Opinions on Kyoto?

bry84February 18, 2005

Well, if you've all been following the news then you must have noticed that the Kyoto Treaty has gone ahead and 141 countries have signed it.

I was curious what other people made of it? The general opinions of people I talk to vary massively, and not allways in ways you might expect. Although my group of friends and people I know is not huge, I've noticed that the most criticism is coming from the more environmentally aware people.

I consider myself quite environmentally aware, and I'm also sceptical. I'm not writing this post just to say about my own opinion, but I suppose should say what I think as I'm asking everyone else. My reservations are numerous, but one of the main ones is that the deadlines are very soon. I know, climate change (assuming our current belief in it is accurate) is not waiting for anyone, but if large numbers of country's don't meet the deadlines then it's simply not going to work. I'm convinced a number of those 141 will fail, but in the worst situation that number may even exceed the number that succeed. I also believe that it is less focused on 'climate change' and more on 'climate change caused by carbon dioxide'. If climate change is being affected by humans as we believe then it's a multi-angled issue with many causes. Reductions of CO2 are good, but they could be easily negated entirely by mass deforestation, or other gases with global warming potential being released. Also, they have made no distinction between CO2 from fossil fuels and CO2 from renewable sources such as wood, as despite it technically being the exact same thing, CO2 from non-fossil fuel resources is from this carbon cycle and has almost no global warming potential. Swapping some of our coal power plants for wood fired ones and encouraging the use of wood burning in homes is a positive move, but the Kyoto rules make it unlikely to become popular. I also strongly believe that many of those 141 countries will meet their Kyoto obligations by simply building a large number of nuclear stations in a hurry, it is perhaps the only way they can acheive the results in this time span. Nuclear may not release CO2, in fact it may even be a good move at this time, but swapping CO2 for nuclear waste is not ideal.

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I have not studied the Kyoto treaty so all I know about it is what I've read in the papers or seen on the news. What is the point of exempting China from the protocols? As a country, they consume as much as the US in everything except oil (and they are close behind there) and cars. Sure, per capita is lower, but that is catching up.

Also, I tend to believe that human impact on the environment is a mere shadow of what the earth itself can do, excepting nuclear. Pinatubo dropped global temps by a couple degrees C and that other volcano caused the year without a summer in the early 1800's. Wait until the Yellowstone caldera goes critical!!!

Not that we shouldn't do something, but the Kyoto thing is flawed at best.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2005 at 11:21AM
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China is developing at an amazing rate, and so is their energy use. It's also the same story in India, and many other places in the developing world. It does seem wrong that Kyoto has entirely missed them, surely we should be encouraging them towards sustainable development and energy Independence? Their current energy policy is just plain misguided, they're fast emulating the developed world and building a fossil fuel based infrastructure worth billions. Right now China is building over 500 coal power plants, and yet China has little coal production of their own, these plants will be fuelled with imported coal. Their sudden rush of growth and wealth may collapse due to energy prices in the future. More disturbingly yet, their growth will probably be the reason coal, gas and oil run out in the future. I read yesterday that in China they currently consume the equivalent energy of a 40watt light bulb each year, per person. This is fast changing however, the fact they're constructing over 500 coal power plants at this time shows the rate of change. In fact, they're expanding the power supplies fast and still there isn't enough to go around. Blackouts are very common. Companies in Shanghai are being forced to open their offices and factories overnight as there isn't enough electric during the day. The Chinese Government are actually trying to slow down development for fear it will spiral out of control and break down the economy. The hidden issue behind this is that the development is as capitalistic as it comes, simply because it's all based on whatever energy is cheap and convenient at the time. Coal, oil, gas, and billions of tons, liters and cubic foot of it just to feed the industrialisation. There has been no consideration for what radically increasing prices or dwindling reserves will do, nor the environment. Their development is allready starting to inflate world energy prices, and it's going to get worse.

