Wednesday, November 30, 2005


From The Times

The United Nations conference that began yesterday in Montreal and will stretch on for nearly two weeks will fail in its aim: to devise a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. That does not matter; in fact, it is the best outcome. Kyoto has been an extraordinary piece of work. A treaty that its most important signatories have found impossible to meet, and which has changed behaviour very little, has still become a resonant global symbol.

The best way forward now is not a "successor" to Kyoto, which covers the years until 2012. Another treaty that attempted to set fixed targets for cutting emisssions could be economically very damaging - in the unlikely event that countries ever reached agreement. The better answer is in the plethora of bargains between a handful of rich and poor countries, which some are already exploring. It is also in the development of new technology to combat global warming, and in deals to spread these quickly to poorer countries.

Some of these new suggestions for life after Kyoto have come from the US, China and India, which all found Kyoto unpalatable. For just that reason, they are more valuable than son-of-Kyoto would be. It is no surprise that European Union countries became so enamoured of the Kyoto Protocol, which finally came into force in February this year. They have found its targets fortuitously easy to meet. For them, the treaty coincided with a revolution in energy supply.

Kyoto set the EU a target of cutting "greenhouse gases" by 8 per cent from 1990 levels by the period 2008 to 2012. Members divided up the reductions between themselves; some could see that they would find big cuts easier than others. They are slightly off course, but not by so much that they think they have surrendered the moral high ground.

The figures tell the political story. In 2003 Britain's emission of greenhouse gases was 13 per cent down on 1990 levels, slightly ahead of its EU-appointed target of 12.5 per cent.

Of course, emissions are likely to rise between now and 2008. Britain is also missing the Government's own target of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 per cent on 1990 levels by 2010. All the same, these drops have been made possible by the shift from coal-fired power stations to gas in the early 1990s.

Germany, similarly, is almost in line with its Kyoto targets, with an 18 per cent drop in 2003, on its target of 21 per cent. France is down by nearly 2 per cent, ahead of its target of no change. True, many smaller EU countries are not doing so well. But many of the new eastern members show sharp drops well ahead of target, because of the closure of old industries.

Those "achievements" of the EU have made Kyoto an irresistible tool with which to berate others, notably the US. But extending Kyoto would be difficult for the EU too. The EU would be well advised to look more sympathetically on the new proposals coming out of the US, Britain and the conference hosts, Canada. These include "intensity targets" - cuts in emissions per dollar of economic output. They are more attractive than Kyoto to poor countries as well as to the US. So are proposals for rich countries to invest in technology to filter out emissions and to share it with developing countries. Other suggestions include sector targets, which would set emissions standards for some of the biggest industries, such as steel and cars.

Under most of these systems of new, flexible targets, it might still be possible to set up markets in pollution, in which countries or industries could trade the right to release emissions. Any agreement to curb greenhouse gases is worth little if the US, China and India do not sign up. Kyoto failed in that basic requirement. For all the rhetorical mileage which some European countries have found in Kyoto, at the US's expense, their own "success" - such as it is - is due to a quirk of history rather than to self-discipline or the powers of their leaders. That gloating is no basis on which to move forward.


The view from The BBC

The European Union is likely to miss its greenhouse gas targets by a wide margin, according to an official assessment of the Union's environment. The European Environment Agency says that the 15 longest-standing members of the EU are likely to cut emissions to just 2.5% below 1990 levels. This falls well short of their target 8% cut. Growth in the transport sector is partly to blame, with increased air travel offsetting gains made elsewhere.

The European Union is at the heart of the Kyoto process, and is committed to substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. But real performance is poor according to the new report on Europe's environmental health - emissions have in fact been rising since the year 2000. Improvements in industrial efficiency and reductions in methane emissions from waste tips have given the most dramatic gains. But elsewhere the story is one of reverses. Longer car journeys have more than eaten into any gains in engine performance, and ship and airline journeys are also increasing fast.

Environmentalists will be disappointed that the share of renewable sources of electricity has increased by only 0.5% since 1990. Renewables like wind and biomass being seen as the key to any low-carbon economy. On the other hand, the report does include a glimmer of hope - that if measures that have been promised are implemented, the Kyoto target will be more than met. The trouble is that reality and promise don't seem to be matched at the moment.

