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Symbolic Silliness: The Intangible Kyoto Treaty
The Kyoto treaty formally went into effect last week. In a candid statement, Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, was quoted in The Washington Post as stating that the treaty's "greatest value is symbolic."

The Washington Post article of February 16th on page A4 also noted that critics of the treaty state that "many of the cuts in greenhouse gases claimed under Kyoto probably would have happened anyway..." More significantly, the article stated that "Supporters acknowledge those realities but argue that the real impact of the treaty is intangible."

Not surprisingly, the article discussed the opposition of the United States and Australia to the treaty. The article explained that "Bush administration officials said the treaty would hurt the economy and is ineffective and discriminatory because large, rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India escape the limits. Moreover, they say, many countries, including Japan and several in the European Union, are unlikely to meet their emission-control targets and will have to buy ‘credits' -- most likely from Russia, which will have plenty to sell because many of its industrial plants shut down during the economic meltdown in the 1990s."

Thus, even the treaty's supporters don't claim that it will result in any actual environmental benefit. And, if the US joined the treaty, it would put itself at a further economic disadvantage to at least two of our largest manufacturing competitors. Why is it not surprising that, during the Clinton Administration, the US Senate voted unanimously to oppose the treaty?

However, the treaty's supporters are mistaken if they believe that the it will have only intangible effects. Actually, the treaty will have very real environmental and non-environmental impacts. Furthermore, US participation in the Kyoto treaty would substantially increase the environmental and other impacts of the treaty. Whether those impacts are beneficial is, of course, a completely different issue.

For example, one of the most significant results of the treaty will likely be to transfer more manufacturing jobs from industrialized countries that have stringent environmental and occupational safety regulations to countries with little or no such regulation. Thus, the Kyoto treaty could well lead to an increase in pollution. Oh, and as an added "bonus" the treaty will funnel money to the increasingly authoritarian regime in Russia. Perhaps the Russian government will use the funds received from selling emissions "credits" for environmental clean-up projects. Or to subsidize weapons sales to rogue countries such as Syria.

Hmmm. Let's see now. The Kyoto treaty will likely lead to increased pollution, reduced worker safety and whatever mischief Russia spreads with their newly "earned" hard currency. It seems that environmental groups sure do have a funny idea as to how to help make the world a better place. Either that, or they have a really perverse sense of humor.


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