Friday, February 02, 2007

What does it mean to be "anti-Kyoto"?

Olaf says here it's possible to be for positive steps to reduce climate change and still be anti-Kyoto. Mike says maybe, but put up or shut up.

Allow me to dissent here for a minute. Kyoto says absolutely nothing about the methods with which we reduce our emissions, except that it allows Canada to fund clean development outside of our country if we can't meet our goals domestically.

Therefore, there's really almost nothing you could propose as a means to combat climate change that would be "anti-Kyoto", especially when you consider that the Kyoto process is ongoing -- we're already negotiating the second stage.

What being "anti-Kyoto" means, if it means anything at all, is being opposed to the goals of Kyoto, that is in the Canadian context a 6% reduction in our GHG emission below the 1990 baseline by 2012.

We can, if we act now, still achieve the lion's share of that goal in Canada and fund clean development to earn the rest. In fact, if we want to spend our money most wisely, it probably makes sense to single-mindedly focus on reducing Chinese emissions with Canadian money. This would be cheaper, on a $/Tonne of CO2 reduction basis, than spending all the money domestically. It would therefore achieve better returns for the planet and Canadian taxpayers. (The atmosphere is totally indifferent as to who emits a ton of CO2.) AND it's entirely consistent with the Kyoto treaty.

(There is the always-pertinent issue as to whether money spent in China will be spent well in China.)

We should, on development grounds alone, be sponsoring massive technology transfers and subsidies to the third world to make clean development possible. That it's also self-interested of us makes this a no-brainer. So why aren't we doing it?

Well, because the politicians that Olaf would prefer we all vote for have spent the last decade, with great success, screeching about how Kyoto will destroy the Canadian economy and have managed to arrest any progress that could have been made.

(Conservative readers will understand that I'm not defending the Liberal record here. But it's disingenuous to claim that the Reform, Alliance, and Conservative Parties were merely observers through the 1990s. You had an effect, and a profoundly negative one. Live with it.)

Funny thing -- if we'd started a decade ago, we could have gradually transitioned to our objectives without any painful dislocation in the Canadian economy. But because the "pro-business" conservatives succeeded in arresting any progress, the dislocation in the Canadian economy will now be much, much more painful for business. Haw haw.

Finally, there's this little matter of Stephen Harper's grasp of climate science. He seems to have finally accepted the reality of climate change, um, sometime after June of 2006 or so. Some of us have spent more than a decade reading about this stuff, and the basics of climate change science have been understood for more than a century. So pardon me if I don't trust him as far as I hope the Canadian voters throw him.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've heard numerous comments from all those 100's of scientists from all over the world gathered in Paris. However, not a single one has mentioned that "sacred" word Kyoto. Why? Because they know that it's a political word and not an environmental word. It's a word used by Liberals and Dippers to further their political cause.

Paladiea said...

I disagree anonymous. The scientists didn't discuss Kyoto because they were talking about the causes of climate change, not how to combat it.

Anyhow, I agree with the premise of the main post. Well said.

Mike said...

Well put John. Link coming up.

Olaf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Olaf said...

John,

What being "anti-Kyoto" means, if it means anything at all, is being opposed to the goals of Kyoto, that is in the Canadian context a 6% reduction in our GHG emission below the 1990 baseline by 2012.

Absolutely not. One can agree with the goals of Kyoto (which I do), without agreeing to send billions of dollars to Russia if we don't meet our targets, as Kyoto mandates. The goals of Kyoto and the process are two very different things.

Well, because the politicians that Olaf would prefer we all vote for have spent the last decade, with great success, screeching about how Kyoto will destroy the Canadian economy and have managed to arrest any progress that could have been made.

This was not my point AT ALL, far from it. I think that Kyoto was a convenient excuse for the Liberals to do nothing. It was a way to say "look, we signed Kyoto, we like the environment, even if we do nothing".

Now, if Canada was anywhere close to being within reach of our targets right now, I'd likely be in support of it. But since we're not, this blind adherence and over the top Kyoto rhetoric spewed by Dion and Layton is purely for political purposes, and is meant to embarrass the Conservatives, in lieu of pushing actual progress.

Dion doesn't have to be constructive or push the government for action, because he has Kyoto on his side, so he can try to embarrass the government through Kyoto motions, stall the committee process, wear green lapel ribbons, and let that be that.

My argument is that Kyoto has in the past, and has the potential in the future, to hold back progress, because Kyoto's a symbol which can be easily used to pacify those who "want something done" but don't want their lifestyle to change an iota.

So, in conclusion, one can disagree with the process of Kyoto (which I do), and the political ramifications of Kyoto in this country (which I do), and still agree with the goals of Kyoto (which I do).

I swear no one actually reads my posts, and just figure that because they're anti-Kyoto, well, you know the rest.

Jeremy Kirouac said...

Harper was talking about "so-called greenhouse gases" only two months ago. His conversion is purely superficial. His government wants to meet Kyoto targets through voluntary agreements with industry. At the same time, he wants the tar sands to expand by 5 times over the next few years. What a disgrace.


Olaf, you really do seem to buy into partisan hackery. You like the idea that Kyoto means sending billions of dollars to Russia, don't you? You really want to believe in that idea. The problem is, it's simply dead wrong.

For a start, we have a choice about how we are going to meet our targets. It's up to us. We aren't in any way forced to send billions of dollars to Russia.

But of course, you only want to speak to the partisan line, don't you?

Olaf said...

