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Reason Foundation

Third World to Obama: Global Warming is Your Problem

Shikha Dalmia
July 17, 2009, 9:35am

Obama went to the G-8 summit hoping to convince developing countries to accept binding emission cuts to avert -- what is it these days? -- global warming? climate change? But if these countries are turning a deaf ear to Obama, it is not out of venality or cupidity. It is simply because the price they will have to pay to fix the problem won't just be in dollars (or rupees or rembinis). It will be in lives!

As I note in my latest Forbes column:

"Consider what would be necessary to slash global greenhouse-gas emissions just 50% below 2000 levels by 2050--a far less aggressive goal than what the enviros say is necessary to avert climate catastrophe. According to U.S. Chamber of Commerce calculations, even if the West reduced its emissions by 80% below 2000 levels, developing countries would still have to return their emissions to 2000 levels to meet the 50% target. However, Indians currently consume roughly 15 times less energy per capita than Americans--and Chinese consume seven times less. Asking them, along with the rest of the developing world, to go back to 2000 emission levels with a 2050 population would mean putting them on a very drastic energy diet.

The human toll of this is unfathomable: It would require these countries to abandon plans to ever conquer poverty, of course. But beyond that it would require a major scaling back of living standards under which their middle classes--for whom three square meals, cars and air-conditioning are only now beginning to come within reach--would have to go back to subsistence living, and the hundreds of millions who are at subsistence would have to accept starvation.

In short, the choice for developing countries is between mass death due to the consequences of an overheated planet sometime in the distant future, and mass suicide due to imposed instant starvation right now. Is it any surprise that they are reluctant to jump on the global-warming bandwagon?"

Whole thing here.


Shikha Dalmia is Senior Analyst


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