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Kyoto Protocol

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Glaciers melting, more than a million square miles of perennial sea ice the size of Denmark, Sweden and Norway taken together has disappeared and the Arctic could be ice- free in 2040 resulting to rising sea level and submerging tiny islands in the Pacific. These are the scenario being depicted by nrdc.org related to global warming (Consequence: melting glaciers, early ice thaw). The nrdc.org further said that at the current rate glaciers are melting, the Glacier National Park will just be a dream by 2070. This is a tangible proof that really, the world’s temperature is rising. The latest scientific data as reported by nrdc.org confirm that earth’s climate is heating at unprecedented rate. ”Global temperatures increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the course of the last century, and will likely rise even more rapidly in coming decades. The cause? A thickening layer of carbon dioxide pollution and other greenhouse gases, mostly from power plants and automobiles, which traps heat in the atmosphere” ( nrdc.org. Consequences of Global Warming, 1st par.).

The nrdc.org and Eilferin, J. of Washington Post warned that according to scientists, the earth could be warmer by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the 21st century if the CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels will not be reduced. This rise in temperature has far reaching implications. Sea level will raise thus flooding coastal areas and affecting the lives of the people. More intense heat waves will just always be around the corner. Droughts and forest fires will be more frequent affecting agriculture and human dwellings. Moreover, disease carrying insects like mosquitoes will be more active infecting millions of people. The foregoing scenarios rose concern of the United Nations to meet with developed and developing nations of the globe to forge agreements on measures to combat this global warming before it will be too late, thus Kyoto Protocol came into existence. This paper aims to analyze the agreements made in the Kyoto Protocol in the light of socio-economic benefits the countries could gain against cost considerations.

2 Question: What is the History of Kyoto Protocol? Why is Kyoto Protocol Needed? The Answers: Member countries of the United Nations actively tackle the issues related to global environment problems when they fist meet at the UN Conference on Human Environment in 1972 at Stockholm Sweden (History, The Kyoto Protocol, 1st par.). The conference addressed the regional pollution and problems of acid rain in Northern Europe and attended by 113 countries. The Forum realized the need for a common approach and principle to guide the world in the preservation and welfare of the human environment (1972: The Beginning…). The next U.N. Conference was termed as “Earth Summit” ( History, 3rd par, 1st line) and was held at Rio De Janeiro in 1992. The forum resulted to Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, an action plan for the member countries, UN organization and Major Groups related to negative impacts of human activities on the environment. The Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and Biological Diversity of the UN were established and signed by 154 countries. The FCCC require UN country members to consider stabilizing the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases while ensuring food production and economic development.

Furthermore, the History stated that developed countries should lead the initiative in reducing atmospheric gases since they are the biggest polluters. In addition, the History further stated that no specific atmospheric greenhouse gases reduction figure, time frame and penalties for violators were agreed. After the Stockholm forum, two COP meetings were held in Berlin and Geneva and on the third COP meeting held in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, the UN member countries prepared the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is needed as it holds the key on the concrete plans and commitments of member countries on their contribution to reduce the atmospheric greenhouse gases responsible for the world’s biggest problem on hand and that is abating global warming. 3 Question: Do you agree with the cost/benefit study of Canada’s participation in the Kyoto Protocol? The Answers: Cost/benefit study of Canada’s participation in Kyoto Protocol is an important consideration due to the fact that it will help the country decide if they will invest in their commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. The MacLean’s Magazine in their article entitled Kyoto Protocol Shortcomings revealed the socio-economic impact of the agreement through a group of environmental economists.

