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The Battle for the Atmosphere

Just published – check out my new article in the latest edition of Briarpatch magazine (May/June 2010). Entitled ‘The Battle for the Atmosphere‘, the article analyzes the highly obstructionist stance of the current Canadian government in international climate change negotiations.

Some in the developing South have accused the position adopted by countries such as Canada as being tantamount to neo-colonialism. I take a closer look at this accusation by considering what would constitute an equitable distribution of the world’s remaining carbon budget. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, scientists say there is a limited amount of atmospheric space available for global carbon emissions.  How can the global South (which comprises 80% of the world’s population) realize their development aspirations within the world’s limited remaining carbon budget if developed countries such as Canada are unwilling to make deep emissions cuts?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

North American media have for the most part utterly failed to recognize the ethical dimensions of climate change, and consequently most Canadians see little problem with judging our government’s climate change policies solely on the basis of our national economic interest. Today, the only proven routes out of poverty still involve an expanded use of energy and, consequently, a seemingly inevitable increase in fossil fuel use and carbon emissions – unless more expensive alternative energies can rapidly be deployed.

Poverty alleviation and equitable forms of development are possible within the world’s small remaining carbon budget with existing clean energy technologies. But this will only become a reality if rich nations like Canada are willing to accept their historical responsibilities by implementing stringent domestic reductions that will free up atmospheric space for the rest of the world, and by paying developing countries to leapfrog fossil fuels and make the transition directly to cleaner energy.

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