Kyoto Protocol wrong for the world

Climate change is again in the headlines. See (here), (here) and (here).

The Kyoto Protocol is wrong for the world.

Dubyah is against the Kyoto Protocol. He is against it because he says he thinks American Business can not afford the cost.

I am against it because it will not solve the problem. It's not just a case of "too little, too late" it is that the net effect is going to be to only move the location of where greenhouse gas emissions occurs.

The Kyoto Protocol puts no emission restrictions on developing countries such as China and India. So what happens if the developed world starts curbing its appetite for fossil fuels? Will that mean less fossil fuels are used?

A few years ago during an economic conference held down in South Africa the developing nations demanded cheap energy. Well under the Kyoto Protocol they will get it. If developed nations throttle back on their demand for oil and coal, the producers of these commodities will start looking for alternative markets. We (the US) will even start looking for alternative markets for our own coal production. (We already export large quantities of coal to China.) The price will probably drop and the new markets will be found in developing countries where there are no restrictions on increased greenhouse gas emissions.

There is no benefit to be achieved from the Kyoto Protocol. Dubyah may have come up with the right answer for the wrong reason but it is still the right answer. If every drop of oil produced is going to end up being burnt anyway... well we might as well burn it up here in the good ole USA.

What should be done? Can anything be done? Yes and it is not that hard. If we can not get the developing world to sign on voluntarily we should force them into compliance. If they insist on developing with fossil fuels as an energy source we slap punitive trade tariffs on their exports (the WTO be damned) or restrict their products from our markets altogether. They can make all the cheap shit they want with fossil fuels as an energy source but we will not buy any of it.

But if we sign onto the Kyoto Protocol we are saying we agree with putting all the burden on the developed world. That even if the developed world were to drop emissions to near zero, well the developing world gets to take our place as the source of emissions. I stand against that shit.


Blogger Michael said...

Sorry, but what a selfish and ridiculous argument. The Kyoto protocol is about two things: (1) to set up a multilateral system to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the short to medium term and (2) to keep the relevant world parties (i.e., big polluting countries) in an international forum to keep the greenhouse agenda alive.

The argument regarding developing countries is facile. They are not the main polluters now. Developed countries are, and of the developed nations, the United States takes the biggest piece of the pie. Furthermore, Kyoto is not set in stone. As before, it is a forum so that dialogue can be kept alive and so that a system of world greenhouse gas emission limiting can be established. A world body that includes most of the developed nations of the world with a system of carbon emissions trading would have much greater influence of the upcoming developing nations (insofar as pollution) of China and India than feckless and frankly ineffectual veiled threats from the United States (especially while it keeps chugging away at not limiting its own greenhouse gas emissions).

The concept of carbon trading is a fantastic one economically as it puts value on activities that sequester carbon (e.g., foresty or maybe even dumping it into the oceans if that technology is viable) as well as places a cost on activities that produces carbon. Countries and industries that can rapidly become highly efficient at reducing their own carbon emissions actually have an incentive to do so as they can trade their "carbon credits" to others. Greenhouse gas "polluters" can not do so with impunity, having to buy carbon credits if they exceed their quota... meaning there is actually an incentive to be more efficient from a carbon emissions point of view.

Ratifying Kyoto means that the system is set up. Keep ignoring the problem and the lack of multilateral agreements mean that when China and India start to really churn out the greenhouse gases in a few decades, there will be no system in place to meaningfully restrain global carbon emissions.

For goodness sakes, even Russia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol!

11/29/2005 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

I agree that America is currently the biggest polluter right now. While we have a small portion of the world's population we generate from 25-40% of the greenhouse gas emsissions (I have heard figures stated between these figures, I do not know which are accurate.)

Personally I think Kyoto does do too little. We need to not just to stop the increase we need to roll emissions back.

However I think it is dishonest of you to not acknowledge that Kyoto does nothing to prevent developing nations from replacing us as the source of emissions. China is busy building the electrical generation capacity needed to support their economic expansion. While they have invested in some hydroelectric their demand for coal for new coal fired generation is causing a mini boomlet in American coal mines.

As for the Kyoto Protocol serving as a "forum so that dialogue can be kept alive" where does the Kyoto Protocol say that? It does not. It says the developed world must cut emissions and it says the developing world can increase emissions. That is what it says.

In fact "evil George" seems to be doing more to engage the developing world then the Kyoto Protocol members. As reported in the Toronto Star (see here) Dubyah has engaged on this subject with both India and China.

Personally I think Dubyah does not do enough. But if we are going to push our leaders into leading us into the expensive sacrifices that are necessary I think the developing world must be a partner too. I am unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary if every drop of oil I save ends up going out a Chinese or Indian tail pipe.

