The polluter pays
December 19, 2009 5:23 AM   Subscribe

I (think I) read somewhere on the web the factoid that, if we could restrict the impacts of climate change to within the borders of the country responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions, the temperature of the USA would rise by (something like) 22° Celsius. Now I can't for the life of me find it again. Does anyone know where I read this, or am I simply imagining things? I'd like to be able to cite an authority for my assertion. Climate change skeptics need not apply.
posted by Tawita to Science & Nature (4 answers total)
Off the top of my head, this seems like a lot of energy.

I think the first thing you need to nail down is over what time period. A 22 C increase doesn't have much meaning without an understanding of how long this will take.

In addition to the magnitude issues. As you probably understand, it's really hard to partition the planet...since most of the scientific point of climate change is the fact that the weather systems / heat transfer paths of the planet are very interconnected and not related to geographic boundaries. This kind of argument - even as a throw away comment isn't very useful. In fact it's exactly arguments like this which allow the skeptics to move the focus away from the important aspects of climate change and point to people as crazy or hysterical.
posted by NoDef at 5:49 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yea, 22 C is probably not correct. For a gut-check, look at the IPCC climate sensitivity chart. I'm not sure how anyplace could emit to the 4000+ ppm CO2 level. 22 F may be feasible for the US and Austrailia, given some other assumptions.
posted by FuManchu at 6:04 AM on December 19, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry folks, perhaps I didn't explain myself very well. I know that it is not possible to partition the planet. If I remember the statement correctly, it is more a comment on the injustice of the disproportional impact of the USA's greenhouse gas emissions on particularly vulnerable countries (like small island states).
posted by Tawita at 12:52 PM on December 19, 2009

You seem to have unknowingly used the word factoid correctly:
A factoid is a questionable or spurious—unverified, incorrect, or fabricated—statement formed and asserted as a fact, but with no veracity.
I think that what NoDef is trying to say here is that unless you are already preaching to the choir, a statement like this will be written off as hysterical, exaggerated, or simply made up.

In my opinion, global warming is a red herring and the debate over it is counterproductive. Whether the average global surface temperature is rising or not and whether human activity is the cause is irrelevant.

Arguing over whether global temperature is rising or not is taking attention away from indisputable proof that human activity is affecting the environment negatively and delays action.

That said, you may find this table of each country's CO2 emissions a good start.
posted by Nameless at 7:26 PM on December 19, 2009

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