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Dr Gideon Polya
Dr Gideon Polya

Analysis by country of fossil fuel burning-based Carbon Debt and Carbon Credit

Fossil fuel burning yielding the greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major component of man-made global warming. In relation to carbon pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, Net Carbon Debt is equal to the Historical Carbon Debt (from fossil fuel burning since the start of the Industrial Revolution in circa 1750) minus the Carbon Credit (the residual carbon pollution from fossil fuel burning permitted between now and zero emissions in 2050). As outlined below and based on fossil fuel burning, Net Carbon Debt (Net Climate Debt) has been estimated for all Carbon Debtor countries and Net Carbon Credit (Net Climate Credit) has been estimated for all Carbon Creditor countries. This information is crucial for climate justice as the World faces a worsening climate crisis born of GHG profligacy and climate change inaction.

The Historical Carbon Debt (aka Climate Debt) of the World has been estimated at 12 Gt CO2 (12 billion tonnes CO2) in 1751-1900 and 334 Gt CO2-e for 1901-2008, for a total of 346 Gt CO2 in the period 1751-2008 (see “Carbon dioxide in the atmosphereâ€). Most of this greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution has occurred in the last half century.

In a 2008 letter to Australian PM Kevin Rudd, NASA’s Dr James Hansen provided a breakdown of global responsibility for fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution between 1751 and 2006 that is summarized below as a percentage (%) of the Historical Climate Debt (1751-2006) of 346 Gt CO2.

Ships/air (4%): 4% of 346 Gt CO2 = 13.84 Gt. This has been allocated proportionately to the other groups as shown below.

India (2.5%) = (0.025 x 346 = 8.65) + (2.5 x 13.84/96 = 0.36) = 9.01 Gt CO2.

Japan (3.9%) = 13.49 + 0.56 = 14.05 Gt CO2.

UK (6.0%) = 20.76 + 0.87 = 21.63 Gt CO2.

Germany (6.6%) = 22.84 + 0.95 = 23.79 Gt CO2.

Russia (7.4%) = 25.60 + 1.07 = 26.67 Gt CO2.

China (8.2%) = 28.37 + 1.18 = 29.55 Gt CO2.

USA (27.5%) = 95.15 + 3.97 = 99.12 Gt CO2.

Canada-Australia (3.1%) = 10.73 + 0.45 = 11.18 Gt CO2 -> Canada 5.59 Gt CO2 & Australia 5.59 Gt CO2.

Rest of Europe (18.0%) (population 451.2 million) = 62.28 + 2.60 = 64.88 Gt CO2.

Rest of World (12.8%) (population 3,197.1 million) = 44.29 + 1.85 = 46.14 Gt CO2.

The Carbon Debtors are stealing from the poor Carbon Creditors that are increasingly threatened by the worsening climate crisis.

Post-2010 Carbon Credits (aka Climate Credits) relate to the last amount of GHG pollution the World can sustain before zero emissions in 2050 if it is to avoid a disastrous 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise. In 2009 the WBGU which advises the German Government on climate change estimated that for a 75% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2C temperature rise (EU policy), the World must emit no more than 600 billion tones of CO2 between 2010 and zero emissions in 2050. From this information it was possible to use data for annual per capita GHG pollution (i.e. of CO2-e; see “List of countries by greenhouse gas emissions per capitaâ€) to calculate years left to zero emissions for every country in the world (see “Shocking analysis by country of years left to zero emissionsâ€). This analysis based on current per capita pollution of CO2-e (CO2-equivalent i.e. considering GHGs such as methane and nitrous oxide in addition to CO2) was used to estimate Carbon Debt (Climate Debt) in US dollars for most countries (see “Climate Debt, Climate Creditâ€).

However a simpler and much more comprehensive analysis of Carbon Debt (Climate Debt) for all countries of the World is presented below that reports Carbon Debt in millions of tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuel burning alone (and ignores GHG pollution deriving from land use (agriculture and forestry), methane, nitrous oxide (N2O) and other GHGs).

Net Carbon Debt (aka Net Climate Debt) and Net Carbon Credit (aka Net Climate Credit) can be estimated from the difference between Historical Carbon Debt and post-2010 Carbon Credits. Thus, by way of example, if one accepts that “all men are created equalâ€, the Carbon Credit for India (population 1,210.2 million out of a total global population of 6,983.2 million) is 600 billion tonnes CO2 x 1,210.2 million/6,983.2 million = 103.981 billion tones CO2. The Net Carbon Debt for India is therefore 9.010 billion tonnes CO2 (Historical Carbon Debt) – 103.981 billion tonnes CO2 (post-2010 Carbon Credit) = - 94.971 billion tonnes Net Carbon Debt or a Net Carbon Credit of + 94.971 billion tones CO2.

