Swimming against the current: some skeptics think Kyoto is a scheme to either slow growth in the world's industrial democracies or to transfer wealth to Third World countries in what they see as global socialism.
Critics don't all deny that global warming is taking place. But, they suggest it is not beyond natural variations, and question the belief that human/ industrial activity are responsible. That leads to skepticism about how large future changes will be, and whether or not we really need to respond to it now. Some believe that restrictive measures on the use of fossil fuels will be more damaging economically than global warming will be.
The Leipzig Declaration on Global Climate Change opposes the notion of global warming and the Kyoto Protocol. The statement was signed by 80 academics and 25 meteorologists who question the science behind the issue. While skeptics applaud the declarations (one at a conference in Leipzig, Germany in 1995, and another in Bonn, Germany in 1997), others think they were nothing more than publicity stunts with no basis in fact. Critics of the declaration also say most of those who signed it are non-scientists or lack credentials in the field of climate research.
In 1997, the declaration called the Kyoto Protocol "dangerously simplistic, quite ineffective, and economically destructive to jobs and standards-of-living." It points out that Earth's climate has been both colder and warmer than it is now and that these changes can be explained by natural events that have nothing to do with human greenhouse gas emissions.
Between 1999 and 2001, another petition opposing the protocol was organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Called the Oregon Petition, it was the third and largest of five efforts to discredit the notion of a scientific consensus on global warming.
The petition urges the United States government to reject the Kyoto Protocol "and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."
To avoid various criticisms made of the two Leipzig Declarations, the Oregon Petition Project took the following steps:
* The petitioners could submit responses only by physical mail, not electronic mail;
* Signatories were asked to list an academic degree; 86 percent did list a degree. They also listed their academic disciplines; 13 percent were trained in physical or environmental sciences (physics, geophysics, climatology, meteorology, oceanography, or environmental science) while 25 percent were trained in chemistry, biology, or other life sciences;
* The Petition Project avoided any funding or association with the energy industries, and had no staff with any such association;
* Signatories' identities and qualifications were checked and as at 2001, more than 90 percent of them were said to have been independently verified.
Nevertheless, the petition still was criticized as misleading because it was said to be full of half truths.
Not all critics of the Kyoto Protocol deny the significance of global warming or that human activity has contributed to it. Some argue that it doesn't go far enough to curb greenhouse emissions. They think the standards are too low to have much effect on curbing or slowing climate change. And, they question the idea of carbon credits and planting forests to reduce carbon dioxide output: they say there is some evidence that it might even increase carbon dioxide emissions for the first 10 years because of the growth pattern of young forests. They shake their heads and maintain that industrial countries using carbon credits as part of their strategy to reduce their net greenhouse gas output is a fruitless exercise.
They also think that even if the world's leading industrial nations do reduce their emissions as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol it will have little effect on worldwide levels: if developed countries cut their demand for fossil fuels to meet the emission reduction responsibilities, they argue, the law of supply and demand will kick in. This would lead to a drop in world prices of coal, oil, and gas, making them more affordable for poorer nations. So, the increased fuel use in developing countries would offset reductions.
In August 2005, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that any strategy to alter climate change, such as the Kyoto Protocol, that did not involve the major polluters would fail.
"A solution that doesn't involve China, that doesn't involve India and that doesn't involve the United States is not a solution at all," Mr Downer told ABC-TV's Insiders program. "You must be practical about this, not just ideological."
The Australian Government recently confirmed its involvement in a U.S.-led Asia-Pacific coalition to tackle climate change. This focuses on technology to make fossil fuels cleaner rather than cutting industry emissions. China, India, South Korea, and Japan are also involved.
The coalition, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, has already come under attack for failing to set targets to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Kyoto opponents also say regulating greenhouse gases isn't enough. There are other global issues that also need to be addressed such as rapid population growth in developing countries.
They put their faith in a technological fix. Such breakthroughs have lifted us out of the glue in the past.
In the 1880s, for example, someone predicted that if the number of horse-drawn vehicles continued to increase at the rate of the previous 20 years, the streets of London, England would be covered in dung to a depth of over a metre. The invention of the automobile solved that problem.
Similarly today, skeptics don't think we need to act now. They believe that future scientific advances or engineering projects will remedy the problem before it becomes serious and for less money. And, besides, they say reducing emissions simply isn't worth the economic costs.
