Anticipation Builds for Kyoto Finale

by William Yeatman on December 8, 1997

The mood of the climate conference turned positively euphoric with US lead negotiatior Stu Eisenstats proposal to create a new umbrella group, like the EU “bubble,” within which emissions trading would occur. Included in the group are Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Russia. Under this scheme, Russia would enjoy tremendous wealth transfers. Still, if double-dipping isnt allowed, this disguised foreign aid program for Russia might reduce the odds for still another IMF bailout.

The US apparently seeks an emissions reduction target of 2 percent from 1990 levels, with credit for carbon “sinks” — technical jargon for carbon absoption due to reforestation. The official UN working draft calls for 5 percent cuts in American energy use. And, in case you havent been keeping track, the GHG (greenhouse gas concept) has been steadily expanding from carbon dioxide to a basket of 6 gases ranging from methane to nitrous oxide.

The scientific and economic basis for setting any CO2 policy is very weak; the analysis for the other gases is almost non-existent. Lack of knowledge, of course, has not stopped the bureaucrats from now considering a so-called “three-plus-three” approach. This idea would subject two separate groups of gases to international control. Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide would be regulated at the Kyoto meeting. A separate target will be set for perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and sulfurhexafluoride at future climate conferences.

Developed nations are still desperately seeking a tangible commitment from developing countries that will pass for “meaningful participation” and mollify the US Senate. But the Third World has not yet budged. The issue of “joint implementation” remains unresolved at this late stage.

Gore and the Greens

Yesterdays cryptic, emotional speech by Vice President Al Gore did not pacify the multitudes.

Gores followers seemed genuinely mystified by their one-time saviors nebulous remarks. European Greens vehemently denounced the Vice President as a traitor and a lackey of Big Oil. Greenpeace International called his speech “full of hot air.” The zealots at Friends of the Earth reverently read aloud excerpts of Earth in the Balance, and challenged Gore to re-read the Gospel according to Al.

US-based environmentalists remained somewhat more loyal to their eventual standard bearer in the 2000 presidential elections. The Union of Concerned Scientists praised Gore for demonstrating the “significant leadership we are looking for.” The National Environmental Trust nudged Gore by reminding him of his own 1992 remarks about President Bush’s trip to the Rio Earth Summit. “[This issue] is about far more than hopping on a plane for a quick photo opportunity … and then flying back with a meaningless treaty that has no commitments in it.”

The Greens, like early labor leader Samuel Gompers, have but one answer when asked what they want: “More!” Theyve gained a massive amount since Rio 92 but remained unsatisfied. Their success is indicated by Gores one clear message: the environmental agenda would advance, albeit by baby steps, at Kyoto. “This is the step-by-step approach we took in Montreal ten years ago to address the problem of ozone depletion. And it is working,” Gore told his adoring fans.

Gore is becoming as adroit as Clinton in the fine art of triangulation. He has successfully positioned himself as the “rational” moderate — able to balance off those obstructionist businessmen who would destroy the Earth against the more radical greens.

Conservatives have found no counter to this strategy. There seems no prospect of any agreement compatible with the spirit of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, although some weak rhetorical statement may still be possible. The actions and words of the the Vice President clearly trouble Sen. Chuck Hagel, who comments that the global warming treaty would “for the first time in American history … [give] an international body the authority to limit and regulate our economic growth.” In Hagels opinion, Gore failed to “[convey] the consequences of this treaty to the American people.” All true — but is anyone paying attention?

Gores Gases

Thanks to the Internets DRUDGE REPORT, we now know that Gores airplane burned more than 65,600 gallons of jet fuel, at a cost of more than $131,000, to deliver the Vice President to Kyoto. “Our fundamental challenge now is to find out whether and how we can change the behaviors that are causing [global warming],” lectured Gore on his 19-hour visit. His plane, a Boeing 707, gets terrible gas mileage at 4.1 gallons per mile. Apparently, Al Gore approves of energy use in such vital circumstances.

Clash of the Titans

Contrarians took on the Greens in todays long-awaited global warming policy debate. The title was provocative: Scorched Earth or Scorched Economy? CEIs Fred Smith and CFACTs David Rothbard engaged Friends of the Earths Tony Juniper and World Wide Fund for Nature (UK)s Nick Mabey for an hour and a half before an audience of camera crews, reporters and NGOs. Alas, we contrarians did not convince the environmentalists to remove the gun they hold against the American consumers forehead. Nevertheless, we put forward a strong moral case against adopting the Kyoto treaty. Global warming, even if proven correct, will likely be benign and will certainly be a gradual effect occuring only slowly over the next century. Diminished energy choices and higher fuel prices will impose obscene burdens on the worlds poor – immediately.

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