â€œConsumer societies are incompatible with saving the natural and energy resources that development and the preservation of our species require,â€ former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro declared in September. Cubaâ€™s former maximum leader blamed impending catastrophic climate change on the â€œpolluting gases that the most industrialized countries have launched into the atmosphere.â€
Castro can rest assured that his workersâ€™ paradise is not among the most climate-damaging consumer societies. The U.K.-based Carbon Footprint consultancy claims that to stop global warming each person on Earth should be limited to emitting only two tons of carbon per year. The average American emits more than 20 tons annually while going about his business in a highly productive, developed society. Thanks to Castroâ€™s strenuous efforts, poverty-stricken Cuba comes much closer to Carbon Footprintâ€™s goal, at 2.3 tons per person. Once a few more of Cubaâ€™s pre-embargo classic American cars break down, itâ€™ll get there.
What countries already keep per capita carbon dioxide emissions below two tons a year? Climate champions include Togo (per capita GDP: $900), Bangladesh ($1,500), Ethiopia ($800), Uganda ($1,100), and Mali ($1,200). The last time Americans emitted as little as 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide per capita was in 1870.