Kyoto Reprinted

What with the whole climate change thing still rumbling on, with several bloggers wading in with their thoughts on Kyoto, etc. as part of a discussion on the Euston Manifesto, I’m going to do a lazy blogger’s trick and recycle a post of mine from my old blog.  This post lays out clearly my own opposition to the Kyoto Protocol and the reasons behind it, and it got a fair bit of attention, especially from the US, when I first posted it a year or so ago.  So, I post it again just to voice my opinions once more, and to refer to it from this blog in future if necessary.

I think the overall aim to cut carbon dioxide emissions is a good one, as the consequences of continuing to pump millions of tons of it into the atmosphere each year may be dire. May be dire. This aim is probably achievable, but in order to do so a rational response is required. And this is where my objections to the Kyoto Protocol comes in.

Firstly, the US has not signed up to it, and we all know why: because Bush ripped it up in favour of getting a 2% increase in the value of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton stocks. Or something. Actually, in a democracy such as the US, it is not possible to browbeat a president into doing something which is deeply unpopoular with the general population. In tin-pot countries such as Azerbaijan, Congo, Djibouti, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, and Syria, the president can ratify anything he likes, because if he bothers with elections at all, they are mere formalities which simply prove that the incumbent should be in office for life. In short, if the world wants the US to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, they are going to have to make a decent case and sell it to the general population of the United States. (In Europe this has not been necessary, as thanks to the EU, sweeping decisions are made at a lofty and detached level guarded by a phalanx of bureaucratic jargon and overpaid consultants, meaning there is no longer a requirement to gain approval from the ignorant masses.) And in so far as the world has tried to sell Kyoto to the US population, they have failed miserably. Beyond repeating the mantra that the US is the “biggest polluter” and is responsible for the impending armageddon – and hence they must sacrifice their standard of living for the good of mankind – not the world, the UN, or anybody else has made a case at all. When the Yanks question the presented evidence, be it of the problem itself or the suitability of the Kyoto Protocol to address it, they are met not with reasoned argument but by howls of derision, insult, and abuse. This tactic of trying to browbeat the American public into sacrificing anything, as history would have told them, has not worked despite four years of the world’s great and good trying.

To the average Yank, and to a great many other people (including myself), the Kyoto Protocol looks as though it has been craftily developed by political parties wishing to hobble the US economy. Until such time that somebody steps forward and persuades them that this is not the case, the Yanks are not going to budge – and nor should they. This became evident when the US tried to incorporate a carbon trading system into the Protocol, which would enable them to purchase carbon dioxide allowances from those (usually poorer) countries with a surplus. A thoroughly sensible suggestion, one would have thought; the poor countries make money, the US is given an incentive to reduce its pollution, and the level of emissions is to some degree controlled. But No! cried the great and the good of the world. That would not do at all. Sneaky Yanks typically trying to buy their way out of their commitments! No, they must incorporate their commitments at home, thus hobbling their economy in return for little demonstrable benefit.

As the US is a highly developed country with a huge population, it is little surprise that they are the ones who produce the greatest amount of greenhouse gases, and hence would be most affected by the proposals. So one would have thought that any outside body wanting to persuade them to cut down on their emissions would have considered that perhaps they will be a little reluctant to do so, and a strong case would have to be made. And that is where the rest of the world has failed. The failure of the US to sign up to what is clearly a flawed agreement is not that of the Bush administration (especially when considering that the US senate rejected the Kyoto Protocol by 95-0 in 1997, when Clinton was president), but that of the people who tasked themselves with trying to get them to do it in the first place. As French winemakers are finding out, selling something requires more than hurling abuse at your sales target and bullying them into submission. That the UN, EU, and a gaggle of tin-pot dictators cannot sell an idea should surprise nobody.

Incidentally, when people refer to the US as “the world’s biggest polluter”, it raises some interesting questions. Firstly, how accurate is the data coming from countries like Russia and China? Are we to believe that the respective governments are open and honest about their emissions, in the same way that they used to be open and honest about their economy, political freedoms, etc.? Personally, I wouldn’t trust what the Putin government told me for one second. And secondly, the term “world’s biggest polluter” is somewhat misleading in itself. It may be the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but the two are not the same. In effect, the statement lumps together all kinds of pollution and fails to recognise that some kinds of pollution are worse than others. It is like referring to a town which is plagued by shoplifting as having the highest crime rate, when a town nearby is plagued with murders, albeit but of fewer number than that of shoplifters in the first town. Thirdly, does anyone honestly believe the likes of Russia is going to implement the carbon cutting measures, and truthfully report its emissions figures?

Even at this early stage, this UN plan is likely to go the way of the Oil-for-Food program in terms of effectiveness, transparency, and lining the pockets of despots, bureaucrats, and a select number of western politicians.

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5 Responses to Kyoto Reprinted

  1. Saphia says:

    An interesting post–what were the comments like in response to it on your old blog? You make a persuasive case against the Kyoto Protocol…I agree with you that resistance to the carbon trading system was irrational.

    I particularly like this bit:
    ‘Incidentally, when people refer to the US as the worlds biggest polluter, it raises some interesting questions. Firstly, how accurate is the data coming from countries like Russia and China?’

    It’s funny how certain countries, with less-than-transparent reporting schemes, love to refer to the US as ‘the world’s biggest (insert negative noun here)’.
    Sigh….

  2. Tim Newman says:

    I had loads of comments from my original post, but unfortunately Haloscan deleted them all after a certain period of time.

  3. Robert says:

    Regarding my posts on the Euston Manifesto: to clarify, I didn’t mention anything about Kyoto, and was merely pointing out that they really needed some acknowledgement or statement of belief on the issue of CO2 emmissions, and generally how the worlds finite resources should be managed.

    I did not know that the US was trying to promote Carbon Trading credits. Are there any links to more information about this? Would the creidts be allocated on an equitable basis, based on population? Or based on current carbon emmission levels?

  4. W. Shedd says:

    I actually thought the carbon trading credits was going to happen and then it fell through, making the Kyoto protocol essentially a restriction on economic growth. Countries whose economies have either stumbled since the 1990s (such as Russia) or who don’t have large economic growth (such as most of the world) don’t have any problems meeting the Kyoto protocols. For the US, it would be a rather huge and expensive undertaking, with possibly very little dividend.

    That isn’t to say that the US shouldn’t make changes in our energy consumption. In fact, I think 9/11 was a huge opportunity missed by the Bush Administration to encourage just that. But that becomes a topic for another day.

  5. IR says:

    “Countries whose economies have either stumbled since the 1990s (such as Russia) or who dont have large economic growth (such as most of the world) dont have any problems meeting the Kyoto protocols.”

    Actually just about everybody has problems meeting the goals. Some countries that do meet their goals are helped by 1990 baseline. UK had a switch from coal at that time and Germany is able to meet their goals by modernizing outdated East German power stations. If not for that even those countries probably wouldn’t meet their goals.

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