April 5, 2006

Scientists in Dispute Over Carbon Curbs – Magazine

LONDON -- A row has broken out between scientists seeking a way to bring more nations into the carbon curbing fold after the first phase of the Kyoto Treaty expires in 2012, New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

On one side is a plan that would in effect set a global target for each nation's per capita carbon output, on the other is one that rates a country's carbon output against its biocapacity or geophysical ability to absorb it.

The latter, by Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath, would remove the United States from pole position as the world's worst polluter but bring up Bangladesh with a very small carbon footprint but equally little absorption capacity for the gases, including carbon dioxide and methane.

The United States, which has rejected Kyoto as economic suicide, only produces slightly more carbon than it can absorb.

Japan, by contrast, has a per capita carbon footprint half that of the United States but overshoots its absorption capacity by seven times.

Aubrey Meyer, of the British-based Global Commons Institute, who formulated the per capita carbon plan, dismisses Hammond's proposal as naive and dangerous, according to the magazine.

"While appearing to be helpful and reasonable, it would be another means for the rich to bully the poor," it quoted him as saying.

For his part Hammond rejected Mayer's plan as utopian, "given the reluctance of the United States to take even modest steps to reduce emissions," the magazine said.

"Living within national biocapacities might be something the U.S. could eventually accept," it quoted him as saying.

Signatories to Kyoto, which only came into force in February last year, commits nations to cut carbon emissions which are blamed for causing global warming.

But it only runs until 2012, does not include the United States or Australia, and is not binding on major developing nations such as China and India.

With the world already facing potentially catastrophic climate change, the search is on to find some mechanism to take Kyoto beyond its expiry date and make it both more inclusive and effective.