Which is more or less what you're trying to say, I guess.

We are entangled, aren't we?

Anonymous said...

Of course their was no choice. Even without Pearl Harbor we would have been in the war sometime during 1942.

J Bowers said...

"If you do, I'll counter I want credit for antibiotics, light bulbs, and equal rights for women"

What on Earth are you rabitting on about? The Third World pays for its antibiotics and light bulbs, so I don't understand why you'd want credit for it. Equal rights for women in the Third World is also pretty low on the First World's list, unlike getting our hands on their natural resources such and oil and gas which, as an oil and gas consultant, you'd know all about.

Meanwhile, the Third World pays for our historical CO2 emissions, making us a bunch of lilly livered rent seekers which must really grate with Randroids and libertarians and make them scream the injustice of such a thing. Or maybe not.

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, the Third World pays for our historical CO2 emissions,"

All the world is likely to benefit from more CO2 and what warming may occur for at least a century.

At the rate of technology, humanity will likely be reduced to code in a big google server or the like by then anyway.

Anonymous said...

The third world has paid and paid from exploitation by American capitalism, not to mention the degradation of their environments. Millions dead in Africa, South East Asia, South America all on the idea that America in entitled to their resources so we can display to all the world the beauty of capitalism here at home.

J Bowers said...

"All the world is likely to benefit from more CO2 and what warming may occur for at least a century."


* Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition. Myers et al (2014)
* Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Inhibits Nitrate Assimilation in Wheat and Arabidopsis. Bloom et al (2010).
* Grassland Responses to Global Environmental Changes Suppressed by Elevated CO2. (Shaw 2007)
* Photosynthetic inhibition after long-term exposure to elevated levels of carbon dioxide.(DeLucia 1985)
* Insects Take A Bigger Bite Out Of Plants In A Higher Carbon Dioxide World.
* Food for Thought: Lower-Than-Expected Crop Yield Stimulation with Rising CO2 Concentrations
* Temperature dependence of growth, development, and photosynthesis in maize under elevated CO2 (PDF)
* Nitrate assimilation in plant shoots depends on photorespiration

Cugelmaus said...

"and for defending Europe repeatedly?"

Defending Europe from whom? The Mongols?

"I guess J Bowers forgot about the US's aid to Britain before Germany's declaration of war."

The US sold weapons to Britain. It would have sold weapons to Germany if Royal Navies didn't have the place blockaded. As for defending the democracies of Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, well, defending democracy isn't the US's job, is it? Except in hindcast.

Unknown said...

Your comments put me in mind of the situation in New Zealand, where legislation has been enacted to provide reparation to native populations in recompense for historic abuses. It's not impossible. It is controversial, and the consequences aren't always what were intended or hoped for. It's also politically risky. In theory, the Federal US could decide that it doesn't need all of its vast landholdings in the Mid-West and could hand over ownership to local tribes. Would this be fair or just? What would these people do with the new-found bounty? Mind you, it might be worth it just to see the Bundy's off this world run off their land by the Cherokee... (just kidding)

willard said...

> All the world is likely to benefit from more CO2 and what warming may occur

Level 2, do not panic:

Anonymous said...

"The US sold weapons to Britain. It would have sold weapons to Germany if Royal Navies didn't have the place blockaded..."

I love fiction, please share some more.

"As for defending the democracies of Poland, Denmark..."

Ah good ole straw man.


The tired old imperialistic, capitalist American pig... yawn.

Anonymous said...


those titles look pretty amusing.

They do fail common sense and observations, but whatever.

Education evidently doesn't inoculate against emotion.

Anonymous said...


Panic by definition means you've given up reason.

The problems of the world are many, but a slowly rising global average temperature is not among them.

J Bowers said...

"They do fail common sense and observations, but whatever."

Common sense? You're a fool. And some of those studies are based on experiment and observations, so you're an even bigger fool than I took you for, which I didn't think possible.

J Bowers said...

"Panic by definition means you've given up reason."

Which explains the denial campaign you're a useful idiot for: Big business and moneyed interests panicking over short term balance sheets.

Anonymous said...

Bowers, have you presented those CO2 papers to greenhouse growers yet?

I'm sure they'd be interested to know that they could stop paying for extra CO2 and are hurting their yields.


Anonymous said...

"Who is going to pay for..."

So when you drop a tree on someone's house and shit on their lawn you deduct the firewood and fertilizer value from the cleanup and repair costs.
How do you find telling people that they have to pay you for things they never agreed to buy works out for you?


Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

have you presented those CO2 papers to greenhouse growers yet?

