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Debate: Kyoto Protocol

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Is the Kyoto Protocol a good treaty to combat global warming? Is it a model for future treaties?

Background and context

The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the international Framework Convention on Climate Change with the objective of reducing Greenhouse gases that cause climate change. It was agreed on 11 December 1997 at the 3rd Conference of the Parties to the treaty when they met in Kyoto, and entered into force on 16 February 2005.

As stated in the treaty itself, The objective of the Kyoto Protocol is to achieve "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."[1]

As of May 2008, 182 parties had ratified the protocol. Of these, 36 developed C.G. countries (plus the EU as a party in its own right) are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels specified for each of them in the treaty (representing over 61.6% of emissions from Annex I countries), with three more countries intending to participate. One hundred thirty-seven (137) developing countries have ratified the protocol, including Brazil, China and India, but have no obligation beyond monitoring and reporting emissions. The United States is the only developed country that has not ratified the treaty and is one of the significant greenhouse gas emitters.[2]

Substantial debate has surrounded the signing and ratification of the treaty, its performance (since 2005), and whether it constitutes a good model for future global climate change treaties. At all stages of the debate, the questions framing the controversy have been similar. They include, whether the Kyoto Protocol is a good model for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Are mandatory emission regulations generally a good idea? Has the Kyoto Protocol succeeded as an empirical matter, since 2005, in reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Were its targets unreasonably ambitious? Or, possibly too insignificant? If Kyoto has done poorly at cutting emissions, is the absence of US involvement in the treaty to blame? Would US involvement have meant success? Can it mean success with a similar model in the future? Is the Kyoto Protocol symbolically important to the fight against global climate change? Is it acceptable that China, India, and other developing countries are exempt from the emission targets of the Kyoto Protocol? Is it acceptable that the Kyoto Protocol is an obligatory treaty or is a voluntary treaty a better idea? Does the Kyoto Protocol violate national sovereignty? Is it generally economical? Are the Kyoto Protocol's regulatory approaches a good idea, or are market approaches superior? Why did the United States reject the Kyoto Treaty? Was it justified? Is global warming man-made, making the Kyoto Protocol relevant/irrelevant? Even if the Kyoto Protocol is flawed, is it a good step in the right direction? Does it establish a good cooperative framework for future climate change treaties? Should future treaties, particularly in 2012 following the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol, be modeled after the general principles of the Kyoto Protocol?

See Wikipedia's article on the Kyoto Protocol for further background

Contents

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Emissions: Does Kyoto effectively help cut emissions and combat global warming?

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Yes

  • Fighting climate change means cutting emissions with Kyoto Protocol Fighting global warming requires that countries move from a path of higher and higher greenhouse gas emissions each year to decreasing their greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol sets in motion this process, so is an essential step in the fight against global warming. As of January 2008, and running through 2012, countries will have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a collective average of 5% below their 1990 levels. This is a significant reversal.
Jeremy Symons, manager of the global warming program at the National Wildlife Federation, said in 2005 to the Washington Post, "You can't solve global warming by increasing emissions. That is what we are doing now. That is what President Bush is doing. You can't stop an environmental problem by increasing pollution."[3]
  • Kyoto Protocol initiates cooperation on climate Stanford University climate scientist Stephen H. Schneider said in support of Kyoto when it was initiated in 2005, "You're going to need two generations of cooperative effort...to get ourselves off the fat carbon diet we're on."[4] The Kyoto Protocol, Schneider indicated, provided a good kick-start to this cooperative effort in fighting global warming.
  • General statements of support for the Kyoto Protocol Reijo Kemppinen, a spokesman for the European Commission, said about Russia's ratification of Kyoto in September of 2004. - "This is a very welcome event. This will increase awareness of the fact that the Kyoto protocol is extremely useful and the more countries that join, the more influence it will have. We hope the U.S. will reconsider."[5]



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No

  • The Kyoto protocol cannot significantly cut emissions without the US Lord May, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government between 1995 and 2000, said in 2005, "The Royal Society has calculated that the 13 per cent rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the United States between 1990 and 2002 is already bigger than the overall cut achieved if all the other parties to the Protocol reach their targets. Even if emissions from the United States stay at the same level until 2012, which is an unrealistically conservative assumption, while the other targets are met, the overall results for the original parties to the Protocol will be a rise in emissions of 1.6 per cent instead of the desired reduction of 5.2 per cent."[6]


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Symbol: Is Kyoto an important symbol in the fight on global warming?

