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June 20, 2007



This kind of thinking is reverse NIMBYism, or something similar, and not only dumb, but counter-productive. If taken seriously it would set off endless verbal (and hotter) wars about who has which shares of the 'blame' for acts long past - when no one even dreamed this was an issue.

By this thinking, the poorest or most recent of US citizens would and should argue they shouldn't carry an equal portion of US changes that are required.

The only sensible road to world-wide solutions is to grandfather-in what has occured in the past and look only forward in terms of burden sharing, if burdens must be bourne (which is a needlessly negative way of looking at the question - we may see major advantages for civilizations and economies by the changes that we adopt as time goes by.

A unit of carbon in the air is a unit of carbon in the air, worldwide. We can trace, perhaps, the sources, but we can't trace the effects.

Yes, the developed countries may have to provide some aid since the changes won't be without short-term costs of investment. Many of the less developed countries will be among those most hard hit and most immediately by changes in climate.

Roberts is engaging in very disruptive discourse for someone who appears to care about making progress on environmental issues. Never has the blame game had greater potential for impeding the progress needed.

(As you can tell, this fogs my glasses).


I see your point, but I also don't think you and David see the future terribly differently. His tone is just rather strident. Environmentalism will do that to you though!

Don't you, to some extent, feel that for the last (at least) 20 years many people did know this was an issue? Even if you put the number at 10, the amount of wealth we've created using our carbon economy in that period is more than enough to bare the cost of turning China green. Or at least helping to.


I'm not opposed to helping other countries, Brian. I'm opposed to arguing about who's at fault as a means of delaying action. I'm opposed to making the US citizen think we have to finance a reversal of global warming trends worldwide.

I'm in favor of a global cooperative effort that all contribute to in the ways that they can.

China has almost 3 trillion in US treasury bills. And their cities and countryside are a nightmare of pollution. (I'm just talking about China as an example). We should share or cooperatively develop technology to clean things up, but asking US citizens to pay for the worldwide cleanup is a guarantee that the US votes for real tough action will not be there. So, our efforts should be to help others achieve the goals we must have in common - as a cooperative venture.

We must keep in mind that it will take an enormous amount of seed-money to reverse our own direction on carbon emissions, and if we lead (and assist where we can - particularly on technology sharing) we are far more likely to be followed. Our trade deficits, our long-term national debt, and our current budget deficits, our enormous and out-of-control military spending and other factors, mean that we aren't Daddy Warbucks anymore. We should spend what we must (and probably more than a little more), but we can't give the voters the perception that we are the global-warming-reduction bank - or they won't support it.

David Roberts

Hey Brian, hey Jim,

Strident ol' me here.

Jim, the main reason most people in Congress gave for not signing on to Kyoto was, "we're not going accept restrictions unless China accepts them too." And the notion that accepting restrictions ahead of China is an "economic suicide pact" is still the #1 anti-action talking point on the right.

Now, we could delay action until we coax or coerce China into accepting parallel restrictions on emissions. But if we do that, we should acknowledge that we're going to be waiting a long, long time, probably forever.

Or we could push back against that argument, which is after all morally cretinous and economically inaccurate.

I'm not saying the west should feel guilty about using up a disproportionate share of the atmospheric commons on the road to development -- as you say, we didn't know. But that doesn't change the fact that we did, in fact, use it up, and that does, in fact, put China in a crappy situation. For us, sitting upon a pile of wealth unprecedented in human history, to say to China, which is still, per-capita, a desperately poor country, "hey, let bygones be bygones!" ... well, you can imagine what our nationalists would say if the roles were reversed.

Anyway, moral arguments aside, facts are facts: if China develops based on fossil fuels, humanity is fucked. They're not going to develop sustainably without considerable help from us. So to save our own asses, if nothing else, we'd better help. That starts, in my view, with decisively and vocally refuting the notion that we're all starting on a level playing field.

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