December 15, 2004

Kyoto Trifecta

Lots of Kyota discussion on the occasion of the U.N. climate change conference now underway in Buenos Aires. I saw this Bjorn Lomborg article from The Telegraph which suggests we have more urgent and practical ways to spend the same billions in public and private dollars to reduce human misery worldwide than by Kyoto implementation:

...the economic models tell us that the cost is substantial. The cost of Kyoto compliance is at least $150billion a year. For comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could permanently solve the most pressing humanitarian problems in the world: it could buy clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education to every single person in the world.

Lomborg, of Skeptical Environmentalist fame, has long argued for environmental programs to be viewed as but one of many important priorities competing for finite government resources. In other words, for a little sanity.

Then Andrei Illarionov, chief economic advisor to Vladimir Putin, states again that there is no consensus in Russia on the efficacy of the Kyoto accords:

Even with Russia on board, the Kyoto treaty will do little to global CO2 emissions considering that 70 per cent of the world's CO2 is emitted by countries not subject to Kyoto restrictions. Moreover, this share is growing as China, India and other non-Kyoto developed and developing countries grow faster than pro-Kyoto ones. Countries around the world must choose what is more important for them -- stagnating, at best, living standards due to Kyoto sclerotic regulations or the rising well-being of billions of people without them.

The Kyoto protocol requires a supranational bureaucratic monster in charge of rationing emissions and, therefore, economic activities. The Kyoto-ist system of quota allocation, mandatory restrictions and harsh penalties will be a sort of international Gosplan, a system to rival the former Soviet Union's. This perhaps explains why it finds such ready support in some quarters. But that's why it should be a warning signal for those who value economic and political freedom.

Back in July of this year, Illarionov's candor surprised me.

Reporting for NRO from Buenos Aires, TCS' Nick Schulz says lots of climate experts and governments are coming around to George Bush's way of thinking on Kyoto:

President Bush rejected Kyoto for a few simple reasons. First, it would impose significant economic damage on the American economy (a Clinton administration report on the costs of Kyoto put the tab at $300 billion per year). Second, the reduction targets and timetables were impractical from a technological perspective. Third, the treaty exempted developing economies such as India and China from any restrictions even though their emissions are rising rapidly. Instead, the Bush team under Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham charted a different course, which involved investment in basic research, technology transfer to poor countries, and bilateral agreements...

...on Monday of this week, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a key Kyoto cheerleader and a player in climate-change negotiations for years, issued a new report, "Climate Data: Insights and Observations." A co-author of the report, Jonathan Pershing of the World Resources Institute, said, "We are beginning to see more research on adaptation strategies in response to climate change." Adaptation means having the capacity to handle climate changes of any kind, and organizations like Pew are beginning to focus more on adaptation - as opposed to mitigation - in part because the emissions reductions called for in Kyoto are too costly and technologically infeasible.

Posted by dan at December 15, 2004 2:26 AM