Conversely, the Carbon Credit for the US (population 312.8 million out of a total global population of 6,983.2 million) is 600 billion tonnes CO2 x 312.8 million/6,983.2 million = 26.876 billion tonnes. The Net Carbon Debt for the US is therefore 99.120 billion tonnes CO2 (Historical Carbon Debt) – 26.876 billion tonnes CO2 (post-2010 Carbon Credit) = 72,244 billion tonnes CO2 Net Carbon Debt.

For “Rest of Europe†countries the Net Carbon Debt is 64,880 million tonnes CO2 /451.2 million people = 143.79 million tonnes CO2/person (Historical Carbon Debt) - 600,000 million tonnes /6,983,2 persons = 85.92 tonnes per person (Carbon Credit) = 57.49 tonnes per person i.e. there is a positive Net Carbon Debt which is in magnitude 57.87 x100/85.92 = 67.4% of the 2010-2050 Carbon Credit.

For “Rest of World “ countries the Net Carbon Debt is 46,140 million tonnes CO2/3,197.1 million persons = 14.43 million tonnes CO2/person (Historical Carbon Debt) – 85.92 tonnes per person (Climate Credit) = -71.49 tonnes per person i.e. there is a positive Net Carbon Credit which is in magnitude 71.49 x100/85.92 = 83.2% of the 2010-2050 Carbon Credit.

Net Carbon Debt (millions of tonnes of CO2) of Climate Debtor countries (descending order).

United States (72,244), Germany (16,765), United Kingdom (16,277), Russia (14,392), France (3,763), Australia (3,631), Japan (3,069), Italy (3,515), Spain (2,671), Ukraine (2,643), Canada (2,617), Poland (2,204), Romania (1,241),

Netherlands (967), Belgium (627), Greece (624), Czech Republic (611), Portugal (611), Hungary (578), Belarus (548), Sweden (548), Austria (487), Switzerland (455), Bulgaria (426), Serbia (412), Denmark (323), Slovakia (315), Finland (313), Norway (289), Ireland (265), Croatia (248), Macedonia (241), Bosnia & Herzegovina (222), Moldova (206), Lithuania (186), Albania (164), Latvia (128), Macedonia (119), Slovenia (119),

Estonia (78), Cyprus (46), Montenegro (36), Luxembourg (30), Malta (24), Iceland (18),

Jersey (5.7), Andorra (4.9), Isle of Man (4.8), Guernsey (3.6), Greenland (3.3), Faroe Islands (2.8), Liechtenstein (2.1). Monaco (2.1), San Marino (1.9), Gibraltar (1.7),

Saint Barthélemy (0.5), Saint Pierre et Miquelon (0.4), Falklands Islands (0.2), Vatican City (0.05).

Net Carbon Credit (millions of tonnes of CO2) of Climate Creditor countries (ascending order).

Tokelau (0.07), Niue (0.07), Saint Helena Ascension and Trista da Cunha (0.3), Montserrat (0.4), Tuvalu (0.7), Nauru (0.7), Cook Islands (0.8),

Wallis & Futuna (1.0), Anguilla (1.1), Palau (1.5), British Virgin Islands (2.0), Saint Martin (2.7), Turks and Caicos Islands (3.0), Saint Kitts and Nevis (3.7), Northern Mariana Islands (3.9), Marshall Islands (3.9), Cayman Islands (3.9), American Samoa (4.0), Bermuda (4.5), Dominica (5.1), Antigua and Barbuda (6.4), Seychelles (6.5), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (7.2), Kiribati (7.2), Aruba (7.3), Federated States of Micronesia (7.3), Tonga (7.5), United States Virgin Islands (7.6), Grenada (7.9),

Curaçao (10), Guam (11), Saint Lucia (12), São Tomé and Principe (12), Samoa (13), Mayotte (15), French Guiana (16), Vanuatu (17), New Caledonia (18), French Polynesia (20), Barbados (20), Belize (22), Maldives (23), Bahamas (25), Martinique (28), Guadeloupe (29), Brunei (30), Cape Verde (35), Suriname (38), Western Sahara (39), Macau (40), Bhutan (51), Equatorial Guinea (51), Comoros (54), Guyana (56), Réunion (58), Fiji (62), Djibouti (65), Timor-Leste (76), Swaziland (86), Bahrain (88), Mauritius (92), Trinidad and Tobago (94),

