The comic in the July 12th issue of The Economist is quite a good one. It shows an American eagle, mouth crammed with cigarettes and a cigarette package labelled ‘Greenhouse’ in its talon, telling a tiger labelled ‘India’ and a dragon labelled ‘China’ that it is: “Time to cut back.” Both the tiger and the dragon also have mouths and fists crammed with smokes.
The tiger says to the dragon: “He wants us to follow his lead.” To which the dragon replies: “That’s what we have been doing.”
It does a good job of encapsulating the whole “you developed in a dirty way so we have the same right” argument, as well as the poisonous “there is no point in acting ourselves if other big emitters won’t do so” argument. The best answer to all this is:
- The developed world does owe some assistance to the developing world, largely on the basis of the effects the latter will suffer because of the past emissions of the former.
- Developing countries have an excellent opportunity to carry out the process of development in a more sustainable way than has been employed elsewhere.
- Cutting back on fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions is a temporary sacrifice, but a long-term boon. In the end, it will be the societies that do the best job of transitioning to a low-carbon future that will be the most successful in decades and centuries ahead.
Hopefully, the basic truth of those positions will be able to carry through into the ongoing global negotiations and we will have something big and meaningful to show for it at COP-15 in Copenhagen next year.