And as for Russia. Russia sees opportunity in being a member. Russia will have no problem meeting her requirements due to the collapse of her industry. She even has enough head room that she probably will be able to sell "carbon credits" to other members who can not meet the requirements. So "even Russia"? Russia smells an opportunity to make a buck.

11/29/2005 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

As before, there are actually two components to the Kyoto Protocol. First is the establishment of carbon emission targets worldwide. The second, is for regular meetings to refine the process (i.e., continue to keep relevant parties engaged).

Many commentators and I agree the the initial targets of the Kyoto Protocol will not do a whole lot for the environment. The targets are relatively soft and will not be of the magnitude that will make much of a difference. However, that is not really the point. The point was to get nations who contribute to over 50% of world carbon emissions to agree on a system that has the best chance of success. For that, we need participation. If the goals are set initially too high, people won't sign up.

With Russia ratifying the protocol, there actually are enough members to start (and it has). Of the relevant parties, only two nations did not eventually ratify the protocol: the United States and Australia.

The United States would have to "tighten the belt" to meet its Kyoto obligations if it were to ratify it. This, however, is a reflection of the fact that there are some sections of industry in the United States that are very wasteful in terms of energy use not to mention the presence of an "energy culture". For example, energy producers in the US are big business and consumers are encouraged (or at least, not discouraged) to use more power. This is quite a different scenario to many other Western nations where energy production is either state controlled or a state controlled business. Money is made by get a larger market share or by improving efficiency, not necessarily by selling more energy.

The case of Australia (i.e., my country) is a rather curious one. Although most Australians support Kyoto, the government does not as part of a mix of acquiescence to industry groups and more importantly "support" for our American friends. Australia would actually have little difficulty meeting its Kyoto obligations - indeed, by simply reducing the rate of land clearing, which is already planned.

As per your criticism, yes, Kyoto in its present form does not address carbon emissions in the developing world. The developing world, as before, is also not the main target of the treaty as they are not producing the bulk of carbon emissions. that Bush has addressed this issue with China and India is little more than a political stunt unless multilateral binding agreements are made (or which there are none since this would be huge news).

In addition, yes, Kyoto does not go far enough in terms of actually making a significant impact on climate change. The real value of Kyoto, however, is not really in its initial targets. Rather, that the majority of large carbon polluting nations agree that carbon emissions are firstly a world problem and secondly agree on a single international forum where the necessary strategies can be developed.


11/29/2005 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

Well, it is my opinion (maybe I am just repeating myself) that if we are going to stop global warming it is going to take a Herculean effort. We need to not just stop the advance we need to roll back the "unlocking" of carbon from the relatively safe liquid and solid forms nature has given us and start coming up with safer forms of energy production. In fact we probably will need to come up with some means of "relocking" the carbon.

This is going to be expensive. If we (by we I mean those of us concerned about the problem) are going to win over the movers and shakers we have to prove to them that it is not only developed nations that are going to be asked to fall on our swords but that the sword will cut both ways. Developing nations already have a manpower advantage in the global economy. Developing nations such as China are busy building new greenhouse gas emitting energy sources. China is not going to start bulldozing these new powerplants that they have invested so much in just because we start saying "pretty please".

If mankind is going to defeat Global Warming then ALL of mankind has to sign on. If America is going to start investing in expensive new technology then we have the right to expect the same out of China and India. No free passes for ANYONE. As America starts retiring old technology and replacing it with new China and India are going to be investing vast sums in old technology because it is cheaper and because they can. When we ask them to retire them they are going to say "But they are new. We too will retire them once they get to be old."

Kyoto does NOTHING to stop the emission of greenhouse gasses. It just messes up the pieces a little bit on the playing board and replaces expensive savings in developed countries with new emissions from developing countries.

Well if we are going to ask profit motivated business leaders to sign on we are going to have to come up with a plan where there is light at the end of the tunnel. These business leaders are not idiots (although many are selfish and greedy) but it is hard to take them on in a debate when they can always point out "It is not going to work, it is not going to solve the problem anyway, so why bother?"

The Kyoto Protocol is just plain stupid. At best it only forces developed nations to allow developing nations their "fair share" of emissions while mankind continues the march towards disaster. Emissions will continue going up.

If this problem is going to be solved it is going to require something along the lines of the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Space Program. Anything else is wasted effort, so we might as well not bother. If Kyoto Protocol participants are unwilling to take the gloves off when it comes time to deal with nations like China, India and Brazil? If the best they can come up with is "We need to be nice to them and coax them into participation." They are going to continue to take the cheap route at energy generation and expect us to be nice to them when the time comes to bulldoze all their new greenhouse gas emitting powerplants.