More on Environmentalists & Peak Oil

Post lifted from The Commons

Many environmentalists have embraced the "peak oil" hypothesis that world oil production has already peaked and will inexorably decline. Many Greens seem to believe that convincing the world that we are running out of oil will spur the adoption of government-mandated conservation and subsidies for alternatuive energy sources. Yet, as Dave Roberts notes, there is no reason to assume that the public reaction to a "peak oil" consensus will be so "green."

Environmentalists seem to have a somewhat naive faith that once the concept of peak oil sinks in, people will move -- as though by the force of tides -- to support renewable, decentralized energy.

But why should that be true? A much more natural, predictable reaction would be to push like mad for more drilling and for more coal gasification. Both more drilling and more coal-to-liquid-fuel production would fit better with our existing infrastructure and practices, however environmentally malign they may be.

The economics of peak oil will scare and motivate people, but there's no particular reason the environmental aspects of it will grip them.

Of course, there is a larger problem: The peak oil hypothesis is still a fringe theory about which there is much dispute. And, even if it were true, the market reaction to impending oil shortages would be far more effective than any government policy the Greens (or anyone else) would think up.


Looking over the record of industrialized countries in controlling their greenhouse-gas emissions is to see cases of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Among the countries judged to be good are Germany and Britain. They're undisputed leaders in showing the way for countries to curb their releases of planet-warming gases. Unfortunately, Canada is listed among the ugly.

In preparation for this week's international climate summit in Montreal, the UN's climate change secretariat has released a report on the progress, or lack thereof, made by the 40 developed countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol. Canada has vowed to cut its emissions by 6 per cent from its 1990 level over the period from 2008 to 2012, but its emissions by the end of 2003 were up 24 per cent. Federal Environment Minister Stephane Dion attributes Canada's rise partly to robust economic growth. The economy has grown by 43 per cent since 1990. Canada is also being saddled with emissions from the booming energy industry, which is exporting record amounts of oil and gas to the United States. Mr. Dion said Canada is committed to meeting its Kyoto target and he predicted it would soon start to show more progress. "At the end of the day in 2012, we'll have far less emissions and also much more economic efficiency," he said.

Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada said some federal officials were so nervous about the optics of Canada's record that they were initially reluctant to agree to act as host to the UN climate conference for fear environmentalists would use it to embarrass Ottawa. "We're just going to give the [non-governmental organizations] a chance to treat us like a pinata right before the world comes to Canada," Ms. May said about the fears of some in the government.

Federal officials dispute Ms. May's account, but nonetheless, it's unlikely that anyone will be mentioning Canada's record at the conference. Conservation activists say they will be pulling their punches to help Mr. Dion work on the most important item at the conference: starting talks on a new climate regime to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. Ms. May said environmentalists will not be "beating up on our government. What we're concerned about is getting real reductions globally before the Western Antarctic ice sheet falls into the ocean."

Other countries are expected to cut Canada slack because it didn't follow the United States and Australia out of Kyoto, and has remained committed to meeting the protocol. At first reading, the UN figures indicate that the industrialized world has made considerable progress in fighting global warming. By the end of 2003, emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases fell an average of 5.9 per cent below their 1990 levels. That is more than Kyoto's requirement for an average cut of 5.2 per cent.

But the report also shows that national performances are all over the map when it comes to controlling planet-warming gases, mostly carbon dioxide and methane, spewed from the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial activities. The report shows that a huge, one-time greenhouse gas reduction occurred after the economic collapse of the former Communist countries. The former East Bloc's emissions fell from 5.7 billion tonnes in 1990 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2003, a stunning drop equivalent to eliminating three times Canada's total annual contribution to warming the planet.

But since the early 1990s, most countries in the East and West have muddled along, making little headway in weaning themselves from their fossil-fuel dependency. Excluding the former East Bloc, emissions among industrialized countries actually rose 9.2 per cent between 1990 and 2003...

One surprise in the figures is that Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto. Mr. Bramley said the United States is "actually ahead of Canada in just about every area" of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states "is far ahead of any province in Canada."

More here


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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