Friday, 2 October 2009

Under the carpet

In an interview with the BBC, Professor David Mackay is reported to have said that reductions in CO2 emissions since 1990 are "an illusion" (
He was speaking about the fact that we have exported our industry and that much of what we buy is manufactured or grown in other countries such as China or India. A study by Dieter Helm from Oxford University in 2007 estimated that our true emissions footprint is roughly twice as big as it looks on paper, due to overseas manufacture of goods we consume.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, emissions were considered to be the problem of the country in which they were produced. We get to look good while China looks like the bad guy for producing goods which we are buying, no wonder they are unhappy with this situation!

This issue is going to be a hot one! How well will the necessary impact on our lifestyles go down in domestic politics in the US, the UK or other developed nations? And how will this affect the negotiating positons of these countries at Copenhagen or other international summits?
Already Barack Obama is reported to be downplaying the need for a deal at Copenhagen (see Guardian article here:, while India's environment minister has challenged the US over it's "measly" efforts to combat climate change ( Li Gao of China said earlier this year that developed countries should take responsibility for the emissions produced in the manufacture of goods for them (
Our very status as nations the in G8 or G20 countries is based on our GDP which is a measure of consumption.

The issue we have to face is this, we cannot have our western consumerist lifestyle and avoid the consequences. Climate change is directly linked to our manufactured NEED for stuff, our cars and fridges and PCs and mobile phones and iPODs and just more and more stuff which we consume every year. We can no longer sweep it away under the carpet and blame another.


  1. I am continually annoyed at the mixed signals wealthy nations give to developing ones, they can’t complete with the global markets AND reduce the environmental costs of the increased production, what are these countries to do?

    This ‘have your cake and eat it’ attitude of Western Nations has to stop. Big Business will continue to force their demands on poorer nations trying to lure the people living in those lands into the blind consumerism which has already infected us.

  2. Sadly it is likely to be the poorer, developing nations who first feel the consequences of our Western consumer lifestyles. This seems to reinforce Western notions that we will somehow get away unscathed and frustratingly makes it less likely we will change our ways until it is much too late.
    A pertinent post, thank you.

    Feel free to edit this bit out and please take it in the helpful way it's intended, your links don't appear to be working. I had to paste them into my browser to follow them. Thanks again!

  3. Thanks for the comment Goo. Sadly, I believe that you are right.