Countdown to Copenhagen: A Survey of Climate Change Strategies

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Writing for New Internationalist, climate activist Danny Chivers delivers an accessible roundup of several major climate change proposals on the table for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December. (A longer version of the story is available on his blog.) His article focuses on climate justice, rating each framework on its fairness, effectiveness, and current level of support among world leaders. Cheeky analogies cut through the wonk to illustrate each option for addressing climate change.

The proposal with the most support is the grandfathering of Kyoto targets, which would require industrialized countries to reduce emissions to a certain percentage below their 1990 levels. According to Chivers, “It’s a bit like a group of wealthy tourists and destitute refugees have survived a plane crash and are stranded on a mountain. They decide to ration out the food based on how much each person ate in the week before the crash–the more you ate per day back then, the more food you get now.”

Chivers prefers Greenhouse Development Rights (GDRs). Under this method, carbon targets for each country would be set based on how much money its citizens make and how much greenhouse gas they produce. In Chivers’ analogy, “It’s a bit like a city is razed to the ground by alien invaders. The people who escaped unscathed because they lived in solid houses built from money they stole from the aliens (thus provoking the attack) are expected to take on most of the rebuilding work. The people who had left the aliens alone, stayed poor, and lived in rickety houses that collapsed on them during the attack are allowed to recover in hospital before joining in the work.”

As for carbon credits: “It’s a bit like handing control of the Earth’s vital natural systems over to a bunch of grinning Wall Street traders. Oh no, wait: it’s exactly like that.”

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