Jeremy,

Anyone who reads my blog on occasion knows I don't stick to a party line, even if I do prefer a Conservative government giving the options. As usual, you don't know what you're talking about. Perhaps it's your shtick, I don't know.

The point is, if we don't meet our reduction targets (which I'm quite sure, we won't), the only way to stay within the protocol is to buy credits, most likely from Russia. I see no inherent benefit to the environment in this option, and indeed, a detriment in taking money away from Canada which could have been invested towards reducing our GHG emissions.

Now, if you want to make the argument that we will meet our targets (and, as an obvious preemtive strike, saying that we probably won't because Harper screwed everything up doesn't change the fact that we won't meet the targets), or that we can both not meet our targets, and not buy emission credits, while at the same time being an adherent to Kyoto, go ahead. I'm all ears.

Otherwise, you can continue to blather about how Dion saved the planet.

Paul VIncent said...

If being anti-Kyoto means I'm against the goals of Kyoto than I guess I'm just against Kyoto. Scientists at Kyoto came up with a total emissions levels they felt the world would have to cut by 2012 to slow climate change. They took that number and split it in half. Without America, India or China on the agreement it is meaningless.

Scientists at the conference believed that nothing could be done to slow down climate change.

Olaf said...

Sorry,

Quick mea culpa regarding the only ways to stay within the Kyoto protocol. And I even praised the NDP to boot. My world is crashing down around me.

Saskboy said...

One danger I see in sending China technology to combat pollution, is that they may have a better solution than we can offer. While we might send them the plans for a Smart car, what they might really need is a pile of bicycles and civic engineers to improve traffic/pedestrian flow. I think we have a lot of hammers in Canada, so everything looks like a nail.

john said...

Everybody,

Thanks for the comments.

Olaf,

I don't think that Kyoto "mandates" we shovel money to Russia, though there is of course a powerful incentive to do so. We can still choose to do so responsibly.

I don't see why sending money overseas would be a bad thing if it actually leads to fewer CO2 molecules in the air.

Olaf said...

John

I don't think that Kyoto "mandates" we shovel money to Russia, though there is of course a powerful incentive to do so. We can still choose to do so responsibly.

I don't see why sending money overseas would be a bad thing if it actually leads to fewer CO2 molecules in the air.


Well that's the thing, I was under the impression that we would have to buy credits, but apparently we can just help developing nations reduce their emissions through some sort of CDM. I'm still learning about it, and I agree that at least its consistent with an environmental goal (which just buying credits would not be).

So for now, ignore that argument and just deal with the rest of my opposition, which I assure you are absolutely air tight... well, water tight... perhaps jello tight

Gar W. Lipow said...

I certainly don't oppose Kyoto. But I hate the idea of Canada (or the U.S. if we had ratified) buying credits from abroad rather than meeting the goals itself.


What is wrong with this? Look at the politics. You are China, and Canada comes financing projects to cut emisisons. But Canada is doing this to avoid cutting emissions itself.

So China may accept the help (why turn down money?). But from their point of view, this will be a rich nation saying to them, "you who emit less than one fifth the greenhouse gases we do per capita, have we got a deal for you. We will pay you to cut your emissions, and for every bit of reduction you make, we will skip reducing ourselves. Even though we rich nations are the ones who have put most of the additional CO2 into the atmosphere; even though we still put a lot more into the atmosphere per person that you do, you must cut so that we don't have to."

The ultimate deal that is going to have to be made is that both rich and poor nations need to cut emissions, but that the rich nations will have to pay for both their own cuts, and those made by the poor. Having a system where rich nations can delay making a cut for bit of reduction a poor nation makes is nuts. And it also convinces the poor nations that the rich nations are not serious about stopping global warming (about which I suspect they are right). So paying China or South African or Mexico or whoever to cut emissions for us, politically actually delays solving global warming.

john said...

Gar: Boy, I try and make an effort never to be on the wrong side of you on these issues...

I agree with your objections on the politics of it. When I raised the "all-China" plan, it was as a theoretical ideal, I wouldn't ever (for example) vote for a politician who proposed such an idea. But the facts remain that there's a lot more "low-hanging fruit" in China than there is in Canada.

Of course, we should pick our own orchards first.

Gar Lipow said...

>Boy, I try and make an effort never to be on the wrong side of you on these issues...

Well, you have to decide for yourself who is on the wrong side here.

Like you I'm using China as shorthand. But it applies no matter what country you talk about. There is a lot of low hanging fruit in poor nations. But if we use picking it as excuses to let our own rot on the vine, it is neither good politics nor good policy.

International emissions trading to was always (to my mind) the fatal flaw in Kyoto. Nor was originally the intention. It was rammed through by the U.S. It is not excuse for opposing Kyoto, because nothing in the Kyoto treaty prohibits a nation from cutting its own emissions rather than buying those of another nation.

Incidentally the argument that Canada (or any nation) has to buy third party emission because it is so far behind it can't cut is own in time does not wash. Buying emission cuts elsewhere may be cheaper, but legitimate reductions (as opposed to accounting games which many carbon credits represent) take just as much time in poor nations as in rich ones.

It isn't a question of who goes first. We need to do both at the same time.

I've been in a kerfuffle with Adam Stein (owner of Terra Pass) over on Gristmill. Don't know if you have followed it at all.

My latest on this there is is:

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/2/2/153810/3369

Gar Lipow said...

OK, that link got cut off for some reason. I'm going to list it as my web page even though it is only a single post on carbon trading.