The best the Kyoto Protocol will do is perhaps delay the inevitable by at best a few years. It is extremely expensive investment with very little to no return. If all the oil OPEC can produce (google peak oil) is going to end up being burnt anyway it might as well go out an American tailpipe as a Chinese one.

If Kyoto Protocol adherents want to win the war of public opinion in America they need to start talking "common sense" and quit talking nonsense.

11/30/2005 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Unfortunately, that point of view is counterproductive. The US stance can be characteristed a number of ways:

(1) Arrogance: We want everyone else to cut carbon emissions but the US is special so we don't have to.

(2) Faith: We don't need to cut carbon emissions because "new technologies" in the future will solve the problem.

(3) Denial: Climate change science is bogus.

(4) Fatalistic: We can't do anything about it anyway so we might as well do what we want to now.

The first meeting of the Kyoto members is taking place now. As before, China and India are not the main polluters. Western nations are and of the industrialised nations of the world, there are only two who have not ratified the protocol, the United States and Australia. As I mentioned before, the majority of Australians actually support Kyoto. This leaves the US as the sole industrialised nation not ratifying Kyoto.

You have made good points about the weaknesses of Kyoto, but in turn, you are also missing the point. Kyoto is not worthless. Its initial goals are soft, yes, but they are not insignificant. The aim is for industrialised nations (again, which produce the vast majority of carbon emissions) to reduce their emissions to 5% below 1980 (or ?1990, don't remember) levels. This is only the beginning. The road is still far ahead.

To not start to reverse our damaging footprint on the environment now is illogical. An analogy:

There are a group of chronic smokers who all live 24h in a single room. There are now some symptoms of problems... some chronic bronchitis here, some ischaemic heart disease there. Then, they decide to make an agreement, where they all start to reduce their cigarette consumption... and for everyone's health (by reducing the amount of passive smoking), all need to reduce their rate of smoking.

The initial plan is designed to be not very ambitious so that the WORST smokers all join up.

All the worst smokers (who produce over 90% of the "smoke" in the room) join up to the plan except for the very worst, "George".

What George says is that he doesn't want to join the plan because:

(1) The poorer people in the room (who traditionally didn't smoke much) are going to start smoking more soon and the plan doesn't include them,

(2) The plan doesn't ensure that they won't die from cancer anyway so it's a waste of time,

(3) "Someone" will develop a cure of cancer so we don't need to stop smoking,

(4) Maybe smoking isn't related to heart attacks, strokes and cancers after all.

In this analogy, it actually would benefit EVERYONE including George to join the "smoking reduction plan" even if the initial targets are soft.

World opinion (in developed nations) is that climate change and carbon emissions are important issues. The only serious dissent is from the biggest polluter of all and needless to say, US arguments against Kyoto seem somewhat self-serving.

Furthermore, it is not as if the US is embarking on its own unilateral program to reduce its own carbon emissions equivalent or better than the Kyoto targets. It's simply standing in the corner criticising Kyoto, but not actually doing anything constructive.

11/30/2005 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...


Hang on a minute. I could just take the easy way out and point out how you yourself condemn us you yourself point out how Australia is not herself a participant. (At least you are honest, and that is a rare trait these days!)

But I will stick to the hard road.

I will just say that Kyoto does not offer a solution to the problem. I recognize there is a problem but I also realize it is a "mankind" problem not just an American problem.

If we (I) are going to sell this to Americans we have to come up with a solution that really solves the problem. Us Americans think big. This is a big problem and we'll get after it. We sent a man to the moon after all only because we had to beat the Russians there.

But do not try and lead us by the nose down a path that leads to the end of the world anyway. Even if we set out on the path by ourselves, the rest of the world following their path is going to cause our world to come to an end.

We'll start spending the money necessary when the solution seems to be the solution. Kyoto is not a solution. It is a dead end.

Of course I might still be living in lala land. Perhaps America is still unwilling to sign on even if the new Protocol is reasonable.

But if that is so then you too live in lala land. It is not going to take China long to overpass the US as primary polluter.

Perhaps we just have to wait till the weather gets bad enough and we will be forced to change? Even if we decide to change now the weather is going keep on changing for awhile. Seems like the weather "down under" ain't too bad. Maybe I will move down there. How are property values in your neighborhood? Grin.

12/02/2005 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Yes, Australia (apart from the US) is the only other industrialised nation who is not a signatory to Kyoto. Thankfully, this is much to the disgust of many Australians. Popular opinion within Australia is that we should have ratified it.

This is especially considering that for Australia to meet its Kyoto obligations would have involved little pain (as I said, to reduce our rate of landclearing which was already planned).


12/02/2005 09:02:00 PM  

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