Guinea-Bissau (101), Gabon (110), Qatar (119), Gambia (127), Botswana (145), Lesotho (157), Namibia (166), Jamaica (193), Mongolia (196), Oman (198), Kuwait (201), Armenia (234), Mauritania (239), Uruguay (241), Panama (243), Liberia (249), Puerto Rico (266), Republic of the Congo (296), Occupied Palestinian Territories (298), Lebanon (304), Costa Rica (308), New Zealand (317), Georgia (319), Central African Republic (321), Turkmenistan (365), Singapore (371), Eritrea (387), Kyrgyzstan (389), Togo (411), Nicaragua (416), Sierra Leone (429), El Salvador (445), Jordan (447), Paraguay (453), Laos (454), Libya (459), Papua New Guinea (501), Hong Kong (508), Tajikistan (544), Israel (558), Honduras (587), United Arab Emirates (591), South Sudan (591), Burundi (613), Benin (651), Azerbaijan (651), Dominican Republic(670), Somalia (683), Haiti (721), Guinea (731), Bolivia (745), Tunisia (763), Rwanda (766), Cuba (804), Chad (806), Zimbabwe (912), Senegal (919), Zambia (933), Malawi (935), Cambodia (958),

Ecuador (1,035), Mali (1,038), Guatemala (1,052), Niger (1,125), Burkina Faso (1,125), Kazakhstan (1,188), Chile (1,233), Madagascar (1,349), Cameroon (1,387), Angola (1,402), Sri Lanka (1,476), Syria (1,527), Côte d’Ivoire (1,530), Mozambique (1,648), Taiwan (1,660), Yemen, (1,704), North Korea (1,719), Ghana (1,732), Nepal (1,903), Saudi Arabia (1,940), Uzbekistan (2,002), Malaysia (2,026), Venezuela (2,108), Peru (2,130), Sudan (2,209), Iraq (2,295), Afghanistan (2,313), Morocco (2,317), Uganda (2,355), Algeria (2,595), Kenya (2,760), Argentina (2,868), Tanzania (3008), Colombia (3,310), Myanmar (3,456), South Korea 3,473), South Africa (3,616), Congo, Democratic Republic (formerly Zaire) (4,844), Thailand (4,970), Turkey (5,270), Iran (5,429), Egypt (5,811), Ethiopia (5,865), Vietnam (6,137), Philippines (6,721), Mexico (8,028),

Bangladesh (10,173), Nigeria (11,617), Pakistan (12,737), Brazil (13,753), Indonesia (16,989), China (85,558), India (94,971).

Some major observations arise from this data set

1. Some will argue that it is “unfair†to the major polluters of the European countries to saddle them with the Carbon Debt of previous generations. However these same countries have no problem with continuing to run up huge national debts, with demanding debt repayment by vulnerable countries (as in the current Eurozone crisis) or with crippling Third World countries with massive debt (for a damning account read John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hit Manâ€). Indeed Germany finally paid its last reparations for World War 1 (1914-1918) in 2010 and 96.5% of the 1751-2008 Historical Carbon Debt considered in this analysis was generated between 1901 and 2008. It should be also noted that this analysis is actually rather unfair to India, China , the “Rest of World†and indeed much of the “Rest of Europe†because it ignores the reality that most of these countries were variously subject in this period of 1751-2006 to colonial subjugation or crippling hegemony by the major polluters, namely the UK, Germany, the USA, Russia and Japan.

2. This analysis is only concerned with available data on Carbon Debt arising from the burning of fossil fuels and ignores Carbon Debt from greenhouse gas (GHG) production from deforestation and methanogenic livestock production. Using the data that methane (CH4) is 72 times the global warming potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20 year time frame (as compared to 25 times worse on a 100 year time frame) World Bank analysts have re-assessed annual global GHG pollution as 50% bigger than hitherto thought with methanogenic livestock production contributing over 51% of the bigger figure (see Robert Goodland and Jeff Anfang. “Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?â€, World Watch, November/December 2009). However this re-assessment in turn needs further re-assessment because Dr Drew Shindell and colleagues at NASA have shown that CH4 is actually 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG on a 20 year time frame when aerosol impacts are taken into account (see Drew T. Shindell , Greg Faluvegi, Dorothy M. Koch , Gavin A. Schmidt , Nadine Unger and Susanne E. Bauer , “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions†and Shindell et al (2009), Fig.2).

3. The set of all the Carbon Debtor (Climate Debtor) countries include all the European countries and Japan. The set of all the Carbon Creditor (Climate Credit) countries includes all the non-European countries , excluding Japan, as well as the European colonies New Zealand and Israel (that could arguably be put in the “Rest of Europe†category).

