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Scientists call for WWII-style rationing of carbon

In a paper published on the eve of this week's climate conference in Cancun, a leading British climate change researcher has floated the idea of rationing carbon emissions in much the way supplies were rationed during the the 1930s and 1940s.

"The Second World War and the concept of rationing is something we need to seriously consider if we are to address the scale of the problem we face," said Professor Kevin Anderson, who directs the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

The Telegraph described Anderson's idea this way:

This could mean a limit on electricity so people are forced to turn the heating down, turn off the lights and replace old electrical goods like huge fridges with more efficient models. Food that has travelled from abroad may be limited and goods that require a lot of energy to manufacture. ...

Prof Anderson insisted that halting growth in the rich world does not necessarily mean a recession or a worse lifestyle, it just means making adjustments in everyday life such as using public transport and wearing a sweater rather than turning on the heating.

"I am not saying we have to go back to living in caves," he said. "Our emissions were a lot less ten years ago and we got by ok then."

Anderson's idea came among a flotilla of papers published in advance of the 12-day United Nations conference, which began today.

Delegates from nearly 200 nations will seek to revive negotiations for a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires on Dec. 31, 2012.

After the failure of last year's climate summit in Copenhagen, it is widely expected that this year's talks will seek agreement on lesser measures such as a fund to channel aid to poor nations.

Monte Paulsen reports on carbon shift for The Tyee.

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