TCS Daily

From Russia With Love

By Alan Oxley - October 17, 2003 12:00 AM

Russia's reputation has taken a hammering since it scrapped communism and tried capitalism. Organized crime runs the country, the once feared military machine is rusting and its goods are still regarded as shoddy. There has been a lot of sneering about Russia, no more clearly shown in some assessments of how it would treat the Kyoto Protocol.


Today's spin is that the modern Russia (unlike the "principled" communist Soviet Union) will sell anything for a price. Hot air in particular. Since its heavy industries which pumped out so much carbon dioxide had been closed down, Russia had a lot to sell. First the Greens wanted Russia in the Protocol so there would be trading of carbon credits. They then worried Russia would collapse the market, having so much to sell. But they wanted Russia in, no matter what. Russia's accession would bring the Protocol into effect. So long as Russia stays out, the Kyoto Protocol remains just a dream.


Where Russia Commands Respect


We still all respect Russia for one of its best features: its scientific tradition. It put the first man in space and has an immense record of research. That tradition has just been put to forensic effect. The Kyoto Protocol may well be doomed as a result. Discussion on climate change will increasingly demur to science.


A world conference on climate change has recently wound up in Moscow. President Putin disappointed supporters of the Kyoto Protocol by announcing that Russia would not announce ratification, as expected, but had put the matter to further study. At a press conference on 3 October, his economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, explained why.


He gave details of the results of extensive research in Russia on the Kyoto Protocol.
The study found:


·         the scientific case supporting global warming was weak;


·         the argument that human activity was a leading factor in causing global warming was not made;


·         the Kyoto Protocol must slow down economic growth and that the economic impact on Russia would be severe.


On the strength of that research, Illarionov invited Professor Bert Bolin from Sweden, one of the leading scientists supporting the UN report on climate, and a group of colleagues to answer ten questions posed by the research. Issues raised included:


·         "please justify the alarming forecasts in the UN reports";


·         "why isn't volcanic activity, a much larger source of CO2 than human activity, included the UN analyses?";


·         "can fluctuations in historic variations of levels of CO2 in the atmosphere over the last 1000 and 140 years be explained?"


These may seem dull questions, but they fundamentally query the science used to make the case for Kyoto. Illarionov reported to the conference that the questions were not answered.


Still to Decide


The game is not over. Russia is still to decide. The Canadian Environment Minister at the Moscow conference tried to make light of the Russian position, suggesting Putin was ad-libbing. When asked about this, Illarianov told the BBC, "The words of President Putin cannot be interpreted as saying that Russia will ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but that it is just a matter of time. He never said that.... The president said that we are in the process of studying the Kyoto Protocol and all the consequences of it. That will take time. What decision will be taken remains to be seen."


The Russian research raises fundamental questions about the science used to support global warming. Anyone interested in the subject should read the Russian analysis. Highlights can be found clicking here.

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