ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, July 15, 2005

Combating Global Climate Change - sans Kyoto

Good column by Paul Kelly in the Australian:

Kyoto floundering in the wake of G8 summit
July 13, 2005

AS the G8 Gleneagles summit proved, there is no consensus on how to combat global warming today or tomorrow but the bell now tolls on a decade of illusion.

The Kyoto protocol, with its system of caps, targets and timetables, is being buried with a discretion that conceals one of the great public policy failures in recent decades. Hoax is probably a better word.

Kyoto is collapsing before reality. The politics of global warming is being transformed by two simultaneous events: a recognition that climate change is real and serious and a recognition that the Kyoto methodology has failed as a solution.

This is the significance of the G8 statement on climate change. It is ironic that one of Kyoto's champions, Tony Blair, has broken the news but Blair is a realist and the Gleneagles declaration is the dawn of a new realism.

At his press conference Blair said he wanted leaders to agree that climate change was a problem, that human activity led to greenhouse gas emissions and that emissions had to be stabilised and then reduced. All leaders, including George W. Bush, agreed.

But Blair then declared that regardless of how many targets the EU reached, that "if we don't have America, China, India taking the action necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then we won't solve climate change". Referring to the "fundamental disagreement" over Kyoto, Blair said he hoped the G8 meeting had "put in place a pathway to a new dialogue when Kyoto expires in 2012".

The story is the new dialogue. Neither Blair nor the Gleneagles statement affirmed an extension of Kyoto's targets as the post-2012 solution and the anger from sections of the green lobby is palpable. Everyone knows why Kyoto is fading -- the US, India and, to a lesser extent, China, the three economies that will dominate the coming century, won't wear the legally binding Kyoto system.
Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell, in a matter-of-fact tone, told me: "I think there is a pretty clear international recognition now that any chance of going ahead with the Kyoto system of caps, targets and timetables is destined to failure.
The media orthodoxy that the US and Australia are isolated in refusing to embrace Kyoto is now obsolete. Whether it was ever accurate is debatable. There was only one reason for Australia to sign and that was to boost its clout for the post-2012 negotiations and this argument may no longer apply.

The rearguard action to salvage Kyoto will be waged by some European nations, the green lobby and sections of the scientific community but their cause seems forlorn.

It is known that the 2008-12 Kyoto system won't deliver. Global emissions are likely to rise about 30 per cent in this period. Even if all the Kyoto nations meet their targets the increase would still be 28-29 per cent. In fact, not all nations will meet these targets. Canada, having made foolish pledges, is in trouble. But the EU should meet its overall target.

Blair's G8 meeting has begun to identity the new common ground. The US is accepting the reality of global warming and China is accepting the reality that developing nations must be part of the solution.

The future solution will be different from Kyoto. It will be universal. It will involve less "top-down" prescription and more "bottom-up" practical applications. There will be a greater emphasis on innovation, cleaner technologies and lower emitting energy sources. There may well be timetables but they are going to be voluntary, not binding and yes, the new global consensus is a long way off.

The main issue here is that Kyoto would have zero impact on global climate change and there are questions about many of the models associated with predicting human impact on the world's climate. Bush has had it right all along. The most effective way to eliminate the possibility that human activity is causing climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - and the best way to do this isn't through caps, review periods, and penalties, but through technological innovation that can then be employed in the fastest growing economies which operate entirely on carbon-based fuels. Thus, Bush's federal investment in R&D for greener technologies (the largest such investment by ANY of his predecessors) is a step in the right direction. And it seems that his immediate predecessor (President Clinton) agrees.

However, the Left will disregard these facts and continue to excoriate Bush for his trashing of the Kyoto Protocol, despite that fact that he is probably doing more to reduce the possibility of a sharp increase in temperatures worldwide than any nation that has signed up to Kyoto.

It seems that the solution to global warming is more closely associated with the US' drive for innovation and pragmatism than through the command-and-control bureaucracies of the EU. We can do more, but Kyoto is not and never was the answer. In fact, one could argue that the efforts required for compliance under Kyoto are hampering the Kyoto member's ability to develop innovative techniques to reduce emissions, as the best way to reduce emissions is to reduce economic growth. And economic growth leads to new innovations in the perpetual cycle of creative destruction.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler