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The Historical Climate Debt (aka Carbon Debt) of a country can be measured by the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) it has introduced into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial revolution in the mid-18th century. The Climate Credit (aka Carbon Credit) is the permissible CO2 or greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution of Climate Creditor nations before zero emissions in 2050 if we are have a 75% chance of avoiding a 2C temperature rise. Net Climate Debt = Historical Climate Debt - Climate Credit. When the Carbon Credit is greater than the Historical Climate Debt one can call the difference Net Climate Credit (aka Net Carbon Credit).  

Carbon Debt and Carbon Credit can be expressed in various ways and are synonymous with Climate Debt and Climate Credit, respectively. For the related Carbon Debt, Carbon Credit website see: https://sites.google.com/site/carbondebtcarboncredit/home .


The Climate Debt  measure is complicated by the nature and decay in atmospheric GHG pollution. The World is increasingly threatened by man-made global warming  due to pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases (GHGs),  principally  carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), with this GHG pollution deriving mostly from fossil  fuel burning and from land use  (agriculture and deforestation).   According to I.C. Prentice et al “Before the Industrial  Era, circa 1750, the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration was 280 +/- 10 ppm for several thousand years. It has risen continuously since then, reaching 367 ppm in 1999”  (see “The carbon cycle and atmospheric carbon dioxide”, coordinating lead author I.C. Prentice: http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/pdf/TAR-03.PDF ). The atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 394 ppm in 2010  with  a rate of increase of  2.4 ppm per year ( see “Recent Mauna Loa CO2”, US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/  ). Note that CO2-equivalent (CO2-e) is the greenhouse gas (GHG) amount taking all GHGs other than  water (H2O) into account and expressing this in terms of CO2 equivalents, CO2 being largely responsible for the atmospheric GHG effect (excluding H2O) (see “2011 Climate Change Course”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course ).

The  Historical  Climate Debt of the World (see “Climate Debt”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_debt ) has been estimated at 12 Gt CO2 (12 billion tonnes CO2) in 1751-1900 and 334 Gt CO2-e for 1901-2008, for a total of 346 Gt CO2 in the period 1751-2008 (see “Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth%27s_atmosphere ). Most of the GHG pollution has occurred in the last half century.

In a 2008 letter to Australia PM Kevin Rudd,  NASA’s Dr James Hansen provided  a breakdown  of global responsibility for fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution between 1751 and 2006 (see “Letter to PM Kevin Rudd by Dr James Hansen”, 2008: http://www.aussmc.org.au/documents/Hansen2008LetterToKevinRudd_000.pdf ) that is summarized below as a percentage (%) of the Historical  Climate Debt (1751-2006) of 346 Gt CO2.

Ships/air (4%) :  4% of 346 Gt CO2  = 13.84 Gt. This has been allocated proportionately to the other groups as shown below.  

India (2.5%) = (0.025 x 346 = 8.65)  + (2.5 x 13.84/96 = 0.36) = 9.01 Gt CO2.

Japan (3.9%) = 13.49 + 0.56 = 14.05 Gt CO2.

UK (6.0%) = 20.76 + 0.87 = 21.63 Gt CO2.

Germany (6.6%) = 22.84 + 0.95 = 23.79 Gt CO2.

Russia (7.4%) = 25.60 + 1.07 = 26.67 Gt CO2.

China (8.2%) = 28.37 + 1.18 = 29.55 Gt CO2.

USA (27.5%) = 95.15 + 3.97 = 99.12 Gt CO2.

Canada-Australia (3.1%) = 10.73 + 0.45 = 11.18 Gt CO2 -> Canada 5.59 Gt CO2 & Australia 5.59 Gt CO2.

Rest of Europe (18.0%) = 62.28 + 2.60 = 64.88 Gt CO2.

Rest of World (12.8%) = 44.29 + 1.85 = 46.14 Gt CO2.

Historical Carbon debt can be expressed in dollars by applying a Carbon Price and here we will use $100 per tonne CO2, roughly the price that could achieve a transition from dirty coal and gas burning to clean, renewable wind energy. Thus the Historical Climate Debt of the US can be expressed either as  99.12 Gt CO2 or as 99.12 Gt CO2 x $100 / t CO2 = $9,912 billion = $9.912 trillion. By way of comparison, the GDP of the US is currently $14.5 trillion (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29 ).  China has an Historical Climate Debt of 29.55 Gt CO2 or $2.955 trillion.

