I am working on a paper about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Europe (hopefully there will be a post after Easter), so I suppose that colours the way I see this interesting chart posted by The Economist.
I really think the EU should take emissions-reduction seriously (indeed that is the point of my piece). We need to have the complex global justice debate, distinguish between consumption and production, and all the rest of it.
But the simple, undeniable empirical fact is that the rise in the global level of carbon emissions, which is what poses the threat to the planet, is and will be concentrated in what used to be called the newly industrialising countries, and are now often (in many contexts I believe unhelpfully) called the BRICS.
Of course oil consumption is only a rough proxy for emissions, but the figures are stunning, nonetheless. During the 2000s oil consumption declined in North America and Europe. That it rose globally by some 14% was due to rates of increase double that or more in the other global regions. But ultimately what counts for emissions is the absolute increase. In China that was more than 4 million barrels of oil a day between 2000 and 2010, in India somewhere around 1 million barrels. Russia and Brazil (and even tiny Singapore) are not far behind.
Great care needs to be paid to the ethical implications of this finding (historical responsibilities, per capita levels and all the rest). Yet that debate cannot be allowed to obscure the fact that, given their size and stage of development, the global warming problem will be solved in (not necessarily by) the large BRIC countries or it will not be solved at all.