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Yes

  • Kyoto Protocol is important symbol in climate fight The Kyoto Protocol is the most important international environmental and global warming treaty ever created. Joining it, and making it succeed is a very important symbolic measure in the life of this environmental movement. Rejecting it, or letting it fail, damages the long-term viability of this movement.
Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said in February 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol was initiatated, "The greatest value is symbolic."[7]


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No


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"A good first step": Is the Kyoto Protocol "a good first step"?

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Yes

Peter Tabuns. "Kyoto-Lite: It's a Lot Better Than Nothing". Toronto Globe. 24 July 2001 - "There will be some who believe Kyoto is too weak. Their arguments are valid, but they should remember the landmark Montreal protocol on CFCs and the ozone layer. That agreement started out weak but, once the architecture was in place, the protocol quickly adapted itself to keep pace with scientific evidence of the ozone layer's depletion. There is nothing to suggest the Kyoto protocol cannot be similarly strengthened."


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No


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Global warming: Is global warming chiefly man-made, making Kyoto important?

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Yes

  • Global warming is chiefly human-caused, making Kyoto important. Global warming has spiked significantly since the industrial revolution, indicating that, despite some possible natural causes of global warming, it is chiefly caused by human green-house gas emissions. As such, the Kyoto Protocol is a very relevant today in fighting global warming.
  • Even if humans play a smaller role in climate change, Kyoto is still good. Even if humans are not actually the "chief" cause of global warming, there is little dispute that we play some role, due to our emissions of greenhouse gases, which contribute to the warming of the globe. As such, the Kyoto Protocol is an important tool in the fight against human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
  • Kyoto Protocol is important beyond fighting global warming. Reducing carbon emissions is important on many levels, not just on the grounds of fighting global warming. Reducing emissions can help fight air pollution, which is becoming an increasingly significant health risk in major cities around the world. Additionally, petroleum resources are running out. It is essential that we move beyond them to renewable alternatives. The Kyoto Protocol provides a good pretext for cutting carbon emissions and moving to renewable resources. It is important to recognize, therefore, that the Kyoto Protocol benefits the world in critical ways other than fighting climate change.


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No

  • Humans are not causing global warming so Kyoto can't solve it Natural causes are principally responsible for global warming today, making Kyoto irrelevant. Every 100,000 years, a cycle of glacial and inter-glacial periods occur. We are at the peak of the 10,000 year interglacial warming period before the next 100,000 year ice age. Our warming now is part of this cycle. Only planetary interactions between the sun and earth can cause such regular, but lengthy cycle's. This leads to the conclusion that the sun is most responsible. Yet, the Kyoto Protocol bases its carbon-cutting objectives on the assumption that humans are chiefly responsible for global warming; a false assumption.
In 2001, US President Bush rejected ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on the basis of, "the incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change and the lack of commercially available technologies for removing and storing carbon dioxide."[8]
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Exemptions: Is the Kyoto Protocol justified in exempting developing countries?

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Yes

  • India/China can be pressured into joining Kyoto or other treaties Ralph Nader, attorney, author, and political activist, stated in a Mar. 19, 2008 interview with environmental website Grist.org: - "Q: Many argue that the US shouldn't commit to a global greenhouse-gas reduction target that doesn't involve China and India. Do you agree with this? How would you bring them to the table?
[Nader]: You bring them to the table by restricting imports of badly emitting greenhouse-gas technologies. Then you devise an international treaty where you analyze very carefully which countries really need aid in this area, which countries don't need aid, and you proceed accordingly. You have a deliberative process under an international body with a global goal of restricting greenhouse gases and acid rain and other things."[10]


