The Kyoto summit had the good and the bad. The good, its purpose. The bad, the implementation. First, the good. Contrary to all those skeptics, one fact remains clear: something is amiss and without any precedent in the last millenium’s history of climate change. Kyoto tried to address that, based on the science that has produced frightening charts like this:
Now, the bad. The Guardian has a good article pointing out the serious flaws in Kyoto’s approach to solving airborne pollutant emissions problems. The Wall Street Journal’s print edition carried a similar front-page treatment of Kyoto’s failings, and the Guardian’s expose re-stresses the same flaws.
Pursuant to the requirements of the 1997 Kyoto climate summit, two global markets for trading emissions credits were set up, both starting work in January 2005, 8 years after the summit. The emissions trading markets were intended to reduce greenhouse emissions by allocating caps of tonnes of permissible greenhouse emissions in the form of permits, or “EU allocations” (EUAs), to each country. These allocations were to limit the tonnes of CO2 that could be produced by a given country between Jan 05 and Dec 07. The countries given these EUAs could then in turn give these EUAs to emitting corporations and organizations, and these organizations would then be able to sell these EUAs, for profit, to other corporations, both foreign and domestic. The purchasing organizations would then be able to use these EUAs to produce more emissions, and the selling organizations, theoretically, would then be restricted from producing that number of EUAs during the 2-year period.
However, the Guardian finds that the markets have produced almost no environmental benefit, but massive incomes for speculators and companies that produce the greenhouse emissions. These are identical to the findings of the Wall Street Journal article released during the past year, citation I don’t have at my fingertips. In short, the UN market allocated 170,000,000 to many EUAs. Because the number of EUAs was so far overestimated, the market also set the price for those too-many EUAs far too high. Many energy companies found they had “millions of tonnes of EUAs that they didn’t need,” and so sold the surplus for great profit, in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. Smaller organizations found themselves allocated far too few EUAs, but since the allocations were overpriced, they were hard-pressed to buy those needed. One example cited by the Guardian article: the University of Manchester spent nearly $200,000 on EUAs — a figure that now, since the overpricing and overdistribution facts have become clear to the market, would cost no more than $1,500.
The bottom line? Between 1997 and 2007, the Kyoto markets have produced, in total, only 50 million tons of emission reductions. As the article points out, Britain produces 50 million tons a month. America produces approximately 5 billion tons of CO2 a year. Kyoto has done, in a word–nothing. This, despite the hype and hand-wringing of zealous advocates, including Al Gore, about the US’ failure to participate in Kyoto. This disingenuity and failure to examine the facts more carefully is to the detriment of Mr. Gore’s reputation–which is a true shame, since all but the most zealous anti-environmentalist crusaders admit that there’s a serious problem, scientifically demonstrable, being caused by our careless disposal of waste product, airborne, effluent, and solid, into the environment.
One of the best, soundly scientific primers on the ins and outs of global climate change is Real Climate.org’s recent posting “Start Here”–a primer of scientific links for beginners, those with intermediate scientific knowledge, and a list of “debunking articles,” much like Snopes.com, which ferrets out the chinks in the contrarian arguments.