Straight Talk
Kyoto backers full of hot air

John Robson says supporters of the Kyoto Accord such as Al Gore often seem to act like they care more about the Kyoto process than the environment.

Credits: Chris Procaylo/QMI Agency

JOHN ROBSON | PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU

The devotion of right-thinking persons to the Kyoto Protocol is not just puzzling. It is proof they are not serious. If they were, they would be even more fed up than we so-called "deniers" over the failure of Kyoto, and its 17 fancy follow-up conferences, to do anything important to stop climate change.

Obviously supporters such as Jean Chretien and Bill Clinton were cynics, signing the accord for domestic political gain without having or wanting a plan to meet its targets. Indeed, Clinton never even asked for U.S. Senate ratification, let alone pushed for it. But what can explain the devotion of true believers to this worthless process?

Yes, worthless. The broad facts of Kyoto are these.

1. It committed advanced industrial ("Annex I") countries to reduce emissions of three so-called "greenhouse gases" or GHGs - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide - by, on average, 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2008-12. It also agreed to reduce three industrial gases - sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons - by the same amount by 2008-12 below either 1990 or 1995 levels. (Four East Bloc countries ended up using slightly different base years.) Canada's 6% pledge was fairly typical.

2. Even if Annex I countries had met their Kyoto targets, it would not materially have affected the growth of man-made GHGs because of the rapid growth of the economies - and emissions - of countries not pledged to Kyoto reductions. Nor would it have affected the big picture balance because humans account for less than 5% of nature's output of CO2 each year (though more of the other gases) and, anyway, Kyoto ignores the main "greenhouse gas," which is water vapour.

3. Most signatories made no genuine effort to hit their targets. Some did it anyway by collapsing economically: The so-called "Annex I Economies in Transition," basically the old East Bloc, cut emissions 35% by 2005 by shutting down hideously obsolete and dirty Soviet-style heavy industry. And three "Annex I non-Economies in Transition" did it more or less incidentally, by persisting in a decades-old resolute move to nuclear power, such as in France. Or by liberalizing energy markets that led to less coal and more natural gas and nuclear power, as in Britain's case. Or, as Germany did, reuniting with a sickly Communist twin and closing its Soviet-era gunk factories. But even Europe's partial success masks the growing import of GHG-intensive goods from non-Annex I nations, most notably China (the world's top GHG emitter by 2005).

4. Kyoto is expiring anyway.

So it didn't work. And couldn't. Indeed, in 2006 global warming alarmist profiteer Al Gore said "Hell, no" to the question whether they thought it would work back in 1997. The point, he said, was to prove you could get international support for action on climate issues. But why, if it's action that can't possibly succeed?

Gore famously maintains two huge luxury houses while telling us all to reduce our carbon footprint. But the major charge of hypocrisy against climate alarmists is not personal failings such as mansions or flying to Durban while trailing fumes. It's that they do not act as though they really believed the claims that make them important planet-saving tax-funded jet-setters. They act as if they cared far more about the Kyoto process than the environment.

Obviously, there is no point signing a treaty to regulate natural emissions of CO2, methane or for that matter sulphur hexafluoride.

But if man really is setting the sky on fire and must stop or we will destroy civilization as we know it, the last thing activists should do is cling to a treaty that neither prevented man-made GHG emissions from rising in practice nor could have prevented it in theory.

They should be demanding a new, far sterner document, imposing more meaningful reductions on far more countries with real sanctions, at any cost.

Negotiating such a thing would be difficult, of course. Though it would be a breeze compared to enforcing it. But if your house is on fire, you must somehow get a fire truck to hose it down no matter how lousy your roads, your government services or your water supply.

Mounting a shrill defence of the futile Kyoto process instead proves the activists are sanctimonious rather than result-oriented. Which tells you all you need to know about their advice.

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