Climate change: Europe and the USA almost alone responsible for climate catastrophe


The US and Europe are responsible for more than 80 percent of the excessive CO2Emissions since 1850, while only 8 percent of the emissions that cause CO2– Have increased the content of the atmosphere above the critical value of 350 ppm. This is what the economic anthropologist Jason Hickel of the University of London has calculated and has now published his results in the science magazine Lancet Planet Health. His work shows that the high-wage countries are responsible for climate change and the associated damage to an even greater extent than previously assumed, he writes.

As Hickel explains, lies his analysis it is based on the assumption that the earth’s atmosphere is a common good and that every nation should have a fair share of it based on its population. Populous countries are therefore likely to have more CO2 emit, but all together only enough that a total of 350 ppm (parts per million, i.e. millionths) are not exceeded. When that happened in 1990, the problematic consequences of climate change began – Hickel speaks of climate collapse. More than 400 ppm are now measured. According to Hickel, a maximum of 830.1 gigatons of CO2 may be emitted, but between 1850 and 2015 it was 1516.2 gigatons.

The researcher has now calculated how many of these 1.5 billion tons of CO2 from which country originate (1850 to 1969) or go back to consumption in a country (1970 to 2015). He could put that in relation to the budget that would have to be allocated to each state on the basis of the population so as not to cause a climate breakdown overall. With this further look back, historical emissions had a greater influence and the focus on consumption shows the outsourcing of production in the course of globalization. Overall, this has shown that the richest industrialized nations have an even greater share in climate change than previously thought. China, on the other hand, had not (yet) exhausted its 2015 budget.

According to the analysis, the worst CO2 sinner is, as expected, the USA. Actually, the country should only have 41.5 gigatons of CO2 emit, but in 2015 it was already 420.4 gigatons. That is not only ten times the budget, but also 40 percent of the excessive CO2Total emissions. In second place is Russia (105 instead of 27 gigatons) ahead of Germany. With 91.3 instead of 18.4 gigatons of CO2 the German states have emitted almost five times their budget and in terms of the total amount of too much emitted CO2 even end up ahead of the motherland of industrialization Great Britain.

At the very other end of the list is India. The billion people should therefore actually 133.4 gigatons of CO2 emit, but only comes to 43.2 gigatons. China even has a budget of 189 gigatons of CO2, by 2015 the Middle Kingdom had 159.6 gigatons. With current emissions of a little more than 10 gigatons per year – twice as much as the USA and almost three times as much as the European Union – the country is now likely to be above its budget as well. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Vietnam have not exhausted their budgets either.

Overall, Hickel comes to the conclusion that the EU states (including Great Britain) are responsible for 29 percent of the excessively emitted CO2 are responsible, the rest of Europe for a further 13 percent. Together with the US share, that’s 82 percent of the excessive CO2. The other countries of the global north – according to Hickel, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Japan – have 10 percent. The entire rest of the world is therefore only responsible for 8 percent of the excess CO2 emitted2 and the resulting climate collapse. Hickel thinks that one could speak of atmospheric colonization, because the richest states have polluted the atmosphere far more than they are entitled to, while the global south is and will be disproportionately affected by the consequences.


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