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Posted by ATW (Member # 1690) on :\SpecialReports\archive\200412\SPE20041217a.html

Buenos Aires, Argentina ( - After a relentless attack on the United States for opposing the Kyoto Protocol, environmental groups concede the international treaty will have no impact on what they believe to be impending catastrophic global warming.

Despite the fact that green groups at the U.N. climate summit in Buenos Aires called President George Bush "immoral" and "illegitimate" for not supporting the Kyoto Protocol, the groups themselves concede the Protocol will only have "symbolic" effect on climate because they believe it is too weak. Kyoto is an international treaty that seeks to limit greenhouse gases of the developed countries by 2012.

"I think that everybody agrees that Kyoto is really, really hopeless in terms of delivering what the planet needs," Peter Roderick of Friends of the Earth International told

"It's tiny, it's tiny, tiny, it's tiny," Roderick said. "It is woefully inadequate, woefully. We need huge cuts to protect the planet from climate change."

But just because Kyoto may end up having little or no impact on the climate, that did not stop Roderick from blasting President Bush for the White House's environmental policies.

Roderick cited "deep psychological reasons" as to why the Bush administration opposed the Protocol.

"[Bush] comes across as not caring," Roderick said. "I am sure he does care in his own life personally about many things, [but] I think also that he is scared, he is fearful, he is fearful about wanting to continue in power.

"Somewhere in their hearts [the Bush administration doesn't] seem to care about the future of the planet and I think that is bad news for the world," Roderick added. "It is obviously deep psychological reasons, as to why individuals would feel that way ... [Bush] seems to have a vision of the world which is not recognized by millions and millions of people around the world."

Kyoto: 'Symbolic importance'

While Roderick dismisses the potential impact of the Kyoto Protocol, he believes the treaty is vital for a reason that has nothing to do with climate change.

"[The Protocol] is important more in the political message and the inspiration it is giving people around the world. People can say 'yeah, our politicians do care -- they are not just interested in power and their own greed and in their own money. They do care about the future of the planet,'" Roderick explained.

"How inspiring it would be for the leaders to get together and say 'yeah, we are going to do this, we are all in this together. That's, I think, the sort of symbolic importance of Kyoto, not the the sort of nitty-gritty commas and dots in the text [of the Protocol]," he added.

Roderick believes a global climate emergency can only be averted by a greenhouse gas limiting treaty of massive proportions. "We are talking basically of huge, huge cuts," said Roderick.

The most positive description of the Kyoto Protocol centers on it fostering the spirit of cooperation in the international community, according to Roderick.

"The best thing that can be said for it, is it's the first time that with the exception unfortunately of the United States, that the international community has said, 'We need to get together on this and we need international action.' That's the really important thing of Kyoto," Roderick said.

Kyoto: 'Important architecture'

Greenpeace International agreed that the Kyoto Protocol should only be an entry point for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Jessica Coven, a spokesperson for the environmental group, told that "Kyoto is our first start and we need increasing emissions cuts.

"We need all types of actions, but Kyoto is the important architecture for how we are going to move forward to curb the problem [of climate change]," Coven said.

"Global warming, as its name suggests, is a global problem and we need an international framework like Kyoto," she added. And despite the Protocol's limited impact, Coven said President Bush's decision not to support the treaty is "immoral."

The Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the Arctic group that announced their intention this week to seek a ruling from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the United States, "for causing global warming and its devastating impacts," also denigrated the global warming treaty.

"The Kyoto Protocol, although again achieved with great difficulty, doesn't even go near to what has to get done. It is not anywhere near to what we need in the Arctic," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chairwoman of Inuit Circumpolar Conference.

"Kyoto will not stop the dangerous sea level rise from creating these kinds of enormous challenges that we are about to face in the future. I know many of you here believe that we must go beyond [Kyoto]," she said during a panel discussion.
Posted by FiredrakeRAGE (Member # 1224) on :
Citing fear as the reason for Bush not moving forward with Kyoto is drivel. More likely Bush did not move forward for a couple of reasons. Firstly, environmental concerns do not figure as high on his priority list as other things (like Iraq). Secondly, the Kyoto treaty placed a large burden on first world countries, and a smaller burden on third-world countries.

