Mapping carbon emissions

I-Hsien Porter

Power stationThe Guardian website recently published a map of carbon emissions by country. There were few surprises. China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. hile recession-hit Europe and America have seen a fall in their emissions due to reductions in industrial output, it has not been enough to offset the rapid expansion of emerging economies in China and India. Developing countries in South America and Africa have some of the smallest carbon emissions in the world.

It might have been helpful to see this illustrated in relation to carbon emissions per person, since countries are not all the same size. However, it provides a useful indication of where strategies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions might be best focused.

Market based solutions, where carbon is commodified (e.g. carbon credits), have become the focus for international strategies to reduce emissions. However, in a recent paper in The Geographical Journal, Samuel Randalls warns of the dangers of this approach.

Simplifying carbon emissions into a quantity that must be managed comes with broader ethical and moral issues. Management of the issue by distant national or international markets makes assumptions about the fair allocation of personal carbon allowances.

Randalls argues that wider political participation is needed to consider the ethical implications of imposing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution across countries with different cultural and social characteristics.

The Guardian (31st January 2011) ‘An atlas of pollution: The world in carbon dioxide emissions.’

Randalls, S. (2011) ‘Broadening debates on climate change ethics: beyond carbon calculation.’ The Geographical Journal [Early View]

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