Pretty much all the major car makers, such as General Motors and Volkswagen have started to cash in on China. Doubling, even tripling production and investing billions. They're confident they can emulate the car sales and ownership levels found in places like America, even though traditionally car ownership in China has been very low. But, with lots of new foreign money the suddenly wealthy Chinese are spending in vast numbers on everything modern and associated with wealthy nations, and what is more a symbol of western wealth than the over-sized fuel guzzling luxury car? Statistically there's a good chance that their 1.5 billion population could own around quarter to half a billion cars in a few decades, they're expanding the production capacity to 14 million cars a year right now. The fact that we are allready starting to see signs of the major oil fields drying up and new reserves hardly being found hasn't dampened their development, after all as long as they'll buy it for the next few decades then the companies are going to sell as many cars as possible and pump as much oil as possible until the market drains itself (and the rest of the world) dry.

Curbing carbon dioxide in the developed nations seems trifling when you consider the environmental and economic consequences of letting the developing world contine to develop unsustainable levels of consumption and pollution. No doubt, here in Europe as the Kyoto treaty comes closer we'll be switching off perhaps a dozen or two coal plants to 'reduce' global warming - at the same time China is firing up 500+ brand new coal power plants. The Kyoto treaty argues that developing nations cannot afford the financial strain of their targets. But, the eventual long term costs of this development are going to be simply vast, and the whole world will pay for it.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2005 at 3:45PM
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Unfortunately, the Kyoto treaty is political, not environmental; it's purpose is not to save the Earth, but to stop developed, first-world countries. I HAVE read the entire treaty; to it's fullest extent, there will be more greenhouse gases when there were before. Please....read it.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2005 at 7:37PM
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An ad for piston rings or oil filter years ago had a big bruiser looking at us and saying "Pay me now - or pay me later", the point being that if one doesn't take a necessary small action in the short term - there'll be a very large fee that'll be required, later.

We've run up huge government debt, including ongoing annual deficits in recent years - that our kids and grandkids'll be stuck with paying off.

We oldsters have eaten more than we contributed to the pension system, and the boomers are about to deplete it even further - eating up our kids' ongoing contributions, so there'll be little left for them.

We're busy covering over much of our best farmland with cities so where will they find enough productive farmland to grow sufficient food to feed the people in a hundred years (if not before).

We're polluting our land and water, as well as the atmosphere.

We're busy fishing out our oceans, until in many areas there are only a few fish left.

Our grandkids will wonder what was wrong with our supposedly wise brains.

It's high time that we get serious about taking care of our environment.

Too bad the oil men running the U.S. don't seem to agree.

Have a great weekend, all.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   February 19, 2005 at 7:53PM
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Actually, I don't agree; you talk about polluting, yet truly, we in the first world are MUCH cleaner than we were two decades ago, when lakes literally caught on fire because of the pollution. Even our cheapest cars are safer, take less energy to produce and run, and pollute far, far less than those of just a decade ago. I don't mind discusssing these topics, or realizing and working toward sustainable enterprises, but not at the expense of blindly following sweeping, and untrue generalizations, Guy.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 6:42PM
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I am with Jason and believe the Treaty to be political and see it more as a ploy to allow undeveloped nations to grow at the expense of the big bad developed nations. It is very politically correct to bash the US and the rest of the developed nations for our rates of consumption and polluting ways. And somehow we are now to blame for changes in an environment we have been studying for really only about 100 years.

About 30 years ago we were hearing dire warnings of a new ice age. That's a pretty quick turnaround from ice age to global warming. And with politics it's hard to really trust science as it tends to be less and less objective and more and more skewed according to the predisposition of a particular study's members. We can and should look for improvements in our uses of natural resources but not as laid out in the Kyoto Treaty. I applaud the US for not joining in with the rest of the self-hating nations who somehow believe success and better quality of life equates to being the big bad wolf. And don't get me started about who pollutes more (or worse) after what I saw during 5-1/2 years of assignments throughout Asia.

By the way -- the pay me later commercials were for Fram auto products.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2005 at 7:56PM
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