We ought to be thanking our lucky stars that Mother Nature isn’t a debt collector, because we’re all in it pretty deep when it comes to the cost of each person’s carbon emissions on the planet. Researchers have revealed new data that shows that if we were to get a bill for America’s output between the years of 1990 and 2013, an even split among citizens would result in about a $12,000 balance each. Ouch.
H. Damon Matthews published his findings in Nature Climate Change, arguing that the most fair way of handling the pressing need for emissions reform is to calculate which nations owe how much and bill accordingly. The United States has emitted 100.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in that chunk of time – about 300 tonnes per person. To help comprehend that ridiculously large figure, 300 tonnes is the equivalent of driving from Los Angeles to New York 150 times.
The financial estimates come from the EPA’s claim that the social cost of each ton of CO2 unleashed into the atmosphere is about $40. Other researchers believe that is a modest estimation, putting the figure closer to $220 per ton, and which would mean each citizen’s figurative bill would rise to $66,000.
The numbers sure are shocking when put into the perspective of individual nations’ responsibilities and “debt,” yet it is unclear as to whether this approach will be taken seriously by climate negotiators. Currently, the UN’s Green Climate Fund has achieved the equivalent of $10 billion USD toward its $100 billion annual goal to mitigate climate change effects. At the very least, perhaps this approach will help the public see the big picture of each of our roles in climate change and how important it is to move toward a more sustainable future.