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No

Hillary Clinton said on July 24th, 2007, "One of the flaws of the Kyoto process was I don't think people anticipated, even in the early 90s how quickly China and India would grow. China is now growing at 12 percent a year. They are the second highest user of energy but they are now the highest emitter of green house gases in the world. India is not far behind. We have got to get a new international process."[11]
Charli E. Coon. "Why President Bush Is Right to Abandon the Kyoto Protocol." Heritage Foundation. 11 May 2001. - "any agreement that allows the developing countries to continue emitting greenhouse gases would in effect negate the efforts of those countries that are trying to reduce them."
  • Duncan Hunter, Republican US Congressional House Representative - "Kyoto exempted Communist China and India from limitations. Thus, US industry would be incentivized to move production to these two 'smokestack' countries, thereby increasing pollution-per-product made."[12]
  • Kyoto regulations on developed nations hurts developing nations Hans Martin Seip and Sigbjørn Grønås. "Organized opposition to the Kyoto Protocol". CICERO. 16 Mar. 2005 - "A report from the International Policy Network (IPN) claims that restricting emissions of greenhouse gases in industrialized countries will hinder growth in developing countries. This is used as an argument against international agreements that restrict emissions. The report can be seen as urging Europe to follow the U.S. example in its climate policy."[13]


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Economics: Would Kyoto have a positive economic impact?

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Yes

  • The Kyoto Protocol stimulates new industries "Rudd a green light for eco-businesses". News.com.au. 1 Dec. 2007 - "ECO-lobbyists emitted tonnes of greenhouse gases this week as carbonated wine corks popped following the victory of the 'lower-emission' Labor Party. 'We're still drinking bubbly,' said one pro-renewable energy advocate midweek. The more than 400 businesses operating in the energy efficiency and zero emission industries had despaired for their bottom lines after the Coalition's Kyoto stand-off had stalled economic incentives to cut greenhouse emissions for 11 years."
  • Kyoto does not require we choose between environment and economy Joseph Biden wrote in a 2001 letter to President Bush - "It's a false choice to say we need to favor the economy over the environment. Especially given the progress we've made in developing the technological knowhow to profit from a shift to cleaner energy production. The previous Administration was successful in working with business and environmental groups toward an agreement that protects both American interests and the world environment. The Bush Administration would have been wise to build upon this success."[14]


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No

Charli E. Coon. "Why President Bush Is Right to Abandon the Kyoto Protocol." Heritage Foundation. May 11, 2001. - "Severe Economic Consequences. The Protocol will drastically raise the price of energy, will cause economic hardship to American workers and families, and will place the United States at a competitive disadvantage."
  • Kyoto Protocol employs inefficient government controls Alan Keyes, former Assistant US Secretary of State, stated in a Sep. 16, 2000 article titled "Canning Kyoto." - "It is difficult to know where to begin in listing the evils and dangers of the Kyoto Protocol...[M]assive, inevitably clumsy and arbitrary government intervention to reduce the energy metabolism of the American economy would dramatically reduce -- or even reverse -- our long-term economic growth."
  • Kyoto Protocol conflicts with some international trade agreements. Jinnah, Sikina. "Emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol: NAFTA and WTO concerns." Georgetown International Environmental Law Review. Summer 2003 - "Conflicts may arise between MEAs, such as the Kyoto Protocol, and international trade agreements, such as the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT)/WTO and the NAFTA.4 Member trade obligations under the GATT/ WTO and NAFTA may restrict freedom to participate in the emissions trading system established under the Kyoto Protocol.5 Members to the GATT/WTO and NAFTA are restricted in their ability to place quantitative barriers to trade (such as quotas, sanctions, and taxes) affecting products or services from other member nations. Conflict may emerge because Kyoto Protocol member nations may only account for emission reduction units (ERUs) created in other Kyoto Protocol member nations. Concern arises about the ability of a country that is member both to the GATT/WTO or the NAFTA as well as to the Kyoto Protocol to place trade restrictions on ERUs created in countries that are member to the GATT/ WTO or the NAFTA but not party to the Kyoto Protocol."
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Markets: Does the Kyoto protocol constrain or exploit market forces?

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Yes


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No

  • Kyoto Protocol employs inefficient government controls White House spokeswoman Dana Perino stated in 1997, following the US Senate vote against ratification of the Kyoto Treaty, "The United States continues to believe that the Kyoto Protocol is not in the best interest of the United States, and it's just not the administration but the Congress that does not support it because of the deleterious effects it would have on the economy."[17]
  • Regulating C02 is wrong approach; market investments are better Marco Verweij, senior research fellow at the Max Planck Project Group on Common Goods - "You need to invent the technology and distribute it. You don't need to have every country involved in regulation and measurement. A single company can have a big impact, whereas in Kyoto every country in the world has to create a major bureaucracy to administer the Kyoto standards. and costs."[18]


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Obligatory: Are Kyoto Protocol's obligatory cuts appropriate?