Posted by Everard (Member # 104) on :
Which is how the burden SHOULD be distributed. We have the resources to change our economies over. Third world countries don't have the resources to build nuclear power plants.
Posted by kelcimer (Member # 1221) on :
Or more likely Bush knows about the Byrd-Hagel Resolution. [Roll Eyes]

[ December 17, 2004, 08:52 PM: Message edited by: kelcimer ]
Posted by RickyB (Member # 1464) on :
When the worlds largest polluter by far doesn't join, of course the treaty won't work.

Now, all you who oppose the treaty, do you oppose it because it won't help anyway, or because you (like OSC, who threw a little fit about it during a speech here in Israel) simply don't believe in global warming?
Posted by KidA (Member # 1499) on :
I'm for any and every measure to curtail our irresponsible burning of fossil fuels. That being said, it is entirely possible that even the complete disappearance of all human activity from planet Earth would only have a moderate effect of slowing down global warming. The Earth goes through these phases, you know. One aeon you get barbecued, the next it's endless acres of ice and snow as far as the eye can see. It's gone back and forth hundreds of times. And, we could finally arrive at a glorious day when technology delivers all our needs through cold fusion and solar power - and then one fine morning a mile-wide meteorite smacks into us, and it's back to the roaches and parameciums for a billion years or so. We should live responsibly and cautiously, with humility, and leave resources for future generations, but we also need to recognize that certain things are completely beyond our control.

That being said, I don't really buy into this exemption for "Developing" countries. What's a developing country? What country isn't developing? It's one of those us/them dichotomies.

Countries where people are used to living close to subsistance level are, if anything, better equipped to live within stringent environmental requirements. Having lived on the edge for so long, they will get much more mileage out of less energy. Let them build a public-transport infrastructure now, as opposed to highways and autmobiles. Let them put solar panels on their homes, rather than build a nuclear plant - this will still be an enormous step up for them. The First World has already spoiled itself, and must now struggle to impose the necessary discipline in order to use less. The Third World should learn from our mistakes, rather than copy them.

Of course, I suppose it comes down to how the whole thing is phrased (i.e. are you capping growth levels, or just straight-forward emissions levels.)
Posted by The Drake (Member # 2128) on :
I believe that there is a measurable climate trend. I think that it is still very unclear if this is permanent, manmade, and as big of a threat as it is made out to be.

I definitely didn't support Kyoto, it's a big "screw you" to the United States. Who would sign a treaty that negatively affects one's nation more than any other one? Thank the maker we haven't gone that far down the road to altruism.

Humanity has always created problems for itself with each new technology, which are then solved by the next technology. I recommend reading "Guns, Germs, and Steel" for some excellent illustrations.
Posted by WarrsawPact (Member # 1275) on :
Then again, Drake, we can't apply that answer to EVERY question. I am profoundly optimistic about the future, but when we answer every question with "the problem always gets solved" it sounds like the man falling from the skyscraper...


as he passes each floor...

on the way down...

"So far, so good...

so far, so good."

It's not about how you fall, it's about how you land.

(side note: anyone seen the French movie La Haine or (the English title) Hate? That's where I got the little parable.)
Posted by vulture (Member # 84) on :
WP: La Haine is one of my favourite films. Liked the cow...
Posted by The Drake (Member # 2128) on :
Originally posted by WarrsawPact:
Then again, Drake, we can't apply that answer to EVERY question.

Point taken. You can't chuck nuclear waste into a quarry and hope for a way to clean it up later.

I guess what I would say is that we have to look forward for solutions, and many global warming Cassandras propose only self-sacrifice.

We need new power sources, and help is on the way. Advances in nanotechology are poised to greatly increase the efficiency of solar collectors. There are many other examples. Petroleum will get more and more expensive as its extraction requires more risk and capital.

I wonder how much longer the US will be the prime target anyway, since we're moving all our factories to developing nations.
Posted by Mike_W (Member # 202) on :
Why the victim mentallity? How is the US the "prime target", other than being the largest economy, and not being on board?
Posted by IrishTD (Member # 2216) on :
Why all the blame to Bush on the Kyoto protocol? Gore signed it, Senate rejected it 95-0 back in the late 90s. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see the administration do more on the enviornment, but let's keep the facts striaght here.
Posted by The Drake (Member # 2128) on :
Prime target, because many of the provisions would affect the US the most. Countries like China and India - acknowledged to be the chief economic rivals to the US in coming decades - are given a free ride. Also with the greatest population among nations, they have the greatest potential to impact emissions - though the US currently tops that list.