In 2000, Joseph Knollenberg (Republican Representative for Michigan) wrote an article for Environmental Health Perspectives. In it he suggested that the Kyoto Protocol would result in the loss of 2.4 million jobs and reduce the average annual income by nearly $2,700 U.S. But, Dan Lashof, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC, begged to differ. He said these kinds of cost estimates are based on complicated economic models: he says studies that include the benefits of increased energy efficiency and reduced dependency on foreign oil, among other things, show that Kyoto emissions reductions could be achieved while actually increasing employment and saving money for consumers. He cited the World Wildlife Fund's August 1999 report America's Global Warming Solutions, which found that compliance with the Kyoto Protocol entirely through domestic action could create 900,000 new jobs and reduce energy bills by nearly $400 U.S. per household.
1. Richard Siegmund Lindzen is an atmospheric physicist and professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. While he doesn't deny the existence of global warming; he questions the notion that it is caused by human activity. He maintains that: "Picking holes in the IPCC is crucial. The notion that if you're ignorant of something and somebody comes up with a wrong answer, and you have to accept that because you don't have another wrong answer to offer is like faith healing; it's like quackery in medicine--if somebody says you should take jelly beans for cancer and you say that's stupid, and he says, well can you suggest something else and you say, no, does that mean you have to go with jelly beans?" Discuss this view.
2. In her 2002 book, The Silent Takeover (ISBN: 0743234782) (page 184), Noreena Hertz writes: "Exxon Mobil has provided funding for maverick scientists who claim there is insufficient evidence of a human factor in climate change. In 1998, the company donated $10,000 to the science and environmental policy project run by Fred Singer, a highly vocal critic of the global warming theory, and also gave $65,000 to the Atlas economic research foundation, which promotes Singer's work as offering 'a wealth of information, credibility, and encouragement.' Particularly worrying given that George W. (Bush) seemed to use these views to justify his rejection of Kyoto, claiming that the scientific work of global warming was still 'unsettled.' And Bush's regulation czar John Graham solicited $25,000 in funding from Philip Morris (a tobacco company) at the same time as he was overseeing a study that concluded that there were no health risks from secondhand cigarette smoke." Read Ms. Hertz's book and discuss how to solve the problems it presents.
Canadian Opponents to Kyoto Accord--http://www.sustainability.ca/ index.cfm?body=chunkout.cfm&k1=250
The Competitive Enterprise Institute--http://cei.org/ sections/subsection/cfm? section=3
Online article, We can do better than Kyoto--http:// www.enterstageright/com/ archive/articles/ 0902/0902pembina.htm
Opponents who question the computer models used to measure climate change and its future impact, give more weight to data such as paleo-climatic studies (based on the entire history of the earth), temperature measurements made from weather balloons, and satellites which they claim show less warming than surface land and sea records.
However, recent satellite observations show sea ice in the Arctic is melting faster, and air temperatures in the region are rising sharply. According to the observations, melting in 2005 began a record 17 days earlier than usual, with 20 percent less sea ice cover recorded in September than the average end-of-summer ice pack cover measurements recorded since 1978: Average air temperatures across most of the Arctic region from January to August 2005 were as much as three degrees C warmer than normal over the last 50 years, according to the team of researchers from two universities and NASA. The researchers used satellite data from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Defense Department, as well as data from Canadian satellites and weather observatories.
WHEN IS A FACT NOT A FACT?
It doesn't help the opponents of Kyoto when U.S. President George W. Bush's advisers are accused of fiddling with the science behind global warming. In June 2005, The New York limes published an article revealing that a government official watered down reports on global warming. The report supported the view of environmentalists who have long argued that industry has too much influence on American policy on greenhouse-gas restrictions.
According to the article, Philip Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, edited several reports published in 2002 and 2003 to cast doubt on the link between greenhouse gases and global warming. A recent press report described Mr. Cooney as a lawyer with no scientific training, and a former lobbyist for the oil industry who led the American Petroleum Institute's fight against greenhouse-gas limits.
Meanwhile several American states are setting their own goals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
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|Title Annotation:||KYOTO PROTOCOL--CONS|
|Publication:||Canada and the World Backgrounder|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2005|
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