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Kyoto A Go Or Time for Kyoto to Go?
Environmental Defense (ED) has made quite a PR fuss about Russia's near-ratification of the Kyoto treaty. The environmental watchdog group discusses each step of Russian ratification process just as if Russia were a real democracy. ED explains that, following Russian ratification, the Kyoto Protocol will "take effect around the world."

ED fails to mention a number of essential facts that undermine the notion that the treaty could be reasonably expected to have a beneficial impact. For example, ED talks about the treaty taking effect around the world without mentioning that some of the world's largest and fastest growing economies such as China and India have no specific requirements under the treaty to reduce their "greenhouse gas" emissions. Nor, for that matter, would the deliberate burning of the Amazon rain forest "count" under the treaty.

ED describes Russia's impending ratification of the Kyoto Protocol as "great news for the environment and the economy." They do not mention that the best available scientific evidence does not indicate that the treaty would be great or even good for the environment. Dr. James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a leading expert on the climate change issue told the Christian Science Monitor, "Our understanding of greenhouse gases is not all that good. We have to understand the cycles of these greenhouse gases if we're going to reliably forecast what is going to happen in the next century."

ED also did not mention that Tim Barnett, a climatologist with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography stated in late 1998 that, "Hindsight shows that much of last year's unusual warmth was due to the recent El Niño short-term climate shift. Subtract the El Niño effect and you'd probably say something different about that nominally 'warmest' year. Once again, natural weather changes muddled what seemed to be a clear global-warming signal."

Even more importantly, ED fails to note that the leading computer models used to predict climate change not only do not produce results similar to each other, the models produce results that fail to agree with known historical climate trends based on past data.

However, probably the most egregious statement by ED is that the Kyoto Protocol would somehow be good for the economy. The U.S Senate voted unanimously to oppose the Kyoto Protocol. The Senate Resolution of opposition stated that there would "be no American ratification until there is participation by the developing nations and evidence is presented that the Protocol will not harm the U.S. economy."

The best evidence is that participation in the Kyoto Protocol would do enormous damage to the US economy. For example, the US Energy Information Administration estimated that the cost of the treat could cost almost a half-trillion 1997 dollars or about $1,500 per person a year. WEFA, a major economic analysis firm, has estimated that the treaty could double electricity prices and result in the loss of over 2 million jobs.

Between the substantial uncertainties inherent in current climate change forecasting models, the lack of participation by major countries in economic competition with the US, and the certain negative economic impact in America, Winston thinks that the hypothesized benefits from Kyoto protocol are as real as the promises of a three–card monte dealer.

  • Click for ED story.
  • Click for API Global Climate website.

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