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08/02/2001

Kyoto Update

While I did a piece on global warming and Kyoto just last June
14, with the recent developments in Genoa and Bonn, the issue
deserves further clarification.

The Kyoto Accords of 1997 set a goal of reducing greenhouse
emissions by an average of 5.2% from 1990 levels by the year
2010. Under Kyoto, the U.S. would have had to cut by 7%
below 1990 levels, Japan 6%, the EU 8%, and Australia would
be allowed an actual increase of 8%. Then you had nations like
Russia that would have been allowed to maintain at 1990 levels
without penalty, while developing nations like Brazil, China, and
India were not covered, because it was felt that the developing
world needed the chance to grow its economies without having
to worry about emissions restrictions. It was this last point that
caused the U.S. to back off. It was bad enough the U.S. saw its
own benchmark as being unreasonable, it was doubly bad that
China, belching away, didn''t have to meet any standards. The
Clinton administration knew Kyoto was flawed and you''ll recall
that the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 to reject it as being unfair to our
interests.

The problem was that when Bush became president, after
campaigning as a leader who would be humble, he slammed the
treaty back into everyone''s face. Say what you will about
Kyoto, but mostly good people worked hard in getting to the
point they had and it just came off incredibly poor when Bush
decided to tell the world in no uncertain terms that they were all
full of it. Folks I normally agree with, like the editorial board of
the Wall Street Journal, say, well, at least Bush was finally
honest. Yeah, but I''m one who feels diplomacy matters these
days and all he had to do was say we disagree with Kyoto, but
let''s continue to talk things out.

So what happened was that a few days after the disastrous, and
unproductive, Genoa G-8 summit (save for the Bush / Putin
discussions), representatives from around the world got together
in Bonn to try and salvage the framework of Kyoto. They were
barely successful, but while the U.S. had its representative there,
we refused to go along with the protocol. Now even the
participants and supporters know the global warming pact is
flawed, but it is a starting point for ongoing negotiations. You
can argue about the science of climate change until you''re blue
in the face, but some kind of world action on greenhouse gases is
inevitable, and the opinion of this editor is, better to be part of
the solution, than sit outside and let the world gang up on you.

And gang up they will, believe me. Corporations are well aware
of this as well. Companies like Dupont, Royal Dutch / Shell, BP,
and Alcoa all want the U.S. to enter into some form of
greenhouse gas compact. They have concluded (correctly, I
believe) that some kind of limits are inevitable and the
corporations have to be able to plan long-term on items such as
capital equipment.

Not all are for a change of heart within the Bush administration on
this issue. The coal industry, for example, doesn''t want industry
to have to be locked into having to replace ancient coal-fired
plants (the major culprits of greenhouse emissions), and they
don''t want to absorb the costs of modernization...at least on
nothing but their own schedule.

So we have a situation where 178 countries have signed onto a
pact without the U.S., and American businesses are wondering if
they''d be better off participating than being on the sidelines.

But there are far more issues. The major complaint against the
U.S., of course, is the fact that while the U.S. makes up 4% of
the world''s population, it also is responsible for 25% of the
planet''s greenhouse gas. True, Washington would say, but if
your economy is growing at the rate ours has the past decade or
so, and if you have the most developed society, then clearly
you''ll emit the most carbon dioxide. And as I mentioned before,
how can you leave out the developing countries in this whole
equation? For example, it doesn''t take a rocket scientist to figure
out that if the U.S. has about 800 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, and
China has only 8 per 1,000, China will eventually catch up and
its emissions would explode. Why not count them? And when
you work with the numbers, what you find is that by 2010, the
actual reduction in emissions is minimal, due to the rising
consumption of the developing world. Reductions one place are
offset by increases elsewhere.

And there is the issue of Europe. They claim to be doing a great
job already in reducing emissions, but it is oh so deceiving. Yes,
on one hand they are, because the incredibly inefficient, belching
factories of East Germany have been mostly shut down, so when you
match the numbers up with the target year of 1990, that''s why the
European community can make the claim they are already doing
their part. But consider that between 1990 and 2010 the
population in the U.S. is expected to grow 20% (but we are being
asked to cut offending gases by 7% from 1990 levels), while
thanks to Europe''s lack of babies, its population may only
increase by 6%. Obviously, if your population is growing by
20% it is almost impossible to have a gross cut in greenhouse
gases.

