US, Paris Agreement and Fair Allocation of Resources - Guest Post, Heather O'Sullivan

by: EJ on 06/02/2017
Posted in: Guest Posts

Heather Sullivan, E Book Manager,  at New Society Publishers, wrote this guest blog for us today. 


So, to perhaps no one's surprise, the US has pulled out of the Paris Agreement. Much like Trump's stance on NATO, his position on climate change action seems to hinge on his perception that the US is carrying an unfair share of the load in the global community. Why, the rhetoric goes, should America have to pay the way for other countries? Shouldn't everyone carry their fair share of the load? Even if you accept the complete abdication of caring for your neighbour that flows from this high handed position (to say nothing of the shocking validation of Western privilege and entitlement that it represents), it's worth taking a moment to unpack the dichotomy it masks.


The US has slightly less than 2% of the world’s land mass. The American people make up 4.4% of the global population. At the same time, according to the Worldwatch Institute Consumption Index, they use about ¼ of the world’s fossil fuel resources. Looked at  another way, our planet has about 1.9 hectares of land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes—yet the average person on Earth actually uses 2.3 hectares worth. But broken down by country, our ecological footprints tell a much more disparate story. The average American footprint is a grossly unsustainable 9.7 hectares, compared to only 0.47 hectares used by a citizen of Mozambique.

So, the answer seems clear. Trump feels that the US’s share of global responsibility is “not fair”, and it’s his mandate to ensure that situation changes. Clearly, he’s right. To be “fair”, Trump must ensure that the US uses no more than its fair share of resources. Immediately reducing the amount of fossil fuels that the US burns from 25% of the global amount to less than 5% is the only “fair” thing to do. After all, if the US isn’t going to carry more than their “fair” share of the load, it follows that they shouldn’t have access to more than their fair share of global assets.

Of course I’m not an idiot, and I know that this isn’t really how things work. Nothing is this simple in global economics. But I still wish that if Trump is going to take his toys and go home, that somehow, somewhere, he’ll be called to account for his decision. The reality, unfortunately, is that it will be our children who will pay the price for his selfish short-sightedness.

Mathis Wackernagel, co-author of Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth and Co-founder & CEO of Global Footprint Networkliving has been studying the relationship between carrying capacity and population since the early 1970"s.  Today he sent a message to The Global Footprint Network saying,

"Living off destruction and depletion is a poor business plan. What distinguishes the human species is foresight and innovation. We can create the future we want. But what do we want? At Global Footprint Network, we want a future where all can thrive within the means of our planet. "

Visit  The Global Footprint Network,  for more information and think big.



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