Try working on Kyoto I before you worry about Kyoto II
The United Nations Climate Change Conference opened in Montreal on December 9th. Sometimes called "Kyoto II", the conference sought to hammer out standards for world greenhouse gas emissions after the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
The Kyoto Protocol, named for the Japanese city where the original conference was held in 1997, sets standards for international greenhouse gas output, in the hopes of combatting global warming. The goal is to set standards for each country, to reduce its emissions by various percentages, from the output levels of 1990. The United Kingdom, for example, agreed to cut greenhouse emissions 12.5% from 1990 levels by the year 2012.
Vice President Al Gore signed the treaty in 1998. However, the US Constitution requires that treaties be ratified by the Senate, so Gore's signature doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Later, the Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel resolution, resolving that the Senate would not ratify any treaty that "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States." The vote was ninety-five in favor, and zero against. Not exactly a nail-biter there.
Aware that the treaty didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being ratified, President Clinton did not submit it to the Senate. To this day, the US remains a signatory to Kyoto, but it is still unratified. In other words, the Kyoto Protocol is not, and never has been, the law of the land.
This seems to be a serious point of confusion for most liberals I talk to. The usual refrain goes something like "Don't you know that Bush withdrew us from Kyoto? No wonder we've got racist hurricanes in this country!" Actually, President Bush did no such thing. The Clinton Administration favored Kyoto, but never managed to get it passed into law. The Bush Administration, though certainly critical of the treaty, has not removed our signature from it. He simply refuses to submit it to the Senate for ratification.
Living in Europe, I've found that the Kyoto Protocol is right up there on the list of American sins that every European seems to have learned by heart. After the Iraq War, Kyoto usually comes in second. Most Europeans I've met have absolutely no idea that their nations are not complying with the Kyoto either.
The European Union ratified the treaty en-bloc in 1997, although the EU at that time was only fifteen nations. Today, the EU consists of twenty-five nations. The old 15-member European Union, as a whole, reduced emissions between 1990 and 2003, but only by a meager 1.4%. They have a lot of work to do, if they plan to reach their goal of 8% by the year 2012. It isn't likely to happen.
Eleven of the fifteen nations are actually reporting emission increases, including Spain (41.7%), Portugal (36.7%), Greece (25.8%), Ireland (25.6%), Finland (21.5%) and Austria (16.5%).
Germany has made impressive progress, having cut emissions by 18.2%. The German goal of a 21% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2012 is probably well within reach. Other nations have managed to cut emissions, but not nearly enough to realistically believe that they can meet their goals by 2012. France cut back 1.9%, and Sweden 2.3%.
Interestinlgy enough, the host nation of the original conference, Japan, is also not meeting its obligations. The Japanese have recorded a 12.8% increase of greenhouse emissions between 1990 and 2003, and will probably have a 12% increase by 2010.
The host nation of "Kyoto II", Canada, home of universal enlightment, and the model society that the United States should emulate, has also failed to meet its target emission levels. Between 1990 and 2003, Canada increased emissions by 24.2%, and the odds that Canada will be able to meet its goal of a 6% reduction by 2012 is a pipedream.
So it was with great irony that Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin told reporters "To the recalcitrant nations, including the United States, I would say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience, and now is the time to listen to it." To Prime Minister Martin, I will act as his conscience and tell him this: Try working on Kyoto I before you worry about Kyoto II. Get Canada on track with its own obligations before you start pointing fingers at your neighbor.
It's often said that "the entire world" supports the Kyoto Protocol. The entire world that is, except that eternally recalcitrant, unilateral, arrogant hyper-power known as the United States of America. Well, that doesn't exactly tell the whole story. Looking at a world map of nations that approved Kyoto, the United States definitely looks lonely. But it's important to note that not every nation on earth agreed to the Protocol. Australia also rejected it, and three other nations have signed it but still have failed to ratify it, despite the fact that the treaty is almost nine years old. Eighteen nations have no position on Kyoto.
Such a rudimentary analysis also leaves out the fact that most third-world nations are excluded from the framework of the treaty. China and India, for example, are the second and sixth largest producers of greenhouse gases. This should come to no surprise to anyone, since just about everything from silverware to soccer balls comes with the words "Made in China" or "Made in India" stamped on them. So, in other words, China and India ratified a treaty that does not apply to them and will require no sacrifice on their part. Well, how big of them. I guess they're really pitching in for a greener environment.
China and India have nothing to lose and everything to gain from Kyoto, so it's no surpise that they gave it their stamp of approval. Becuase it requires nothing on their part, it does them no harm to sign it. And while the West struggles to use cleaner fuels and otherwise handicap their economy, China and India will pick up the slack.
Coal, for example, is a major source of greenhouse gases, and is in wide use in India and China. If the West dramatically reduces it use of coal, the laws of supply and demand suggest that the price of coal will drop. China and India will then be able to purchase coal at reduced prices, and step up production and growth. In the end, the same amount of coal will be burned and the same amount of greenhouse gases will be produced, but it will be in Chinese and Indian factories, rather than in the West. Oh yeah, and they'll have our jobs too.