Historical Climate Debt can be expressed on a per capita basis simply by dividing the Historical Climate Debt for a country  (e.g. see the data tabulated above ) by the present population of the country. For all “Rest of World” countries, the Per Capita Historical Carbon Debt (US$ per person) = 46.14 billion tonnes CO2 X $100 per tonne CO2/ 3,194.5 million persons = $1,444.4 per person.  For all “Rest of Europe” countries, the Per Capita Historical Climate Debt (US$ per person) = 64.88 billion tonnes CO2 X $100 per tonne CO2/ 451.3 million persons =  US$14,376.2 per person. 

Post-2010 Climate Credits relate to the last amount of GHG pollution the World can sustain before zero emissions in 2050  if it is to avoid a disastrous 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise. In 2009 the WBGU which advises the German Government on climate change estimated that for a 75% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2C temperature rise (EU policy), the World must emit no more than 600 Gt CO2 between 2010 and zero emissions in 2050. From this information it was possible to use data for annual per capita GHG pollution (i.e. of CO2-e; see “List of countries by greenhouse gas emissions per capita”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_greenhouse_gas_emissions_per_capita  ) to calculate years left to zero emissions for every country in the  world (see  Gideon Polya, “Shocking analysis by country of years left to zero emissions”, Green Blog, 1 August 2011: http://www.green-blog.org/2011/08/01/shocking-analysis-by-country-of-years-left-to-zero-emissions/ ). If we accept that “all men are created equal” then the annual per capita “terminal budget “ share is 600 Gt CO2/ (40 years x 7 billion people) = 2.14 t CO2 per person per year. Thus  the Climate Credit of the US = 2.14 t CO2 per person per year x 312.7 million persons x 3.1 years = 2,074 Mt CO2 =  2.074 Gt CO2 and  the Climate Credit of China = 2.14 t CO2 per person per year x 1,339.7 million persons x 18.5 years = 53,039 Mt CO2 =  53.04 Gt CO2.

Climate Credits  can be expressed  in dollars by applying a Carbon Price e.g. of $100 per tonne CO2 , this valuing the  Climate Credits of  the US and China  at $207 billion and $5.3 trillion, respectively.

Per capita Climate Credits for each country can simply be obtained by dividing Carbon Credits by the population. Per capita Climate Credits (US$ per person) = years to zero emissions x 2.14 tonnes CO2 per person per year  X $100 per tonne CO2

Net Climate Debt and Net Climate Credit.

Net Climate Debt equals  Historical  Climate Debt minus Climate  Credits. Thus the Net Climate Debt of the US is + $9.912 trillion - $0.207 trillion = $9.705 trillion. In contrast China has a Net Climate Debt of $2.955 trillion - $5.304 billion = - $2.349 trillion i.e. China has a Net Climate Credit of + $2.349 trillion.

Listed below is the Per Capita Net Climate Debt (US$ per person) for all the Climate Debtor countries (those with a Net Climate Debt) and the Net Climate Credit for all the Climate Creditor countries (those with a Net Climate Credit).  One notes that just as the debtor countries of Europe are expected to meet their financial obligations, so the Climate Debtor countries must also be brought to account for their profligacy. The data is expressed country by country as Per Capita Historical  Climate Debt minus  Per Capita Climate Credit = Net  Per Capita Climate Debt (US$ person).

Net Per Capita Carbon Debt (US$ per person) of Climate Debtor countries.

United Kingdom (33,307), United States (31,035), Germany (27,856), Australia (23,900 or 24,265 if including the effect of its huge GHG Exports on its Climate Credits), Russia (17,529), Canada (15,560), Luxembourg (13,649), Estonia (13,520), Ireland (13, 456), Czech Republic (13,263), Netherlands (13,242), Belgium (13,306), Finland (13,199), Denmark (13,135), Norway (13,028), Greece (12,942), Cyprus (12,878), Slovenia (12,857), Austria (12,835), Iceland (12,835), Ukraine (12,793), Poland (12,771), Belarus (12,579), Slovakia (12,707), Spain (12,707), Italy (12,707), France (12,600), Sweden (12,322),  Switzerland (12,193), Bulgaria (12.300), Serbia & Montenegro (12,300), Hungary (12,300), Portugal (12,236), Malta (11,851), Croatia (11,765), Macedonia (11,723), Romania (11,573), Lithuania (11,509), Bosnia & Herzegovina (10,931), Latvia (11,780), Japan (10,017), Moldova (8,213), Albania (7,357).

