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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Can the Kyoto Treaty be saved?
America's recent withdrawal from the 1997 Kyoto accord means the countries of the European Union will need the support of Japan to make it legally binding.
But Japan has already put off until October a decision on whether to ratify the treaty, which commits industrialised countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions, without the participation of the US.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said that talks to save the treaty are unlikely to reach agreement.
Can the treaty be salvaged? Or should an alternative to the Kyoto agreement be found?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I certainly agree that my country should take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the US Senate has sent a firm message by voting 95-0 NOT to ratify Kyoto. Mr Bush is simply stating the obvious.
Unfortunately, America does not have Europe or Japan's public transportation infrastructure. A key emitter of CO2, the automobile is a critical part of our lives. Furthermore, in the United States, the consumer must bear the cost of stricter environmental standards. Although most Americans want to prevent climate change, they will not support a plan that places what they feel would be an undue strain on their budget.
In the near term.
I hope that increased use of renewable and nuclear electrical generation together with nationwide use of the strictest auto emission and fuel standards will help until new technologies can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Clarke Pitts, UK (living in Japan)
Lance of the UK had a solution, trade sanctions aimed at the US. That would plunge the world in a depression that would make the 20's and 30's look like the good times.
The smarmy comments coming from the EU contingent following the Bonn "compromise" would be laughable if they didn't so clearly reveal the true ends that had been obtained. Through bending over backward to keep the Japanese on board, cutting the heart out of the treaty in the meantime, the EU delegates have proven without a doubt that the goal they sought was not protection of our fragile environment, but their own political egos. Well done, Europe! You may achieve nothing substantive with your provincial prattling, but everyone knows that your tired aristocratic cultures can still throw their weight around with the best. As well as submit to whatever indignity is expedient to save face.
If you want to know why President Bush and the U.S. Senate don't want to implement the Kyoto agreement you only need to look at the chart, "What if carbon emissions were reduced?" on this web site.
If the developed counties reduce emissions by implementing Kyoto there is less than a .25 ║ C change. Why should we wreck the U.S. economy to do that?
What we need to do is build more nuclear power plants. The biggest reason we have so much CO2 emissions is power generation and the easiest way to eliminate them is to build nukes.
Sadly the "Greens" won't allow new plant construction no matter how safe they are.
First, I feel like I need to apologise to the rest of the world for having George Bush as president of the US. I am hoping he smartens up (if this is possible) and stops backing the position of Texas oilmen in voting against the rest of the world on environmental issues. Like myself, there are many Americans who want to take responsibility and do something about our role in polluting the environment. I do hope we can come to an agreement with the rest of the world.
On average America has the cheapest cars, the cheapest petrol and the most thirsty cars. Bush does not want to do anything to control this. There is nothing more to say. The pollution will get worse while Mr Bush is in power, he is just doing what he is told to do, by the oil companies.
The Kyoto Treaty is a political Catch-22: damned if you do and damned if you don't. Quite honestly, I've read the treaty and would have a personal dilemma if I was President. Do I just go ahead and support it, knowing that it doesn't do anything at all to eliminate soot and ozone compounds from the air just to make everyone happy knowing that the treaty is more symbol than substance? Or do I stand up, speak my conscience and say this treaty is flawed because it doesn't do anything of substance to combat climate problems? I would probably pick the former and pray I could get real concessions later on (even now, certain politicians concede this and are calling the treaty merely a first step).
President Bush has been described as silly and uninformed by the media, but the man has guts and guts is enough. We should call this treaty what it is and stop relying on testimonials from people who got Nobel Prizes in areas totally unrelated to climate. When you can give me a treaty that addresses ALL pollutants across the board and makes allowances for mitigation, I will sign up for it. Anything short of that smacks of the "nuclear free zone" movement of the 1980's - where merely declaring a city a non-target and hanging a sign apparently made it so....
Who cares, we are going to destroy ourselves, for what, money! Ha, ha old Cree proverb - when you have dammed all the rivers, poisoned all the lakes, fished out all the oceans, cut down all the trees, then and only then will you discover money cannot be eaten!
At the moment the only thing most people/politicians seem to care about is protecting the economy in the country in which they live. Don't you think that the countries throughout the world should be working together to solve the problem of global warming.
If the scientists have it wrong, the only thing that ratifying the Kyoto agreement will do is to speed up the use of alternative energy and perhaps it will cost a lot of money. However if they are right and we do nothing - we are all finished. I know which option I would like to take. The only thing the Americans do is gamble with all our lives on the hope that they can continue to drive cars with 5 litre engines.
Finally, most of the Americans who seem to have made a comment on this site seem to be against the Kyoto agreement, I wonder why that is - there's nothing like a bit of healthy brainwashing is there!
In response to Ron Cox - a) USA did not save the world twice. They stood idly by whilst the rest of the world fought for what was good and right, and only once American interest was affected did they bother to enter into the war. Millions died defending people's rights in this world whilst America stood by and profited.
b) The Kyoto Treaty has now been ratified without the USA. Now try holding your head up knowing that your country has the smallest population creating the greatest amount of toxic emissions. Again USA standing by whilst the rest of the world tries to make it a better place to live globally. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Perhaps Kyoto was largely symbolic, but we have to start with something. Either way, I am yet again so very disgusted with my President's "leadership". The only leadership he provides is in retreat, and being the first to stick his head in the sand. The one positive aspect to take away from Bonn is that we may be able to establish some sort of international alliance that does not include America... hopefully stupidity will only go so far. Now let us see whether Blair will be able to stand up on his own.