And then there are the countries, already mentioned, who have signed the treaty, and have actually increased their emissions (Spain, Portugal, Canada, Japan) not to mention the nations that have decreased emissions but not nearly enough to meet their agreed upon 2012 goals (France and Sweden).
As usual, the more enlightened citizens of world refuse to meet the standard that they set for the United States. Our nation is the devil, for the simple fact that we didn't ratify the Kyoto Protocol (or as they like to put it, "Bush removed the United States from the Kyoto!"). This, coming from a hodgepodge of nations who are either not bound by Kyoto, or have signed it but show no indications of actually following it. In other words, making pledge that you have no intention of fulfilling makes them superior to those who refuse to make the pledge at all.
So the "Kyoto II" conference is in full swing, and it appears that the United States is sticking to its guns. It didn't like Kyoto I, and it doesn't look like it will be approving Kyoto II either. Of course, we hear that the whining and righteous indignation of such nations as Canada and Malta. To hear them tell it, there really is no solid reason for the United States to reject the treaty. In their minds, it isn't a very complicated issue involving speculation, economic considerations, and a dispassionate look at scientific theory. You're either pro-environment, or you're some kind of sadistic earth-hater who probably owns stock in Halliburton (Halliburton!) and spends his freetime clubbing baby seals to death. Oh yeah, and you drive an SUV and watch Fox News.
Well, there are plenty of reasons to oppose the Kyoto Protocol. Global Warming is not, despite popular belief, established fact. It may be based on popularly accepted "junk science". But the real reason to oppose the Kyoto Protocol is because it is not what it seems to be. It is not an international pact to save the world from global warming. It's an international pact to reign in the United States and its superpower economy.
Of course the average man on the street here in Europe may not subscribe to that belief. Most, I'm sure, are honestly concerned with global warming. But their leaders and media establishments constantly spout alarmist "Chicken Little" rhetoric about global warming, and European citizens eagerly accept it because of their tendency to blame absolutely everything on the United States. Sometimes I think I could tell Europeans that President Bush eats babies for breakfast, that American scientists developed AIDS as a biological weapon, and that our literacy rate is around 5%, and they would believe me. They would believe it because they want to believe it.
But their leaders probably know better. They know that in the global economic competition, the United States is leaving Europe in its dust. They know that their social and economic policies are hindering their ability to compete in the world market. But they also know that European voters are quite fond of their social protections and comfortable lifestyle, and nothing will make them want to give them up.
Having lived in Germany for quite a while, and having witnessed the elections of 2002 and 2005, I can say that economic issues trump all others on the political landscape. Unemployment in particular, is the
issue in German politics today. Nearly every politician in this country, and all of the mainstream parties, claim to have a plan to reduce unempoyment.
And yes, it is an epedemic. Last winter, German unemployment reached 12.6% Between the years of 1993 and 2000, the German unemployment rate dipped below 9% only once, and then only for a period of a few months. I never dropped below 8%. Other European countries are in a similar predicament.
As Dr. John Hulsman, an economist at the Heritage Foundation writes, "Here's a statistic that makes your hair go white. According to the OECD--which is a pro-European organization--since 1970 in Western Europe, there's been a net private sector job loss...When Europeans tell us that we have a different economic system from them--they assume some moral equivalence--the reality is that their system is not working in a fundamental way."
But if the Europeans are ever going to compete, they might have to make some sacrifices. They might have to give up the six weeks of paid vacation and the three years of unemployment benefits. They might have to forgo striking every time their coffee break doesn't come on time. They might have to graduate from die Uni
and get a job before they turn thirty. In other words, they might actually have to work. It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
But don't expect Europe to do that. Politicians who dare to suggest that the European welfare state might need some trimming have a bad habit of not getting elected.
So they have another tactic. Instead of becoming more competetive, they try to make their competetitors less competetive. Dr. Hulsman writes of this effect, using Ireland as an example although it could just as well be the United States he was talking about. According to Hulsman, Ireland now has a per capita GDP higher than Great Britain for the first time in history. Why? "The Irish have done a couple of things brilliantly. They have one of the lowest corporate taxes in the world, they have a low personal income tax rate, and they have a highly educated workforce...The problem is that harminization in the European Union is never downward, meaning that nobody ever says, 'Let's adopt as a uniform measure Ireland's tax rate.' Rather they say--and the French use the term--'unfair economic advantage', meaning lower taxes. if they agree on concrete uniformities, it's always to the French and German level in an effort, of course, to make their moribund economies competetive by making other states drop their competetive advantages."
That's what Kyoto is about. It's about removing our "unfair economic advantage", under the guise of environmentalism. If it were really about reducing greenhouse gases, you might expect that the number two producer of greenhouse gases, China, would also be in the crosshairs. But they aren't. In fact, they're entirely exempt. If it were really about greenhouse gases, you would expect that signatories to the Protocol might actually make an effort to follow it.
No, its about bringing down the giant. It's about making their economic system work better by making us adopt their failed economic policies. And I'm glad that it didn't work. We did the right thing by rejecting Kyoto I, even if it was unpopular in the world. And I don't see any reason why we should commit ourselvs to Kyoto II, either.