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Climate Change

Eddie Mair | 15:01 UK time, Tuesday, 11 December 2007

What would be a fair way to share out the blame for climate change? Well, if you look at emissions on a countrywide basis, China looks as much of a culprit as the United States.

That annoys China quite a bit. Their emissions PER PERSON are a sixth of those in America. India's a big polluter too - but per person its emissions are among the lowest in the world.

One area on the map jumps out - the Gulf. Population levels are low but emissions are huge because of all that oil and gas.

People's lifestyles are also a problem. In the programme tonight, our environment analyst Roger Harrabin went to the Emirates and dropped in on Mohsen and Rania Saad and their four year old, hosepipe-wielding daughter Clara. They're one of five families around the globe who have been telling the BBC about their carbon lives.


  1. At 03:49 PM on 11 Dec 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Who's to blame? How to allocate it?

    Just consider that one fifth of the world's folk are doing four fifths of the consuming of resources, which translates pretty directly to four fifths of the emissions. You and I, together with the rest of Europe, America, New Zealand, Japan and Australia (with the largest PERCAPITA footprint)), are part of that top fifth.


    Namaste -ed

    Namelink says it all

  2. At 04:00 PM on 11 Dec 2007, Diane Smith wrote:

    Why does everyone conveniently ignore the impact that animal farming has on global warming? Is it because it seems easier to tinker about at the edges and do things like recycling than to change your diet?
    Farmed animals actually produce more greenhouse gas emissions (18%) than the world's entire transport system (13.5%)
    According to the United Nations report 'Livestock's Long Shadow', methane has 23 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide. Farmed ruminant animals are responsible for producing huge amounts of methane and nitrous oxide. A single cow, for instance,can produce 500 litres of methane per day.
    There's no doubt that changing to a plant-based diet is the simplest contribution to cutting greenhouse gases.

  3. At 04:03 PM on 11 Dec 2007, Deepthought wrote:

    Unfortunately, if you account for past carbon emissions, then Europe does pretty badly as well. Much of the carbon in the atmosphere now(*) was emitted since the industrial revolution, mid 1700's onwards, and that puts us as much in the dock as the US or China.

    (*)I know there is the carbon cycle, but you know what I mean.

  4. At 04:42 PM on 11 Dec 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Who's to blame? How to allocate it?

    Just consider that one fifth of the world's folk are doing four fifths of the consuming of resources, which translates pretty directly to four fifths of the emissions. You and I, together with the rest of Europe, America, New Zealand, Japan and Australia (with the largest PERCAPITA footprint)), are part of that top fifth.


    Namaste -ed

    Namelink says it all

    AND, from George (www.monbiot.com):

    The climate talks are a stitch-up, as no one is talking about supply.

    By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 11th December 2007

    Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it might seem, I have stumbled across the single technology which will save us from runaway climate change! From the goodness of my heart I offer it to you for free. No patents, no small print, no hidden clauses. Already this technology, a radical new kind of carbon capture and storage, is causing a stir among scientists. It is cheap, it is efficient and it can be deployed straight away. It is called … leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

    On a filthy day last week, as governments gathered in Bali to prevaricate about climate change, a group of us tried to put this policy into effect. We swarmed into the opencast coal mine being dug at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales and occupied the excavators, shutting down the works for the day. We were motivated by a fact which the wise heads in Bali have somehow missed: if fossil fuels are extracted, they will be used.

  5. At 04:42 PM on 11 Dec 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    I don't think talking of 'blame' helps very much. Historically, the West is the biggest culprit, with industrial activity beginning in the 18th century, although holes in the ozone layer were clearly not in people's minds way back then. And it is completely understandable that developing countries should feel that allowances should be made in their case to give them time to 'catch up' on the West. But the truth is indisputable: that, without action, the world will be heading for armageddon.

    Education seems to be the only effective force to help people to realise that they will have to make lifestyle choices if they are to leave the world in a fit state for future generations. It is only by individuals choosing to buy into change that change will happen, since no amount of force or coercion will be effective in the long term.

    Oh, and as I'm writing this I'm thinking of the carbon footprint created by this, and other, internet/IT activity. Perhaps I should log off once this is sent. :o)

  6. At 04:43 PM on 11 Dec 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    I hope that Roger offset the carbon footprint of his flight...

  7. At 06:14 PM on 11 Dec 2007, Cassassa wrote:

    Having heard the item this evening (and watched the BBC News in tears and fury last night) I suppose it is rather pointless repeating the familiar old Reduce, Reuse, etc, etc. Perhaps now it's time to suggest that we all consume more - in fact, as much as we possibly can - to ensure man's extinction by, say, 2098. Or, in our adoration of the greedy and our congratulation of any producer of any thing as long as the profit is massive (yes I know that's an exaggeration, but only slight), are we doing that already and I just missed the announcing of the target date? Am I close?

    Incidentally, did Mrs Hayes ever report back?

  8. At 11:53 PM on 11 Dec 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Diane Smith is quite correct, her figure comes from a report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN.

    Add to this the astonishing fact that the clear-cutting and destruction of rainforests currently accounts for 20% of all CO2 emissions. All to provide hardwoods for our attractive home furniture, or to enable palm oil and similar cash crops to be grown by peoples who have no other sources of decent income.

    The last five years emissions from this source alone equals the entire emissions of all flying machines since the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.

    Ed I. old chum (and with the greatest respect), when you make your customary complaints about how we're despoiling the environment with our airline-based hypermobility how come this doesn't get mentioned?

    And whilst Monbiot's heart is in the right place what 'realistic' alternative does he propose apart from simply stopping the planet now? Which doesn't quite meet the reality criteria. Inane stunts in Welsh coalmines are hardly making headlines or saving the planet, are they?


  9. At 09:59 AM on 12 Dec 2007, Gareth Jones wrote:

    Who to blame?

    Well, there is the sun for a start. Who gave it permission to burn hotter in cycles and why choose now for a hot phase. Then there is the earth's crust. Why has it chosen now to be so solid and not to produce a nice shielding eruption of volcanic ash. Then there are those people who cut down trees that absorb CO2 and all those people who insist on having children to expand the world's population, particularly those who also want to have a western life style and burn fossil fuels.

    Then there is the U.S.A. who had it written into their constitution that they are allowed to use 60% of the world's natural resources. Oh, of course, then there is us and, before I forget, then there is me.

    I am, of course, the least to blame and there is almost nothing I can do about it except turn this computer off.

  10. At 12:51 PM on 12 Dec 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    The planet isn't going to stop, but we're likely to run out of food, fuel and space before century's end. The planet will keep on with or (more likely) without us.

    If it's bad to chop rainforests, that makes it OK to fly?

    As to "since Kitty Hawk", I reckon we'd find that in the last decade we've burned more jetfuel than in the period since Kitty Hawk up to the last decade. Exponential growth rates have that property. Similarly, we'll need to produce more food in the next half-century than in the last hundred centuries, and that with a depleted and diminishing soil resource.

    Seems to me I did in fact mention mahogany in my rant, btw.

    Namaste -ed

    Never pay a compliment as if expecting a receipt.

  11. At 02:53 PM on 12 Dec 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Al Gore:

    Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

    I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.

    Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention – dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.

    Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.

    Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.

    Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”

    Namaste -ed

  12. At 04:49 PM on 13 Dec 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Ed @ 10, 'The planet will keep on with or (more likely) without us.'

    I don't know about you, but I am hoping really quite hard that I won't still be hanging on to life (as a brain in a jar?) come the end of this century! ;-)

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