Carbon Emissions and Increased Standards of Living

Is there any way to lower carbon emissions to a level necessary to prevent the worst effects of global warming and at the same time increase the standards of living in India, Asia, Africa, and South/Central America to levels close to America and Western Europe?

It is my understanding that to prevent the worst of global warming we have to reduce the current emissions substantially. Is that correct? It is also my understanding that the effects of pumping more carbon into the atomosphere plateau. And that we are already in the bad zone (increasing carbon emissions even more won’t make things that much worse). Is that correct?

If those assumptions are correct, might it not be better to continue to emit lots of carbon and build up economies around the world and trade increased wealth for the poorest people for the effects of global warming?

Nuclear power doesn’t produce any carbon emissions, and can power everything that doesn’t move about via the electrical grid. Cars can be made to be much more efficient than most American cars, and can run at least partly from electrical energy from the grid. And solar, wind, tide, and geothermal power are all in various stages of development, and there’s nothing inherently impossible about any of them.

The question is not whether we can reduce carbon while maintaining a high standard of living, it’s just whether we have the political and financial will to do so.

Is there a possibility of switching over within the next 10-30 years? It is my understanding that this is outer limit to prevent the effects of global warming. Should we try to prevent global warming or just deal with the fact it is going to happen?

Well, both.

We don’t have a choice about some of the warming. There’s a significant lag effect of increased greenhouse gas concentrations. Emissions from years ago will continue to warm the planet for years to come. We have no choice about dealing with the continued warming of the planet - another 1°C or so.

We also have no choice about trying to prevent it. If we don’t prevent it the warming will continue, and worse effects will take place the warmer we make it. I briefly outlined some of the effects here. Even if we accept the warming that’s already happening, there’s only so much further warming we can afford.