Five reasons why small countries can punch above their weight.
I really enjoy your work, keep it up!
If you are looking for suggestions on things to write about, I would like to understand these 2 graphs and how China has overtaken the UK in energy usage and electricity production per capita:
Very interesting data treatment.
Can you explain how when you proceed from "National Emissions" to "Consumption based emissions", the percentage of "International Transport" increases from 2,8% to 3,3% ? I would have thought the sum was always the same in quantity and 100% for the whole world and the International Transport ? Is it same year: one is 2019 but the other might be 2020 ?
Great post (as always)
I think #4 is key - every rich country should be working to develop mitigation and adaptation technologies and strategies. https://www.losingmyreligions.net/
I like the strong and exhaustive, clear even if concise list and explanation of each argument: that's what "Journalism" should be: not the 'laws', not the punishments will change the world but INFORMATION, because most selfless, greedy people have no pity nor empathy NOT because they are 'bad' BUT IGNORANT: if each one of us should KNOW facts and MEDITATE about them till to UNDERSTAND (which is unfortunately not at all the same as just 'know')… his happiness would come from COLLABORATING loving the next generation and this planet that we must leave but also give as a heritage to whom we do LOVE!
Thank you! Your articles and charts have brought been incredibly useful, and you've inspired me to read "Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air" soon.
I think there's a typo on paragraph 4, "But there are several reasons why rich countries with ‘negligible’ countries <contributions?> need to step up to the challenge. What they do does matter." Not sure if you can edit after publishing.
We are very grateful for your outstanding site "Our World In Data".
It proved highly useful for our latest piece on "overpopulation". The ability to customize start dates in graphed data sets turned out to be key b/c of the timing of "The Population Bomb" we used in the piece.
We always wondered about the underlying population assumptions in climate models on which policy has relied, from time of original UN IPCC Assessment Reports (IS92, SRES, RCP, now SSP's) in 1991 to today.
Disagree that early emitters have a moral responsibility to reduce emissions. Early emitters, i.e. the western world, used those emissions to build modern civilization. Everything poor countries use today comes from the developed world. Those early emissions are responsible for higher living standards in the developing world, not less. Thus no moral responsibility. they also already pay the developing world billions a year in aid which is only possible because they got rich building the modern world and emitting CO2 in the process. Lets see what great inventions the developing world create with their emissions.
Also small countries deploying wind and solar (which empirically increases the cost of electricity in their countries) seems less useful for climate change than investing in companies creating scalable energy solutions for the developing world and large developed countries. Seems entirely possible to me the the Danish government's investment in Seaborg Technologies, for example, will be more important than all of the wind power they've put on their grids. In fact, small countries like Ireland where nuclear is banned would do more for climate change by unbanning fission power and allowing SMRs with the potential for global scale to be built and incorporated into their grid rather than build a load of offshore wind that increases the entropy and decreases the reliability of their national grid. Investments in battery tech would even be better than blind goals by small nations to reduce their negligible emissions. For those closer to 2%, sure, reducing emissions matters more.
Given wind and solar have so far increased energy costs of national grids when incorporated in grids at high%, seems unlikely they will be the solution for Africa, India and China at scale. Also given Africa, India and China are happy to tradeoff more climate change for more economic growth themselves, who exactly are the reduced emissions of small developed countries saving if the means of reducing those emissions doesn't affect the future emissions of large developing countries?
Also isn't solar so cheap because so much of it is made in China with dirty coal and human rights violations?
Your 4th point is IMO the most important by far for negligible emitters and their climate efforts should focus on this. The national conversations in these countries almost never does though. Huge potential benefits if more countries realised this.
I like a lot of your arguments in this and previous articles I have read. However, I really wish you had left argument #1 off the list.
First of all, countries do not have morals, feelings, remourse or even thoughts. Only individual real human beings have those things. I know think kind of thinking--that countries or groups are somehow equivalent to sentient individuls--is rampant, but it is nonsense none the less.