4. One can convert the Carbon Debt or Carbon Credit from units of “million tonnes of CO2†simply by multiplying by whatever carbon price you desire in, say, US dollars. Thus a genuine Carbon Price of US$100 per tonne of CO2 would permit a transition from coal- and gas-burning for electric power. Using this value the Carbon Debt of the US would be 72, 244 million tonnes CO2 x $100/ tonne CO2 = $7,200, 244 million = $7.2 trillion. Likewise the Carbon Credit of China and India would be $8.6 trillion and $9.5 trillion, respectively.

5. The US is steadily increasing its current $15.3 trillion national debt and is devaluing this debt by printing money. Conversely, the US has a 72,244 million tonne CO2 ($7.2 trillion @ $100 per tonne CO2) Net Carbon Debt but is steadily increasing this debt at the rate of 6,946 million tonnes CO2-e per year (2008) i.e. the US Carbon Debt is increasing at about 10% per year. The US under Obama shows no indication of reducing its GHG pollution profligacy. Obama’s declining to approve the current Keystone XL pipeline proposal to carry oil from Canadian tar sands to Texas may only be a temporary reprieve to keep pro-environmentalists on side in a Presidential election year. According to leading US climate scientist Dr James Hansen, exploitation of the Canadian tar sands will mean “game over†for the Planet.

6. Australia is the worst annual per capita GHG polluter of the Carbon Debtor countries but shows no indication of changing its disproportionate GHG pollution. Australia’s Domestic plus exported GHG pollution was 1,077 million tonnes CO2-e in 2000 but under the Australian Labor Government’s dishonest “Carbon Tax-ETS Scheme†this is estimated to increase to 1,799 million tonnes by 2020 (a 1.7-fold increase) and to 4,490 million tonnes CO2-e by 2050 (a 4.2-fold increase). In vain top US, UK, German and Australian climate scientists and biologists demand that global GHG pollution must be rapidly reduced to zero emissions in about 2050 and that the atmospheric CO2 concentration must return to about 300 parts per million (ppm) from the current damaging 394 ppm (increasing at 2.4 ppm per year) (see “300,org – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppmâ€). Australia’s Net Carbon Debt (3,631 million tonnes CO2) is currently increasing at about 1,415 million tonnes CO2-e per year i.e. at 39% per year.

7. “Annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution†in units of “tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year†(2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; 54 if Australia’s huge Exported CO2 pollution is included, 64 being the 2010 figure). The major Climate Creditor countries are vastly lower in per capita GHG pollution than Australia (see “Climate Genocideâ€). Thus Australia’s current annual per capita of 64 tonnes CO2-e per person per year (with Exported GHG included) is 71 times that of Bangladesh.

8. The Carbon Debtors are stealing from the poor Carbon Creditors that are increasingly threatened by the worsening climate crisis. The Carbon Debtors (Climate Debtors) should be held to account through public advocacy, boycotts, sanctions, green tariffs, International Court of Justice (ICJ) litigations and International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions applied against Climate Debtor countries by Climate Creditor countries, notably the numerous Island States and major mega-delta countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Egypt, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The climate criminals and Carbon Debtors (Climate Debtors) must be brought to account before it is too late.

The climate activist group Climate Justice Now! has stated that “Communities in the global south as well as low-income communities in the industrialised north have borne the toxic burden of this fossil fuel extraction, transportation and production. Now these communities are facing the worst impacts of climate change - from food shortages to the inundation of whole island nations†and demands “Huge financial transfers from north to south, based on the repayment of climate debts and subject to democratic control. The costs of adaptation and mitigation should be paid for by redirecting military budgets, innovative taxes and debt cancellationâ€. The present fossil fuel-based Carbon Debt analysis provides a quantitative basis for such transfers and should be used by Island States, mega-delta countries and other threatened Climate Creditor countries to force urgently needed climate change action.

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A Carbon tax has just been passed by the Australian Government and I believe it is to become effective as from July1 2012. This has caused a great deal of controvesy here in Aus with big business fighting against it any way they can. Do I think it will be effective? Yes and no. Yes, it puts the big polluters on notice but I'm pretty T'd off over all the compensation payments being made to the big-boys. They have also been very opportunistic and most electricit suppliers have taken the opportunity to raise their power costs. And no, in my opinion the tax doesn't go far enough. It should have a carbon off-set attached.

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Living in South Africa it's wonderful to see that we are a creditor, the hope is that we stay that way which unfortunately looks like a big challenge. We are experiencing the result of poor power planning and our power grid has had to bring online and build new coal power stations to keep up with electricity demand. I being one person am committed to making myself a creditor through tree planting programs, but unfortunately this idea is just beginning and is also competing with a need to support a large portion of the population that is poor.

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