We’re in for some serious shit

That’s the conclusion of Vox‘s Brad Plummer, should we fail to drastically curtail carbon emissions. There’s also an equity component.

The developing world emits far fewer per-capita emissions than inhabitants of wealthier countries. If the economies of India, Africa, et al. are to grow, they will undoubtedly be forced to rely on fossil fuel consumption, the principal source of greenhouse gases. Yet, the planet has a finite carbon budget, and we’re on a collective path toward blowing a hole in it. To avoid exceeding the two-degree Celsius threshold of global warming, the rich nations will have to quickly and dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Consider this chart from Plummer’s article:

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The solid black line represents the total carbon budget, the amount of emissions allowed if we are to constrain planetary warming below 2° C. As we’ll note, China is the biggest emitter, spewing out gigatons of carbon in the manufacture of products we consume. Europe, with roughly the same population as the U.S., has done far more already to curb emissions than has the U.S. But we’ll also note that China, Europe, and the U.S. would have to substantially cut emissions for the “Rest of the World” to have any fraction of the carbon budget.

Here’s another sobering statistic from Plummer’s piece:

If the United States, EU, and China all followed through on their current emissions pledges, they’d consume practically the world’s entire carbon budget by 2030 — leaving only scraps for the rest of the world (the part shaded in gray).

The pledges to which Plummer is referring are the verbal commitments made by leaders of the world’s biggest emitters. They are hardly enough.

What would the U.S. have to do to make a serious dent on the carbon budget? Plummer includes this chart:

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If, given our current political climate, you rightly conclude that there is no way that the United States will act responsibly, you will also reach the inevitable conclusion that the world is in for “some serious shit.”