And insofar as "I" should feel responsibility. Well, no. You're welcome to feel a moral responsibility for past actions of your fellow countrymen, but I do not, nor do I wish to be told I should. That just feels to me like preaching, scolding, or the start of a poltical spin about some kind of collective action which (in today's world) I'll probably end up paying for.
Indeed, I think this kind of "making up for the past" thinking may even be counter-productive. I'd much rather be motivated by moving toward a better future than having to atone for a past I personally had nothing to do with.
Is CO2 a problem? Probably. Am I all in favor of innovation and technolgical improvement to try and fix the problem and/or remediate any damage? Asolutely. Would I like the UK to punch above its weight? Yes. But I'm also confident that if someone in China, or Russia, or Iceland comes up with a really good solution to CO2, we'll all be adopting it pretty much.
Anyway, please keep up the good work ... by which of course I mean good data and clear thinking.
You cannot both say "small countries must reduce their emissions" and "poor countries have a right to increase their emissions". They contradict each other.
Well presented analysis. Narrow national interest is the barrier to progress for many things. Lots of differences between living standards in 1st world and beyond. At the highside there are PERHAPS 2B people living a first-world lifestyle, at some level at the expense of the other 6B. The scale of any planetary challenge like climate must wrestle with this reality. The only other solution is betting on technology to "save us" and its offered solution simply better in every way. That is a tall order. That is why, absent a continuing set of breakthroughs, dealing with planetary GHG emission will be near impossible. The policy of worldwide cooperation is undoubtedly a more uncertain task than unknown technological breakthroughs in energy storage. The former challenge is the world through the eyes of the human condition. What sacrifices and compromises are likely from 1st world to deal with issues? The track record of humanity in such matters is poor. The eradication of smallpox required 160 years. We will need to be faster this time around.
An excellent article and a good discussion. Without getting too bogged down in details, here are a couple of points that I think need consideration:
1. On threads like this most comments seem to fall into two broad categories: firstly there are those who are motivated by the principle that if we want our kids to inherit a livable climate, we all need to up our game. Then there are those - luckily fewer - whose aim appears to be "how little can I get away with, and who else can I blame?"
2. Grouping GHG emissions by countries is somewhat irrelevant and even devious, because what's clear is that those with the most extravagant lifestyles are the most heinous offenders against the future. And such people exist even in poorer or smaller nations. https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/carbon-emissions-richest-1-set-be-30-times-15degc-limit-2030
Wow! Great article! I love the glass ceiling analogy, and the story of the 4 minute mile. This is the essence of individual action also--it’s intrinsically rewarding to make sustainability a challenge that can be proven possible!
Some of these are great points. I really have to push back on the 'moral argument' though. That's really just a left-wing political agenda, which is really not science. Climate 'reparations' essentially. It would basically mean massively empowering China at the expense of the west. Which would definitely not be a 'moral' outcome for anyone who values freedom around the world. This is always the problem when you push political assumptions into science, there's always some terrible values trade-off that the scientists just fail to notice because it wasn't one of the narrow list of metrics you were trained to look at.
This is a very important conversation. We share a collective destiny as one race--the human race. Therefore, all hands are needed on deck to fix the climate issue.
Of course, it makes sense that the countries who contribute more to global warming should pay/do more. But that doesn't mean that the rest of the world should fold their hands.
The worsening climate and other global events can have a negative effect on our mental health. This is why I started a newsletter that caters exclusively to people who care about improving their mental health and making the best out of life.
I don’t think it’s a good excuse not to tackle climate change but I do wonder if it would’ve be easier to get a four party agreement between China, the US, India and the EU on national policy stringency and have the rest of the world agree to match that combined effort.
Hello Hannah, I took a great pleasure in reading this article. It is insightful and the arguments are clear, logical and convincing. Keep up the good work!
One question that I have, can you please explain me why the agriculture and land use emissions seem to be decreasing over the years? Is it because of better technology/tools used in the related activities?