Despite opposition from leading scientific and economic advisors, Russian President Vladimir Putin has told key ministers to sign off on the documents necessary for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and the State Duma may approve it in the next few weeks. Russia's support will clear the way for the treaty entering into force. Apparently, the Russians have decided that Kyoto's defects shouldn't stop it from being used as a bargaining chip with the European Union. According to Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming & International Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute: "Russia's scientists have dismissed the faulty science behind the treaty and their economists have done the same with the rosy economic projections put forward by Kyoto's backers. The only thing left supporting ratification is pure politics."
This is also the opinion of President Putin's economic advisor, Andrei Illarionov, the country's fiercest opponent of the Kyoto Protocol. According to the Moscow Times, he has declared that Russia will ratify the international treaty to limit greenhouse gases even though he believes the move will destroy its chances of doubling GDP by 2010. Illarionov: "Nobody among Russian officials believes the protocol is good for Russia. Nobody sees any sense in the economic nature of this document. Nobody sees any scientific relevance in this document. Nobody sees any advantages for Russia in this document. It is just purely politics."
Many analysts insist that Kyoto is a political concession to win over the EU in WTO negotiations. "I'd say that the Kyoto Protocol is only about the EU and only about the WTO," said Timofei Bordachyov, deputy editor of Russia in Global Politics, a political journal.
According to the Moscow Times, the Kyoto Protocol's supporters have argued that Russia will make billions of dollars by selling unused emissions quotas, as parceled out under the terms of Kyoto, to over-polluting countries in Europe. Russia's emissions goal would be the equivalent of 1990 levels, and Putin said last year that Russia has since fallen below that amount by about a third. But Illarionov said the high speed of economic development in the next few years will cause the country to exceed the 1990 levels and force it to cut back on economic growth. Kyoto will also "destroy the European economy," he said. Some Kyoto supporters have argued that Russia stands to benefit from huge European investments into its energy industry, since the pact allows countries to count emissions cuts in other countries as their own. Illarionov, however, believes that the volume of these investments is very much overstated.
Nevertheless, Russia seems to prepare for signing Kyoto. But the Russians are reputed to be tough negotiators. So one should not be surprised if they come up with some preconditions -- which might be presented as 'clarification of minor points' -- which will be difficult to fulfill.
The latest Russian moves on Kyoto seem all the more surprising because only last week, European Union Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, testifying before the European Parliament's industry, research and energy committee, said that she doubted Russia's willingness to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. According to MosNews, De Palacio compared Russia's attitude on Kyoto to the country's resistance to ratifying an international energy charter. "Everyday they say they will ratify it and then nothing happens," she said. "That is what has been happening for the last five years on the energy charter. I think that they will do the same with Kyoto."
The Energy Commissioner advised Europe to consider the potential impact on its own industry if Russia doesn't sign the agreement. She also said that the European Union should reassess its position on emissions trading, which is the cornerstone of Europe's policy to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. If by December 2004 Russia doesn't ratify the Protocol, "then Europe should think whether its emissions trading system is the most appropriate one," De Palacio said.
De Palacio's doubts could be interpreted as a sober assessment of the Russian position of a week ago. But in the light of increased resistance by European industry against the Kyoto Protocol, it is not entirely inconceivable that a Russian refusal would have been welcomed as a godsend, offering a face-saving alibi for Europe to retreat from Kyoto. If this interpretation is correct, Europe has to find an alternative fig leave to pull out, now that Russia seems bent on ratifying Kyoto.
