Jammed into that same AP story is a pretty-much-totally unrelated bit about something German Chancellor Angela Merkel said:
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel called today for an international system of global emissions trading to be adopted as part of an agreement to flight climate change from 2012 onward.
Speaking at a symposium of Nobel laureates and other leading scientists, Merkel insisted that only by establishing limits on carbon dioxide output per individual around the world – suggesting about 2 tons per head – could the fight to stop global warming be effective.
“Our long-term goal can only be the assimilation of worldwide per capita emissions,” Merkel told the conference.
Her suggestion would mean drastic cuts: Germany currently has a carbon dioxide output of some 11 tons per person per year, while the U.S. is at around 20 tons per person.
She’s probably using the old numbers, too, suggesting we have till about 2050 to wrestle our greenhouse-gas emissions under control. If the situation is worse than previously thought, time is shorter. But Merkel’s figures indicate the scale of the problem. Take the emissions we think the planet can handle, divide them by the number of people we’ve got, and you come up with about two tons per person per year. By modern industrialized-world standards, that ain’t much — I emit more than that in my personal life, let alone with what I do professionally, and writing for a living is a pretty low-emitting gig.
It’s a reasonable argument that nobody, at the moment, has more of a claim on emissions space than anybody else does, so setting personal limits and allowing people to trade them is, in principle, a sensible way to distribute emissions room to the people who’ll make best use of them (Canadians, say, in our cold northern land). In practice, it’s hard to imagine a mechanism for allowing trades of quantities that small. We’d be creating a new parallel global currency, in essence.