TCS Daily

Kyoto's Promise v. Climate Reality

By Robert C. Balling - February 16, 2005 12:00 AM

The Kyoto Protocol will officially go into effect on February 16th, and negotiators throughout the world will rejoice given their triumph in international diplomacy. The implementation of the Protocol coincides with Michael Crichton's State of Fear emerging as a best seller, a book that strongly suggests that global warming is something of a political hoax. Crichton did his homework on the science of global warming and declared the skeptics the winners; he now is lumped in with the skeptics as misinformed, not interested in saving the planet, and/or some type of puppet from the fossil fuel industries. However, before marginalizing his agreement with the skeptical scientists, consider the following undeniable facts:

(1) The Kyoto Protocol, even with full participation by every nation worldwide, seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. Stabilizing emissions by no means equals stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Back in 1990, humans poured 6 billion tons of carbon each year into the atmosphere, and even if we could return to that level, greenhouse gas concentrations will still double in the middle of this century. Despite their good intentions and their endorsement of the Protocol, Canada and most of Europe have witnessed accelerated emission levels no where near the reduction promised by their commitment to Kyoto. To date, the rhetoric on global warming has been little more than hot air compared to any real action from the signatories of the Kyoto Protocol.


(2) Even if the world could stabilize the emission of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels, there would still be an ongoing buildup of greenhouse gas concentrations. With the Kyoto Protocol, greenhouse gas concentrations will double this century. With no Kyoto, greenhouse gas concentrations will double this century, and the time of doubling has almost nothing to do with Kyoto and everything to do with economic development in China, India, Russia, and elsewhere. Scientists of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have conceded that the planetary temperature and resulting climate system will never feel any detectable effect of Kyoto. At best, Kyoto will spare the world a few hundredths of a degree over the next 50 years.


In simple terms, some aspiring national political leader must convince the American electorate to pay much higher prices for electricity and gasoline to keep our good standing in the United Nations. That leader must explain how the resulting economic suffering will result in no detectable impact on global climate, but a better relationship with diplomats at the United Nations.


The Clinton/Gore administration never attempted to ratify Kyoto during their three-year opportunity (the Protocol came from a 1997 meeting) and the Bush/Cheney administration has never placed the issue high on the radar screen. Selling all pain and no gain to the American public is a recipe for political suicide, and until that fact changes, America will continue to correctly reject the terms of the Kyoto Protocol.


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