They are adding CO2 to a closed system, where intense plant growth draws CO2 down to negligible levels. The opposite happens in a spacecraft cabin. They have to add CO2 or the plants will starve. Disclaimer, I do know a little bit about this having started the grow room phenomenon way back in the 70's. Yes, it's true, moderately enhanced CO2 in a 'closed system' does increase yields somewhat, but that's not why they do it. If the greenhouse is well ventilated and an open system then they would just be wasting their CO3 wouldn't they, Lucifer. And that stuff is not cheap, either in cylinders or as dry ice.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Ok, that was another typo, I should know better to write on a hi res laptop screen with no glasses.

willard said...

> Panic by definition means you've given up reason.

Does it mean that as soon as you cancel your subscription to Reason, you get an issue of Panic for free?

J Bowers said...

"Bowers, have you presented those CO2 papers to greenhouse growers yet?"

Another example of your pig ignorance and you don't even know why.

Anonymous said...

"shit on their lawn "

Was that you?

I was blaming the neighbor kids.

So you're telling me CO2 causes incontinence?

Barton Paul Levenson said...

A molecule of CO2 does not have a "Made in USA" or "Made in China" tag on it. Each has the same IR absorption cross-section at a given wavelength. Everybody has to cut back. Who is more guilty than whom is completely irrelevant to the problem.

Cugelmaus said...

Anon says :

"I love fiction ..."
Nobody doubts that.

"Ah good ole straw man."
Followed, inevitably, by

"The tired old imperialistic, capitalist American pig... yawn."
Your tired old counterfactual about the US "rescuing Europe" (from the Ottomans? The Sioux?) falls to good old US isolationism, which you equate with imperialism, presumably because they both begin with I. In that vein, note that Anonymous and Asswipe both begin with A. Just saying.

Anonymous said...


I was not the one that said anything about defending Europe, that was someone else. I merely added that aid was given prior to Germany's declaration of war.

Remind me of another word that starts with "C" and rhymes with bunt, just saying.

The only other person who actually "gets it" is BPL.

Anonymous said...

" Who is more guilty than whom is completely irrelevant to the problem."

It's irrelevant to the the question of how much CO2 can be safely emitted.
But that's not the question being discussed.
That question is, how can those emissions be fairly apportioned?

EliRabett said...

"So you're telling me CO2 causes incontinence?"

Ever have a colonoscopy?

J Bowers said...

"I was not the one that said anything about defending Europe"

So, did you understand yet how our staple crops including rice are grasses? Have you looked into the subject any further, like the ideal temperature for civilisation being 30C +/-5C, unless you want a staple diet of tomatoes and pine cones?

MinniesMum said...

"I don't get the guy's point. Is he trying to say the USA has some kind of debt because it emitted CO2 in the past? Sounds quite impractical."

There are a couple of practical possibilities, in the future at least. For the time being, everyone should be reducing and avoiding CO2 release. Preferably they should also be investing in avoiding future release by upgrading and retrofitting infrastructure and buildings, abandoning some if necessary.

However, some time in the next couple of decades there will be some serious contenders in the technology of CO2 absorption. Even if there are no new technologies, we might think it's worth the trouble and cost of simply quarrying and grinding up easily accessible olivine and similar rocks. At That Point I think it would be reasonable for Europe, US and other early high emitters to pay the bills for those activities regardless of where they're undertaken.

If everybody does their part in reducing emissions now, those of us who contributed most to raising the CO2 concentration the most should pay for that.

As for a "start date" for when we shoulda woulda coulda done better on emissions. I'd suggest the date of Jimmy Carter's speech about the solar panels on the White House. (I honestly thought when we bought our own solar hot water system 25 years ago that there would have been no other option by now. At least in Australia. And I'm now living in a house with gas hot water.)

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Anon: how can those emissions be fairly apportioned?

BPL: Everybody should reduce as much as possible, as fast as possible.

Anonymous said...


In short, equally.


a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

People are looking at this in the wrong way. This is a race. Whoever develops a modern energy infrastructure that is carbon neutral or even negative is going to be very, very rich.

nobody know's how many gigaton's of CO2 china is ..... said...

or burning lots of wood, swamplands that are now deplected of CH4 because parts of china are water greedy....

US of A bigger emission's than India and China combined?,,,,tweenty years ago...yes ,,,no

The latest value: 6,048,436 km2 (August 12, 2014)

Brian said...

What Minniesmum said: in the second half of this century, a fair way to equalize post-1980 emissions would be for poor countries to have zero-to-slightly positive GHG emissions, while rich countries have strongly negative GHG emissions.

J Bowers said...

"US of A bigger emission's than India and China combined?,,,,tweenty years ago...yes ,,,no"

Outsourcing: look it up. You do know when a magician makes someone disappear from the box it isn't real magic, right?

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