A day after African delegates walked out of negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Barcelona to protest the weakness of developed countries' commitments to reducing CO2 emissions, it is becoming clearer just how insufficient those current commitments are.
The problem, as usual, is money. There's not enough of it. Without bold commitments from developed countries, the CO2 reductions required by the science behind climate change are simply not going to occur.
The most popular solution to climate change is a global carbon market whereby emission ceilings are set and those companies that exceed the limit pay a tax, the revenues of which are used to combat climate change.
It is the opinion of many here in Barcelona that developed states must bear the vast brunt of costs associated with global warming since they created the conditions that caused it. Matthias Duwe of the European Climate Action Network spoke for a large swath of people today when he said developed countries are expected to reduce their own emissions, aid developing countries to do the same and pay for the damage warming will inevitably cause.
On Wednesday, indigenous peoples from the Philippines, Nicaragua and Kenya spoke about the damage already done in their countries by climate change. Ranging from typhoons to deforestation, societies with simpler (less carbon-reliant) ways of life are suffering from the industrialized world’s ambition.
What science says is necessary to avoid greater calamity and what developed nations are promising to do about it are two very different things.
According to Greenpeace International, a global, 40% reduction in greenhouse gasses, relative to 1990 levels, is absolutely necessary by 2020 to limit warming to a two degree temperature increase. The amount of money necessary to achieve that goal, about $120 billion per year, remains mostly elusive.
A global carbon market would, if it functions properly, produce $30 billion annually according to the European Climate Change Programme, leaving $90 billion, or three fourths of what is needed to combat warming annually, absent.
The gulf in Barcelona between science and politics is wide. The political barriers to decreasing carbon emissions iterated by government delegations are not commensurate with their governments’ stated desires to combat global warming.
When is not helping people because it’s too expensive tantamount to killing people for money?