Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • How to cut the carbon pie


Most carbon reduction policies aim to do the job by increments. But these will not stabilise levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide — only slow the rate of increase.

In this Science article, Wallace Broecker of the US-based Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York suggests an alternative: a 'carbon pie' to be shared globally.

To fix the pie's size, an upper limit will need to be set on the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Then, a country's population should be used to determine the size of their slice.

With this system, the world's developed countries get just a fifth of the pie. That means if the limit were 560 parts per million, their share would be 150 gigatons of carbon — an allowance they would consume in 25 years at current fossil fuel consumption rates.

Faced with this, developed countries would have to reduce emissions, while developing countries could sell bites of their slice off and still have enough to industrialise.

Broecker admits that agreeing on such an approach would be difficult in today's political climate, but insists that such measures are necessary.

Link to full article in Science

Reference: Science, 315, 1371 (2007)

We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.