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Safe vs. Fair: A Formidable Trade-off in Tackling Climate Change

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  • Massimo Tavoni

    ()
    (Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) and Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC), Corso Magenta 63, 20123 Milano, Italy
    Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University, Nassau Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA)

  • Shoibal Chakravarty

    ()
    (Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University, Nassau Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA)

  • Robert Socolow

    ()
    (Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University, Nassau Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
    Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA)

Abstract

Global warming requires a response characterized by forward-looking management of atmospheric carbon and respect for ethical principles. Both safety and fairness must be pursued, and there are severe trade-offs as these are intertwined by the limited headroom for additional atmospheric CO 2 emissions. This paper provides a simple numerical mapping at the aggregated level of developed vs . developing countries in which safety and fairness are formulated in terms of cumulative emissions and cumulative per capita emissions respectively. It becomes evident that safety and fairness cannot be achieved simultaneously for strict definitions of both. The paper further posits potential global trading in future cumulative emissions budgets in a world where financial transactions compensate for physical emissions: the safe vs . fair tradeoff is less severe but remains formidable. Finally, we explore very large deployment of engineered carbon sinks and show that roughly 1,000 Gt CO 2 of cumulative negative emissions over the century are required to have a significant effect, a remarkable scale of deployment. We also identify the unexplored issue of how such sinks might be treated in sub-global carbon accounting.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

Volume (Year): 4 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (February)
Pages: 210-226

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Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:4:y:2012:i:2:p:210-226:d:15971

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Related research

Keywords: climate policy; burden sharing; negative emissions;

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  1. Andreas Oberheitmann, 2010. "A new post-Kyoto climate regime based on per-capita cumulative CO 2-emission rights—rationale, architecture and quantitative assessment of the implication for the CO 2-emissions from China, India an," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 137-168, February.
  2. Neumayer, Eric, 2000. "In defence of historical accountability for greenhouse gas emissions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 185-192, May.
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