The compromise in Bonn, however, was full of holes, and therein
lies a way for the U.S. to reenter the discussions, in my opinion.
The "Umbrella Group," led by Australia, Canada, and Japan
was able to include provisions for the retention of an
unregulated market for the buying and selling of emissions
credits, allowances for offsetting national targets through forest
sinks and shelving the notion of legally binding sanctions for
non-compliance; the feeling being the world community will put
enough pressure on offenders of the targets to force change.

I don''t see why the U.S. can''t use some of these issues to reenter
the fray. President Bush has committed to an alternative plan
and, for its part, the EPA said they would issue recommendations
by mid-August on how to reduce releases of some types of
greenhouse gases. What worries me is that by continuing to stick
our tongue out at the rest of the world, we are only fueling anti-
Americanism, which these days can easily lead to a boycott of
American products. And that means a loss of jobs. It''s the
economy, stupid. We can work this out, over time. But we need
to participate and I virtually guarantee the Bush administration
will soon see the light.

*One last thought on the animal front. As I have partially joked
in "Week in Review," farm animals are perhaps the biggest
offenders in the emission of greenhouse gases. It is serious.
And when was the last time you looked up the definition of carbon
dioxide.

"Colorless, odorless gas that occurs in the atmosphere and as a
product of the combustion of fossil fuels and respiration in plants
and animals."

Respiration: "The physical and chemical processes (as breathing
and oxidation) by which a living thing obtains oxygen and
eliminates waste gases (as carbon dioxide)."

There you have it. It''s time to blame the animals.

Next week, Social Security.

Sources:

Kevin Whitelaw / U.S. News
John Fialka / Wall Street Journal
Mark Henderson / London Times
Associated Press
William Drozdiak / Washington Post
Andrew Revkin / New York Times
Robert Samuelson / Washington Post

Brian Trumbore


AddThis Feed Button

 

-08/02/2001-      
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Hot Spots

08/02/2001

Kyoto Update

While I did a piece on global warming and Kyoto just last June
14, with the recent developments in Genoa and Bonn, the issue
deserves further clarification.

The Kyoto Accords of 1997 set a goal of reducing greenhouse
emissions by an average of 5.2% from 1990 levels by the year
2010. Under Kyoto, the U.S. would have had to cut by 7%
below 1990 levels, Japan 6%, the EU 8%, and Australia would
be allowed an actual increase of 8%. Then you had nations like
Russia that would have been allowed to maintain at 1990 levels
without penalty, while developing nations like Brazil, China, and
India were not covered, because it was felt that the developing
world needed the chance to grow its economies without having
to worry about emissions restrictions. It was this last point that
caused the U.S. to back off. It was bad enough the U.S. saw its
own benchmark as being unreasonable, it was doubly bad that
China, belching away, didn''t have to meet any standards. The
Clinton administration knew Kyoto was flawed and you''ll recall
that the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 to reject it as being unfair to our
interests.

The problem was that when Bush became president, after
campaigning as a leader who would be humble, he slammed the
treaty back into everyone''s face. Say what you will about
Kyoto, but mostly good people worked hard in getting to the
point they had and it just came off incredibly poor when Bush
decided to tell the world in no uncertain terms that they were all
full of it. Folks I normally agree with, like the editorial board of
the Wall Street Journal, say, well, at least Bush was finally
honest. Yeah, but I''m one who feels diplomacy matters these
days and all he had to do was say we disagree with Kyoto, but
let''s continue to talk things out.

So what happened was that a few days after the disastrous, and
unproductive, Genoa G-8 summit (save for the Bush / Putin
discussions), representatives from around the world got together
in Bonn to try and salvage the framework of Kyoto. They were
barely successful, but while the U.S. had its representative there,
we refused to go along with the protocol. Now even the
participants and supporters know the global warming pact is
flawed, but it is a starting point for ongoing negotiations. You
can argue about the science of climate change until you''re blue
in the face, but some kind of world action on greenhouse gases is
inevitable, and the opinion of this editor is, better to be part of
the solution, than sit outside and let the world gang up on you.

