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Skip the Kyoto snow job
Canadians will back a realistic green plan — we just haven’t seen it yet
|By LORRIE GOLDSTEIN, TORONTO SUN||
Let’s examine what the Kyoto treaty on man-made or “anthropogenic” global warming (AGW) is and isn’t.
First, it’s an example of globalization, despite the fact many of its advocates claim to oppose globalization.
But it is not, primarily, an environmental treaty.
If it was, it would require the developing world to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as it does for a relative handful of industrialized nations, including Canada.
The lack of targets for the developing world reveals Kyoto as primarily a mechanism for redistributing wealth from the First World to the Third, unsurprising given its origins in the United Nations.
Then there’s Kyoto’s accounting tricks.
Russia is in compliance with Kyoto and has billions of dollars of “hot air” credits to sell to countries like Canada — not because of its environmental policies, but because the base year for Kyoto was deliberately set at 1990, just as the economy of the former Soviet Union was imploding, causing the shutdown of many GHG-producing industries. Similarly, Germany and the European Union benefit from the collapse of the East German economy.
Kyoto envisions the First World paying billions of dollars to the Third in the faint hope the latter will use that money to reduce its rapidly-growing GHG emissions.
Kyoto’s successor will be even more controversial.
To be environmentally credible, it must compel developing nations like China (the world’s largest or second largest GHG emitter in tandem with the U.S., depending on whose calculations you believe) to cut its emissions.
But forcing the Third World to do so will be an example of the First World imposing its priorities on the Third, the very thing critics argue is immoral about globalization.
Besides, does anyone seriously believe totalitarian countries like China, given their low public health, environmental and manufacturing standards, will comply with GHG cuts, even if they agree to them?
That said, we must ignore simplistic environmental rhetoric that portrays nations which meet (or try to meet) their Kyoto targets as “good” while those that don’t as “bad.” In reality, all countries act in their own perceived best interests.
China rejects GHG cuts (as has the U.S. through both the Clinton and Bush administrations) not because it favours global climate catastrophe several decades from now if Al Gore’s apocalyptic rhetoric is correct, which is unlikely.
It does so because it has more pressing problems, such as feeding its 1.3 billion people today.
It’s pointless to condemn China for acting in its own interests, just as it’s silly to portray Canada as an energy glutton, a favourite guilt-inducing tactic of environmentalists.
In fact, Canadians have shown a serious commitment to environmentalism, when they are provided with realistic ways to do so.
But we are also a big, cold, sparsely-populated, northern country, which has logically used our fossil fuel resources to improve our quality of life, exactly what China and the developing world aspire to today.
If we’re telling them, post-Kyoto, they cannot even attempt what we did through industrialization powered by fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, we had best offer them better reasons than Gore’s doomsday hysteria.
Why do you think the Liberals, for all their pro-Kyoto rhetoric, let Canada’s GHG emissions skyrocket during their 12-year reign, despite promising in their 1993 Red Book to cut them well beyond what later became the Kyoto standard?
They (like the present Conservative government) knew accomplishing this would demand enormous sacrifices Canadians might well reject, if the choices were put to them clearly and honestly.
For us to comply with Kyoto now would see huge spikes in the price of everything sensitive to the cost of fossil fuels, meaning gasoline, electricity, heat and water as well as transportation, most manufactured goods and food, all of which are directly or indirectly sensitive to the price of fossil fuels.
This would dramatically lower our standard of living and just as dramatically increase poverty.
Despite what Kyoto propagandists and opportunistic politicians pretend, this isn’t about making an easy choice between “good” and “bad.”
It’s about making intelligent choices from the options we have, all of which have positive and negative consequences.
• You can e-mail Lorrie Goldstein at email@example.com