Most of emissions in the US fall to transportation. That means heavy gas taxes, that Europe considers normal, but would wreak havoc on the US economy. Economic concerns in the treaty were dismissed in favor of the "greater good", but American foreign policy is not set on that basis.
Posted by Mike_W (Member # 202) on :
Still, sometimes, one has to think of the greater good. Or, if not that, long term self interest.

The Treaty was what it was. Yes, it's burden fell on the Industrial West. I don't think that was a perfect solution either, but it was what could be negotiated at the time.

If it is in the world's interests to reduce CO 2 emmissions, then at least it was a start. If you believe it is not in the world's interest, then there's a whole other dead horse to flog. And, yes, the more one uses the more one would have to accept more compromise.

Regardless, the US was not the "Prime Target". An agreed treaty to reduce CO 2 was.

No matter. The treaty is pretty much sunk. Even nations who sign on in good faith are not going to meet targets in the near term.
Posted by The Drake (Member # 2128) on :
The time and energy would be much better spent trying to come up with affordable alternatives. And you're probably right, that it is more accurate to say industrial west, than US, was the prime target - but not the overall reduction of CO2. Much easier Co2 gains are available in Mexico, Venezuela, and other nations where there are little or no vehicle emissions standards.

If you don't believe me, take a deep breath in Mexico City or Caracas. They have yet to take the steps that California has taken to reduce emissions.
Posted by Mike_W (Member # 202) on :
While motor vehicles emit CO 2, CO 2 is not visible or "sniffible" air pollution. That's caused by different pollutants.

The CO 2 produced is pretty much a function of the type of fuel (e.g. gasoline or diesel) and the fuel efficiency. That lovely clean burining Honda Accord in LA might make just as much CO 2 as that belching Beetle in Caracas.

Having said that, what a combination of regulation and technology has done for tailpipe emissions over that last 30 years is an amazing success story that environmentalists should celebrate. And, I'd be all for cleaning up things like Oxides of Nitrogen and Sulfur Dioxide in third world vehicles (and first world coal generating stations).

As for easier gains in places other than, say, the US and Canada, I had some hopes that Carbon Trading would be great way to get the big easy wins first. Use the market to help the environment.
Posted by Wayward Son (Member # 210) on :
If you don't believe me, take a deep breath in Mexico City or Caracas. They have yet to take the steps that California has taken to reduce emissions.
Yes, but those are classic pollution emissions, not C02 emissions (although California is trying to limit those now, too).
Posted by The Drake (Member # 2128) on :
Originally posted by Mike_W:
As for easier gains in places other than, say, the US and Canada, I had some hopes that Carbon Trading would be great way to get the big easy wins first. Use the market to help the environment.

I never understood exactly how that was supposed to work. Something like the US, Canada, and Europe pay for improvements in the third world? Anyway, as you say, it is likely a moot point - since everyone seems to have paid only lip service to the Protocol.

It seems like Air Travel is a big portion, based on very cursory browsing of various web sites. One stated that a round trip flight between Boston and SF is equivalent to three months of regular driving. If this is true, it suggests that maybe dropping airline subsidies would be a good place for the US to start. I'd get behind that program. Saves the government money, and saves the environment. Tourism is unlikely to drop off dramatically, despite what the air lobby would say.
Posted by Mike_W (Member # 202) on :
The idea behind carbon trading is that you create a market for CO 2 reductions.

Let's say you're an energy company with a heavy oil upgrader in Ft MacMurray Alberta. Your facility is new, and, as far as the oil and gas industry goes, about as efficient as can be done with current technology. But, there's an old refinery in Venezuela that is 30 years behind the times. They upgrade the refinery, meet their local (if any) carbon reduction target, and get carbon credits for the surplus. Then, they sell you the credits.

You contribute your CO 2 reduction in a much cheaper and more efficient manner than if you had to improve your facility, and they get a subsidy to improve theirs.

The issue, as with all such schemes is monitoring and keeping corruption to manageable levels.

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