15 July 2009

Kyoto will fail

What the G8 summit in Italy decided to do about climate change last week was much less than is necessary, but the very best that a realist could have hoped for. Some tens of millions of people will probably die as a result, or some hundreds of millions if we are really unlucky, but there is still time to avoid the worst. And anyway, it can’t be helped: this is the way we do business. Gwynne Dyer, 10 July
Talking with friends recently I'm more and more convinced that efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions are going to have a minimal effect on the climate. As a species our chances of controlling the climate, looking at it from the process-engineering angle, appear to be minimal. That said, the Kyoto process might not be totally without benefit. It might encourage us to do the right things (like reduce our absolute dependence on fossil fuels, conserve energy etc) for the wrong reason. There's nothing wrong with that, except that the Kyoto's upfront costs could probably be better spent in reducing the impact of climate catastrophe; and the risks of failure to stabilise the climate are not only large, but will be borne by the wider population. If the real goal genuinely is to stabilise the climate then something like Climate Stability Bonds would be far more efficient than Kyoto. Incentives are important, and the over-arching incentive I see falling out of the Kyoto process is to game the system.

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