Kyoto argument

From yesterday’s Globe and Mail, comes this excerpt:

Kyoto is not about fighting air pollution or acid rain. It’s about global warming. It’s to counter the growing concentration in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases that trap heat. They’re 60 per cent to 70 per cent water and 25 per cent carbon dioxide. They’re caused, in part, by natural factors, such as the varying intensity of heat from the sun, volcanoes, the shifting of continents and the rising of mountains. And, in part, the concentration of CO2 is increased by human activity, notably the burning of fossil fuel.

If Canada implements Kyoto, will that preserve us from global warming? Hardly. According to Kyoto, only 36 countries — the more developed — were expected to take on legally binding obligations to cut their CO2 emissions. That leaves 155 countries, including China and India, with no such obligation.

Of the 36 targeted countries, Canada’s share of CO2 production is 3.3 per cent. But the United States produces more than 36 per cent of the emissions of the 36 — and prevailing winds carry these emissions northward.

Not only will Canada be the only country in the Western Hemisphere binding itself legally to 30-per-cent reductions of emissions, but most of the other 35 — especially the former Soviet bloc countries — are undertaking commitments more virtual than real because their decline in economic activity since 1990 and their remedying of the most intolerable environmental excesses have already brought them within the required standards.

As Liberal MP Albina Guarnieri said, in what I thought was the best speech during the entire Kyoto debate: “Russia had 35 per cent less emissions in 1998 than it did in 1990. Hence, its target of zero increase actually permits it to increase its emissions by 50 per cent from the day it signed the treaty. The other former Eastern bloc countries are in similar situations. . . . The absurd result is that, when we take Canada, the United States and Australia out of the treaty, the remaining Kyoto participants as a group actually signed on to increase their emissions by 16 per cent over 1998 levels.”

The reality is, if it implements Kyoto, Canada will make no perceptible improvement to global warming while doing harm to its competitiveness and its national unity. And it will help perpetuate the illusion that the world is doing something real about greenhouse gases.

This article does raise some interesting issues that I’d not known. Although I wonder if there is not a provision in the Kyoto accords that does not allow any country to increase their output if their current output is smaller than the 1990 levels. That would seem logical, although, in a capitalist society, the idea of shrinkage is so horrific that this may not even have been imagined.

What I take umbrage with, and this is a common thread across lots of arguments against Kyoto, is the ‘Everyone else is doing it’ argument. Did the author’s parents never ask if they’d jump off a bridge just because everyone else was doing it?

I personally try to not litter, even though I see people littering all the time. These litterers are messing up my city. However, I still hope that the odd person will see me carry that bag an extra block to throw it out, or that bottle just a little further still to recycle it, and will remember that the next time they have something to throw out. So what if Canada is the only Western Nation to sign it? It just reconfirms my opinion that we’re a better country (let’s ignore that we’re signing a watered down version of the protocols, and weaseling out of some of the harshest measures through emission-trading).

Let’s sign the accords. Let’s, in fact, go one step farther and impose tariffs on those nations who don’t. What are these tariffs for? Why to help pay the health costs their production methods are causing us. Because this is a global phenomenon, and no matter where you make, what you spew out will affect us. And you know what? These tariffs might offset the costs involved for Canada to implement the controls (Hmm…how beautifully naïve my idea is. It’s the nice thing about ignorance of details. I can dream up these amazingly simplistic solutions that sound plausible, without worrying of the consequences).