11 May 2007

Kyoto was never serious

In an article entitled Kyoto is dead, William Pesek writes:
Yes, public awareness [of Kyoto] is rising and we're talking about the effects of greenhouse gases more than ever. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore even won an Oscar for his film ``An Inconvenient Truth.'' Massive pro-environment rock concerts also are being planned. The word, as they say, is out. Sadly, that hasn't provoked the torrent of policy changes needed to stabilize the environment. Leaders even point to the controversy over the treaty itself as the reason carbon emissions are still increasing exponentially, diverting blame from their own inaction.
I'm not sure about 'exponentially', but Mr Pesek is otherwise quite right, I believe. Kyoto will never work, and its failure is worse than doing nothing. He is also right to imply that our goal is - or should be - to 'stabilize the environment'. Not, please note, to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, nor even to stabilize or otherwise manage the composition of the atmosphere. We need to stabilize the climate, broadly defined to include indicators of the effects that a too-volatile climate has on human, animal and plant life. For myself, I'm quite pessimistic about the chances that anything meaningful will be done. The government-corporate interests that essentially determine policy are too locked in to existing systems to do much about them, and so big and powerful that they tend to crowd out or subvert any initiatives that could counterbalance their biasses. For proof of this we need only read this prognosis about the chances of reforming US farm subsidies, entitled Insatiable, from the current Economist (subscription):

So will politicians seize the chance? The proposals that Mr Bush's administration has put forward would do little more than tweak the system. .... In all ...the administration's plans would do little to disrupt the existing cosy arrangements for farmers.

There we have it, readers. Decades after it was shown conclusively that farm subsidies are an environmental disater, fiscal nonsense and socially inequitable, nobody has quite found the political courage to end them. But... on the off-chance that anyone with any influence actually wants to do anything meaningful about climate change I will continue to try to promulgate Climate Stability Bonds, which, rather than generate attempts to game the system (a la Kyoto) would generate incentives actually to bring about climate stability. That is, if anybody out there sees that as a worthwhile goal.

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