One of them was a Danish named Bjorn Lomborg, architect of Copenhagen Consensus project. “Lomborg and others have crunched the numbers on climate change, and say the preoccupation with carbon dioxide emissions may be leading the world down a dangerous path. Global warming is real and it is a problem, Lomborg says. But the central problem of the Kyoto Protocol is that it will achieve very little at a very high cost “ ( Kyoto Protocol shortcomings, 2nd par.). This finding is supported by Prof. Robert Mendelsohn of Yale University, one of the most respected critics of the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol shortcoming further stated that Mendelsohn’s research revealed that for every ton of CO2 released, the cost of damage to the environment is about US$5. Canada agreed to a 6% reduction of its carbon emission below the 1990 level in 2010 and this is about 270 to 300 megatonnes. The Canadian government projected that based from the target, they will spend up to $10 billion to reduce emission to 240 megatonnes which is equivalent to a cost of $41.66 per tonne. This cost is eight times the amount that according to Mendelsohn’s study is justifiable.

This figure still exclude the expenditures that Canadian companies have to shell out in terms of opportunity losses from curtailing growth to meet Canada’s commitment to the protocol. The Protocol shortcomings also revealed that Canada emits less than 2% of total global emission, therefore, reducing to 6% as committed is theoretically unjustifiable and proven economically unsound. 4 Question: Why U.S. A. should or should not join the Kyoto Protocol? The Answer: It is an accepted fact that U.S. is the most influential nation in the world. Many countries praise the U.S. for its success in leading the world both economically and politically.

Knowing the reasons of this country not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol will contribute wisdom in deciding whether one’s country should join the bandwagon or not. The U.S. is responsible for about a quarter of global atmospheric CO2 emission (Buckley, 3rd par.) and yet it is hesitant to consider the Kyoto Protocol. The reason is “The USA does not trust scientific conclusions of the Kyoto Protocol ideologists” (China and India outlaw Kyoto Protocol…., 1st par., 1st line). Moreover, according to Dulgar, J., columnist of influential Daily Nexus, the U.S. doesn’t like the fact that “The treaty would only have required specific countries to reduce their emissions, leaving out developing nations such as China and India. For the United States, it is important that a developing nation such as China, which is experiencing immense growth, be dealt the same economic drawbacks that the protocol would impose on already developed nations” (4th par, 3rd line).

This is also supported by same sentiment by Antonelli and Schaffer. The columnist added that Kyoto Protocol doesn’t maintain an equal trade playing field thus favoring the developing nations. Another reason and may be considered as the real reason of U.S. not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is the data that they got from Global Positioning System (GPS) which disprove greenhouse gases as cause of global warming. “The fall in sea levels that they have detected clearly indicate that sea levels fall faster than any rise due to global warming (because the earth is expanding). The United States knows that our seas are receding and that Global warming is caused by the Earth own internal heat, which is increasing” (Guy, R. The Kyoto Protocol … 4th par.). The U.S. just maintain other economic reasons for not ratifying the Protocol. 5 Question: Is Kyoto Protocol too soft or too harsh on China and India? What is emission permit system? Is emission permit system workable to adhere to Kyoto Protocol? Answer: Kyoto Protocol’s treatment of China and India is an important consideration in as much as they also contribute to Global warming.

Excluding China and India from submitting greenhouse emission reduction target while requiring other developing countries to submit is too soft an approach by the Kyoto Protocol. This soft stance will result to inequality in the trade playing field and is one of the reasons of the U.S. shying away from the Kyoto Protocol.( Kyoto Protocol comes into force, BBC News). Emission permit system should be understood well as this is one of the ways by which a developed country can extend over their emission cap and maximize the greenhouse emitting gases activities to increase the production and gross national product. “In order to incorporate the developing nations in the Kyoto Protocol, the Clinton Administration pushed for the inclusion of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Under the CDM, nations in the developed world would be subject to caps on greenhouse gas emissions while developing nations would not” ( Baker and Barret, 2nd par.). If a developing nation successfully lowered its emission rate, that nation can offer an emission permit for sale to a developed country who wants to exceed its emission cap. The developing country will do activities like establishing wide tree plantations which absorb atmospheric CO2, slow down in coal fired plants and use of fossil fuels in exchange for a fee.