Belize (1,273), Qatar (1,166), Guyana (1,148), Malaysia (1,038), United Arab Emirates (1,016), Kuwait (1,228), Papua New Guinea (909), Brunei (845), Antigua & Barbuda (845), Zambia (824), Bahrain (802), Trinidad & Tobago (738), Panama (653), New Zealand (653), Botswana (567), Saudi Arabia (503), Venezuela (460), Indonesia (417), Equatorial Guinea (374), Turkmenistan (353 ), Singapore (353), Liberia (332), Nicaragua (289), Oman (246), Palau (246), Brazil (246), Uruguay (225), Mongolia (135), Israel (135), Nauru (118), South Korea (53), Kazakhstan (32), Libya (11), Myanmar (11).

Net Per Capita Carbon Credit (US$ per person) of Climate Creditor countries.

Taiwan (11), Cambodia (75), Peru (118), Paraguay (118), South Africa (182), Argentina (225), Central African Republic (268), Suriname (353), Gabon (396), Ecuador (439), Bolivia (460), Cameroon (589), Iran (589), Côte d’Ivoire (610), Seychelles (631), Guatemala (631), Congo, Democratic Republic (formerly Zaire) (631), Uzbekistan (674), Azerbaijan (824), Angola (867), Bahamas (888), Benin (931), Zimbabwe (931), Laos (974), Mexico (974), Nepal (995), Colombia (995), Namibia (995), Chile (995), Congo, Republic (1,124), Madagascar (1,124), Jamaica (1,166), Barbados (1,209), Mauritania (1,316), Turkey (1,316), Costa Rica (1,423), Lebanon (1,466), North Korea (1,530), Thailand (1,573), Jordan (1,701), China (1,753), Honduras (1,830), Sudan (1,915), Algeria (2,236), Iraq (2,236), Sierra Leone (2,236), Syria (2,408), Tunisia (2,729), Dominican Republic (2,964), St Kitts & Nevis (3,221), Nigeria (3,221), Fiji (3,221), Guinea (3,371), Mauritius (3,371), Cuba (3,542), Togo (3,542), Vanuatu (3,692), Philippines (3,692), Malawi (3,692), Mali (3,884), Chad (3,884), Sri Lanka (4,077).

Uganda (4,269), Dominica (4,269), St Lucia (4,269), Egypt (4,483), Niue (4,483), Ghana (4,483), Grenada (4,719), El Salvador (4,976), Guinea-Bissau (4,976), Tanzania (4,976), Djibouti (4,976), Pakistan (5,254), Samoa (5,254), Tonga (5,254), Morocco (5,575), Senegal (5,575), Georgia (5,575), Armenia (5,896), St Vincent & Grenadines (6,281), Kenya (6,281), Maldives (6,666), Kyrgyzstan (6,666), Burkina Faso (6,666), India (7,837), Cook Islands (7,137), Bhutan (7,629), Yemen (8,207), Tajikistan (8,207), Mozambique (8,207), Rwanda (8,207), Burundi (8,207), Lesotho (8,849), Swaziland (8,849), Eritrea (9,577), Haiti (9,577), Solomon Islands (12,573), Vietnam (12,573), Cape Verde (12,573), Niger (12,573), Ethiopia (12,573), São Tomé and Príncipe (13,985), Afghanistan (15,697), The Gambia (15,697), Bangladesh (15,697), Comoros (20,598), Kiribati (24,278).


Total Net Climate Debt or Net Climate Credit for each country is determined from the above data simply by multiplying the per capita value (in US$ per person) by the population (see “List of countries by population” (2011), Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population ).  Total Net Climate Debt or Net Climate Credit for each country in $ can be converted  in units of tonnes  CO2-e simply by dividing this data  by  $100/tonne CO2-e.

The First World EU governments in the current EU financial crisis are   insisting on financial debt repayment and fiscal responsibility by debtor countries. Climate Creditor countries should likewise insist on repayment of Climate Debt and a rapid global move to cessation of greenhouse gas pollution. The Climate Debtors are stealing from the poor Climate Creditors and should be held to account through public advocacy and through International Court of Justice (ICJ) litigations and International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions  against Climate Debtor countries by Climate Creditor countries.

The Climate Debt, Climate Credit website is provided as a public educational resource , especially for the citizens, media, academics, public servants and governments of Island States and mega-delta countries that are particularly threatened  by man-made climate change. 

Carbon Debt and Carbon Credit can be expressed in various ways and are synonymous with Climate Debt and Climate Credit, respectively. For the related Carbon Debt, Carbon Credit website see: https://sites.google.com/site/carbondebtcarboncredit/home .