But let us assume that Russia and the EU will succeed in overcoming the remaining obstacles to agree on Kyoto, what would be the result of this? The US and Australia have declared that they will not join Kyoto. Japan has announced that it does not want to impose CO2-ceilings on its industry, but counts on its voluntary compliance. (By the way, this seems to lend additional credence to the well-known saying: 'Britannia rules the waves, while Japan waves the rules.') Finally, big emitters in the Third World, such as China and India are so far exempted from any obligations. So the result would be a European mini-Kyoto. Of course the costs will be lower, but they will have to be borne only by de European countries. The net cooling effect will be infinitesimal. According to the proponents of Kyoto the cooling effect of the full Kyoto, comprising all developed countries as initially planned, was not more than 0.02 degree Celsius in 2050. A European mini-Kyoto will produce a net cooling that is proportionally less. So if one really wants to substantially reduce purported man-made global warming this step is only the very first one -- many more steps (the proponents estimate 10 - 30 additional Kyotos) will be required. Given the fact that this first step took so many years and that it only involves 'low hanging fruit', it is hardly realistic to assume that there will be any subsequent steps.
Until Russia reaches its CO2 emissions ceiling, it will be able to sell its CO2 emission rights to Western Europe. Consequently a European mini-Kyoto is expected to result in a net transfer of funds to Russia. But as long as this goes on it will probably not lead to a (substantial) reduction of CO2 emissions. Therefore, this case is sometimes referred to as 'paper compliance'; it does not curb emissions, but it gives Western Europe a warm feeling and Russia a few bucks.
But again, Kyoto rests on the hypothesis that man-made greenhouse gasses have an impact on global temperatures. However, this hypothesis is increasingly challenged in recent peer-reviewed literature. Let me give some examples.
First of all, reference could be made to a paper by Fred Singer and David Douglass in the July 9 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. In this paper the authors argue that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims to have carefully corrected the temperature records for the well-known problem of local ("urban," as opposed to global) warming. But this has always troubled serious scientists. The surface temperature record shows a warming rate of about 0.17°C (0.31°F) per decade since 1979. However, there are two other records, one from satellites, and one from weather balloons that tell a different story. Neither annual satellite nor balloon trends differ significantly from zero since the start of the satellite record in 1979.
Another interesting paper is that of Jos de Laat and Ahilleas Maurellis of the Earth Oriented Science Division at the National Institute for Space Research in the Netherlands. They posit that local surface changes caused by industrialization account for a significant portion of global temperature increases in recent decades. They published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters 31 (2004). Their key conclusion:
"We speculate that the observed surface temperature changes might be a result of local surface heating processes and not related to radiative greenhouse gas forcing."
A third relevant contribution is a paper by M. L. Khandekar, T.S. Murty and P. Chittibabu, to be published in Pure & Applied Geophysics in October 2004, which comprises most of the critical literature on global warming. This review suggests that the dissenting view offered by the skeptics or opponents of global warming appears much more credible than the supporting view put forth by the proponents. Furthermore, the authors argue that the projections of future climate change over the next fifty to one hundred years are based on insufficiently verified climate models and are therefore not considered reliable at this point in time.
Undoubtedly there are worldwide still many more articles in the pipeline sceptical of the man-made global warming paradigm. One of those papers which will be published shortly offers a fascinating alternative hypothesis. It has been developed by two Dutch scientists and one British scientist: Arthur Rörsch, Dick Thoenes and Richard Courtney. It provides a literature study of the observations on temperature changes and the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It investigates the cause-effect relationship between these parameters, and makes an alternative interpretation to that given by the IPCC. The IPCC assumes increased use of fossil fuels is the major cause of the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And the increasing carbon dioxide leads to global warming because of infrared absorption by this gas. But the authors argue that observations are not in agreement with the assumed direct correlation. There is a very gradual increase to the annual human production of carbon dioxide, but the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not proportional to the human emission. The annual uptake of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is highly variable. Moreover, the measured average global temperature is also very variable and it is not proportional to the observed concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The variable amount of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere each year, follows reasonably well the specific average value of the temperature in that year. This suggests that the temperature causes the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (i.e. the opposite of the IPCC's assumption): the annual average temperature varies under external (cosmic) influence, and this causes variable additions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from the oceans that liberate carbon dioxide as a result of local and temporary temperature changes.
All in all, the conclusion is that in the climate debate politics and science seem to be moving in opposite directions, while economics (cost-benefit analysis) is almost absent. This divergence is not sustainable.