Climate bedwetter Duncan Clark writes in the Guardian:
One question all this raises is which nation is responsible for each tonne of carbon. If, for instance, as a result of its gas boom America exports some coal to China where it gets used to produce T-shirts for UK consumers, who is to blame for the emissions that result? Many green thinkers have argued implicitly or explicitly that the end consumer – British shoppers in this example – bear full responsibility. But that’s a very black and white view of the world. Does a teenager spending their Saturday job wages on a new T-shirt really bear more responsibility for that carbon than a US coal company which produced it and may be lobbying Congress to support new mines and export terminals? Of course not. Does China have at least some responsibility for the design of the energy infrastructure it uses to supply the world with manufactured goods? Surely yes. In other words, responsibility for those emissions is shared between everyone involved in the carbon supply chain, from extractor and manufacturer to end consumer.
While it wouldn’t be fair to hold the US wholly responsible for the emissions that result from its exported coal, therefore, those exports do seriously undermine claims that the nation is making real progress on global warming. Even if America’s emissions don’t rise again (which they might as the economy grows, especially if more gas gets exported and more coal gets used domestically) this inherently global problem can’t be solved by pushing the carbon around between nations to avoid leaving it in the ground. With every shipment of coal from the US to the rest of the world, the cost of dirty energy goes down, global emissions go up and an agreement to phase out carbon fast enough to avoid dangerous climate change becomes less likely.