Climate and the Maharaja Mac

Can we capture the emissions from India’s coal burning?

In Why I think we’re wasting billions on global warming, Myles Allen is reported as saying

“There’s been a lot of talk about ‘unburnable carbon’ – the carbon we shouldn’t burn if we are to keep global temperature rises below 2C. A catchy phrase, but can we really tell the citizens of India of 2080 not to touch their coal?”

The answer Myles gives is let’s bury the CO2 problem:

“Anyone who extracts or imports fossil fuels should be required to sequester a steadily increasing fraction of their carbon. The maths could not be simpler: we need to increase the fraction of carbon we sequester by, on average, 1% for every 10bn tonnes of carbon dumped in the atmosphere.”

Others see this reliance on extracting carbon from the atmosphere as risky. The abstract to The Role of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage for Climate Policy says

“… it is questionable whether the necessary scale can be achieved in time and many other uncertainties remain ranging from technological issues and feedstock potentials to socioeconomic challenges and lack of certainty about the mechanisms in the climate system.”

Can we pay India to curb carbon emissions?

Coal India Limited is the Indian state-controlled coal mining company so coal reserves in India could be called “their coal” but the carbon emissions it produces pollutes “our atmosphere”.

The simple answer to Indian coal emissions, is that we (the more polluting nations) pay the less polluting nations not to pollute. On current performance the UK, the USA & etc will be paying less polluting India.

Most countries have elites with high emissions

Within individual nations the affluent (who have high emissions) should pay those with lower emissions not to pollute. Hansen’s Carbon Fee with Dividend has this effect.

However, a big problem is that most (or all) nations are ruled by affluent elites who have large carbon emissions: There cause political limits to action but if these limits cannot be overcome the world is in trouble.

To highlight the issues of developing nation’s emissions to find ways of preventing them following our destructive path, I have suggested a World Wide Carbon Fee and Dividend, a generalisation of Hansen’s scheme. This recognises that the rich and affluent in India are just as polluting as those elsewhere. It because the pollution from emissions are a global problem, we have an interest in seeing climate justice within nations as well as between nations. After all, we are very concerned that nations should be “democratic” and on occasions go to war to spread democracy.

Back to Myles Allen.

Is he worried about the economic progress of India as a“developing” nation with it’s increasing numbers of billionaires.

Or is his concern for the poor in India who cannot afford the Indian version of a Big Mac, the Maharaja Mac?

Or is he concerned with the property rights that the Indian people have over Indian assets?

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