The emission permit system can adhere with Kyoto Protocol as it offer opportunities to developing nations to acquire needed funds for its own development while ensuring reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and help check global warming. 6 Question: What can we do beyond Kyoto Protocol? Answer: Kyoto Protocol’s aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emission to the atmosphere by an average of 5.6 % from 1990 level (History). The History further said that the Protocol took effect February 2005 and will last 2012. Since 2005, a lot of activities in different countries geared on abating global warming was undertaken with considerable success. “In China and India, infrastructure necessary to substitute natural gas for coal is already being put in place. And in many of the oil- producing regions of the world, the spread of international technology is making it possible to capture and reinject the natural gas that is often associated with oil, rather than venting or flaring it into the atmosphere.”(Brown, J., Developing Solutions, 3rd par.). Kyoto Protocol is just the start of the solution to a pressing global problem.

Successes are being achieved by determined nations and more will be coming till 2012. We should start implementing our own little way of carbon dioxide emission reduction that will collectively make a difference down 2012 and beyond. The private sector is well informed of global warming and their efforts to improve fossil fuel efficiency and develop cost- effective alternative sources of energy will be a booming business. Governments must create incentive, improve scientific efforts and forge international cooperation to harness the business potential not only until 2012 but also beyond. Kyoto Protocol is based on novel and creative ideas on mitigating the global warming. Not all countries is in line with the protocol and we have documented that a separate group headed by the U.S. is forging their own way on abating global warming. The result will also be the same as what the Kyoto Protocol embraces. If there are more cost-effective ways of doing it, then let it be done. The most important achievement of the Kyoto Protocol is the global awareness that something must be done. Kyoto Protocol is surely our first step to save our own Mother Earth.

Works Cited

Antonelli, A and Schaefer, B. “Why the Kyoto Signing Signals Disregard for Congress”. 23 November 1998. Executive Memorandum #559.The Heritage Foundation. 27 November 2007 < http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/em559.cfm > Brown, J. “Beyond Kyoto”. July/August 2004. Foreign Affairs. 27 November 2007 < http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040701faessay83404/john-browne/beyond-kyoto.html Buckley, L. “ Carbon Emission Reach Record High”. 2004 Earth Policy Institute. 27 November 2007 < http://www.earh.policy.org/Indicator/CO2/2004.htm > Dulgar, J. “Ratifying Kyoto Protocol Promises Damage U.S. Economy”. 27 June 2007. Daily Nexus. 138:87. 27 November 2007 < http://www.dailynexus.com/article.php?a=14380 > Eilperin, J. “World Temperatures Keep Rising with a Hot 2005. The Washington Post. 13 October 2005:A01. 26 November 2007 < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2005/10/12/AR2005101202498.html > Guy, R. “The Kyoto Protocol What Does America Know the Real Reason Behind the U.S. Refusal to Ratify the Treaty. 31 August 2006. E-Wire. 27 November 2007 < http://www.ewire.com/display.cfm/Wire_ID/3269 > “History”. The Kyoto Protocol. 26 November 2007 < http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~danov20d/site/history.htm > “Kyoto Protocol Comes into Force”. 16 February 2005. BBC News. 27 November 2007 < http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4267245.stm > Maich, S. “The Kyoto Protocol’s Shortcomings”. 5 December 2005. The MacLean’s Magazine. 26 November 2007 <http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params =M1ARTM0012867> Nrdc.org. 21 September 2007. “ Consequences of Global Warming”. Issues: Global Warming. 26 November 2007 < http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/fcons.asp > “USA, China and India outlaw Kyoto Protocol and set forth new climate change initiative”. 27 July 2005. Pravda.Ru. 27 November 2007 < http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/29- 07-2005/8653-kyoto-0 “1972: The Beginning- The Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment”. 18 July 2003. Heindrich Böll Foundation, Johannesburg. 26 November 2007 < http://www.worldsummit2002.org/index.htm?http://www.worldsummit2002.org/- guide/stockholm.htm > 7 Executive Memorandum #559. 23 November 1998. The Heritage Foundation. 27 November 2007 < http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/em559.cfm>

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