And gang up they will, believe me. Corporations are well aware
of this as well. Companies like Dupont, Royal Dutch / Shell, BP,
and Alcoa all want the U.S. to enter into some form of
greenhouse gas compact. They have concluded (correctly, I
believe) that some kind of limits are inevitable and the
corporations have to be able to plan long-term on items such as
capital equipment.

Not all are for a change of heart within the Bush administration on
this issue. The coal industry, for example, doesn''t want industry
to have to be locked into having to replace ancient coal-fired
plants (the major culprits of greenhouse emissions), and they
don''t want to absorb the costs of modernization...at least on
nothing but their own schedule.

So we have a situation where 178 countries have signed onto a
pact without the U.S., and American businesses are wondering if
they''d be better off participating than being on the sidelines.

But there are far more issues. The major complaint against the
U.S., of course, is the fact that while the U.S. makes up 4% of
the world''s population, it also is responsible for 25% of the
planet''s greenhouse gas. True, Washington would say, but if
your economy is growing at the rate ours has the past decade or
so, and if you have the most developed society, then clearly
you''ll emit the most carbon dioxide. And as I mentioned before,
how can you leave out the developing countries in this whole
equation? For example, it doesn''t take a rocket scientist to figure
out that if the U.S. has about 800 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, and
China has only 8 per 1,000, China will eventually catch up and
its emissions would explode. Why not count them? And when
you work with the numbers, what you find is that by 2010, the
actual reduction in emissions is minimal, due to the rising
consumption of the developing world. Reductions one place are
offset by increases elsewhere.

And there is the issue of Europe. They claim to be doing a great
job already in reducing emissions, but it is oh so deceiving. Yes,
on one hand they are, because the incredibly inefficient, belching
factories of East Germany have been mostly shut down, so when you
match the numbers up with the target year of 1990, that''s why the
European community can make the claim they are already doing
their part. But consider that between 1990 and 2010 the
population in the U.S. is expected to grow 20% (but we are being
asked to cut offending gases by 7% from 1990 levels), while
thanks to Europe''s lack of babies, its population may only
increase by 6%. Obviously, if your population is growing by
20% it is almost impossible to have a gross cut in greenhouse
gases.

The compromise in Bonn, however, was full of holes, and therein
lies a way for the U.S. to reenter the discussions, in my opinion.
The "Umbrella Group," led by Australia, Canada, and Japan
was able to include provisions for the retention of an
unregulated market for the buying and selling of emissions
credits, allowances for offsetting national targets through forest
sinks and shelving the notion of legally binding sanctions for
non-compliance; the feeling being the world community will put
enough pressure on offenders of the targets to force change.

I don''t see why the U.S. can''t use some of these issues to reenter
the fray. President Bush has committed to an alternative plan
and, for its part, the EPA said they would issue recommendations
by mid-August on how to reduce releases of some types of
greenhouse gases. What worries me is that by continuing to stick
our tongue out at the rest of the world, we are only fueling anti-
Americanism, which these days can easily lead to a boycott of
American products. And that means a loss of jobs. It''s the
economy, stupid. We can work this out, over time. But we need
to participate and I virtually guarantee the Bush administration
will soon see the light.

*One last thought on the animal front. As I have partially joked
in "Week in Review," farm animals are perhaps the biggest
offenders in the emission of greenhouse gases. It is serious.
And when was the last time you looked up the definition of carbon
dioxide.

"Colorless, odorless gas that occurs in the atmosphere and as a
product of the combustion of fossil fuels and respiration in plants
and animals."

Respiration: "The physical and chemical processes (as breathing
and oxidation) by which a living thing obtains oxygen and
eliminates waste gases (as carbon dioxide)."

There you have it. It''s time to blame the animals.

Next week, Social Security.

Sources:

Kevin Whitelaw / U.S. News
John Fialka / Wall Street Journal
Mark Henderson / London Times
Associated Press
William Drozdiak / Washington Post
Andrew Revkin / New York Times
Robert Samuelson / Washington Post

Brian Trumbore