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Yes


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No

  • Any treaty on reducing emissions should be voluntary Daniel Imperato, an Independent candidate and business entrepreneur, issued the following statement through his press secretary, Joseph Oddo, in a Nov. 30, 2007 email to ProCon.org - "We should encourage voluntary citizen participation in carbon emissions and collaborate with the international community on reaching an acceptable protocol. If run by the government, it will get messed up."[19]
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Sovereignty: Is the Kyoto Protocol consistent with national sovereignty?

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Yes

  • Countries must work together under Kyoto to combat global warming Dennis Kucinich, US Representative (D-OH), stated in a June 20, 2007 article titled "Campaign for America's Future: Take Back America 2007" on the Federal News Service: "...[A]s we reduce our carbon footprint, simultaneously we work with the world community. The Kyoto Climate Change Treaty is just the first step. We need to go beyond Kyoto. We need to reach out to the world and reduce our carbon emissions, and we need to have environmental protection to secure our food supplies."[21]


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No

  • Kyoto Protocol violates national sovereignty and controls. Chuck Baldwin, Founder and Minister of the Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL, issued the following statement on Aug. 11, 2008 - "We oppose environmental treaties and conventions such as the Biodiversity Treaty, the Convention on Climate Control, and Agenda 21, which destroy our sovereignty and right to private property."[22]


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United States: Should the United States sign the treaty?

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Yes

  • The Kyoto protocol cannot significantly cut emissions without the US. The Kyoto Protocol has the potential to achieve its objectives for cutting emissions. But, this cannot be achieved without US participation, as the US is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Therefore, the US should join, and enable the Kyoto Protocol to succeed.
  • US has a responsibility to lead on climate change and in Kyoto Joe Biden, US Senator (D-DE), stated in a Mar. 30, 2001 press release - "The President's decision to turn his back on this treaty is a huge setback for the environment and could delay action on global warming for years... The United States has an inescapable responsibility to lead on global environmental challenges. It's wrong to simply walk away from this international agreement."[23]
  • Opposition to Kyoto strains US image in the world Joe Biden, US Senator (D-DE), stated in a Mar. 30, 2001 press release titled - "By declaring he has 'no interest' in the Kyoto treaty, the President has walked away from yet another important environmental commitment...I can't say I'm surprised, but I am disappointed. Many of our allies are upset, and with good reason."[24]


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No

  • The Kyoto protocol would harm the American economy "The Impact of the Kyoto Protocol on U.S. Economic Growth and Projected Budget Surpluses". American Council for Economic Formation. 25 Mar. 1999. - "Macroeconomic Effects of CO2 Emissions Limits Are Significant. A wide range of economic models predict that reducing U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to either 1990 levels or to the Kyoto target (7 percent below 1990 emission levels) would reduce U.S. GDP and slow wage growth significantly, worsen the distribution of income, and reduce growth in living standards. If the United States is not able to take advantage of "where" flexibility (reducing emissions wherever it is cheapest globally) through international emissions trading to meet the Kyoto target, the cost in terms of lost output will range from about 1 percent to over 4 percent of GDP."
  • US population growth increased energy demand; Kyoto is impractical. The United States is different than most European countries in the way that it has substantial population growth relatively. Because growing populations require more energy, the United States has been in a different situation relative to Europe vis-a-vis its ability to constrain carbon emissions in the Kyoto Protocol.


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"Next Kyoto": Should the successor to Kyoto in 2012 be modeled after Kyoto?

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Yes

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No


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Pro/con resources

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Yes


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No

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Organizations pro and con

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Yes


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No



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Pro/con videos

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Yes

"David Suzuki - Kyoto Protocol". Posted March 17th, 2007 on YouTube


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No

"Glenn Beck: The Truth of the Kyoto Protocol". Posted on YouTube. September 21, 2007

See also

External links

Videos

"Listen to the Scientists: Kyoto Protocol & the U.S." Posted January 13, 2007[28]


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