Any agreement based on bad science is a bad agreement. The majority of scientist and all the studies done which have followed the scientific method have all disproved global warming.
Enough Bush bashing. Europeans are in withdrawal after 8 years of Clinton the Socialist. Clinton had double speak down to a science, and you fell for it hook, line, and sinker, just as your politicians have trained you to. He agreed to Kyoto, knowing it would never be approved by the US Senate. President Bush, on the other hand, is honest, and he's vilified for it. Kyoto supporters are further ahead now than they were under Clinton, but they are too blind to realize it. Don't bite the hand of the nation which saved the world - twice.
Cecil Turner, USA
A lot of my fellow Americans are greatly misinformed about the science of climate change. What we have here in the US are oil and gas companies sponsoring "research" into global warming. Not surprisingly, the research they sponsor yields results that claim global warming is not caused by the burning of fossil fuels. I know first hand how the money thrown at this research by these companies can compromise their findings. So a lot of Republicans grasp a hold of these reports and you are all familiar with how they respond.
However, most Americans do support the Kyoto Protocol. Bush does not speak for the majority of us.
The ship is sinking and Kyoto won't stop it- at best signing the agreement is a show of solidarity. We Americans are rightly chastised for letting down the side, but global warming will continue regardless.
US citizens should sleep happily, knowing that right up to the time that the ozone layer depletes into non-existence frying all life forms on the planet, they will all at least have jobs to go to in the morning.
Erick Robertson, Minnesota, USA
Let's sign it and show the US that in Europe and other parts of the world we can run a healthy economy and protect the environment at the same time. The only thing Bush will achieve by not signing is to put an already archaic US industry in a position lagging way behind the world's ever more efficient industries. Bush and the US will come begging.
Lance aren't you a bright young kid. Yes, you put economic sanctions on the US and your economy will fail as well. Look at the minor recession that we are in now, Europe's economies aren't exactly flourishing. And look at Japan with their Yen - it is 128 to the dollar. We are Japan's major trading partner and without us she would fail. This was not a well thought out idea. And just another thought, this treaty needs some major revision and I am in favour of some sort of protocol to control the global warming theory.
Mr Bush should understand that absence of proof is not proof of absence. The American people should understand that whether or not Belgium or Jamaica cut their carbon emissions is frankly unimportant - it is the US that leads the world in pollution.
Who of us thinks of climate change when he travels in his car to spend three hours on the beach and his wife follows him ten minutes later in her own car?
Who thinks of ozone depletion when he buys a spray paint to change the colour of an old vase?
Who thinks of skin cancer when he goes to a car race in the mountains?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Romania the ONLY country to have actually ratified the Kyoto accord? Why is the rest of the world complaining that we in the U.S. haven't, when their own countries haven't done so, either? Perhaps if the other nations who signed on to Kyoto had actually ratified it by this point, they would have a leg to stand on. As it is, their credibility is sadly lacking at this point. On another point, it takes the U.S. Senate to ratify treaties, such as Kyoto, and it has been voted down by an overwhelming margin. Clinton signed it, but our representatives rejected it. Deal with it.
There is only 30 years supply of crude oil left on the planet (at the current rate of consumption). As the oil is used the prices will rise, alternative fuels will be more viable and the Kyoto treaty will be forgotten history. So please nobody else post how the CO2 pollution will continue until 2100, it won't. The fossil fuels that create 90% of the pollution will be totally exhausted by 2030.
Nigel's point is spot on. Here in California the state government has approved only natural gas fired electrical plants for many years. This is extraordinarily stupid, even by the standards of California governance. New sources of natural gas in the US are barely replacing that which is being burned today.
The Kyoto agreement is a step in the right direction, regardless of whether scientific projections are correct. At least climate change has become a globally recognised political agenda.
The Bush Administration cannot be in office forever, besides one nation should not be allowed to prevent progress.
It is about time we started thinking more about the efficiency with which we use resources and less about short term gains.
Gary Davidson, USA
Kyoto is as flawed as the science that supports global warming is. The U.S. has done much on its own to reduce pollution and help the environment. We hardly need the rest of the planet breathing down our necks telling us what to do.
And another thing, remember that for a treaty to be ratified in the U.S. it needs to first be approved by 2/3 of the Senate and THEN signed by the President. Kyoto had absolutely no chance of winning Senate approval and Bush was right to concentrate on initiatives that he could actually make a difference on.
The main reason behind US refusal to bind to the Kyoto treaty is that it will have a too severe impact on its economy.
The preservation of the environment is the survival of the human race, which is at stake in the long run.
Is it not more rational to see in the long term rather in the short-term economic slowdown?
If the environmental lobby had not done their best to destroy public confidence in nuclear power as a safe, reliable and relatively environmentally friendly alternative, the world would be well on course to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions and gobal warming. Ironic isn't it!
Useless for the environment and harmful for the economy. That is Kyoto. Let's forget it
No matter if the US signs or not, the EU countries and Japan, in my opinion,
will not cut the carbon dioxide emissions and its devastating effects will worsen.
By the way, who is going to measure the emissions?
And the UN - you know, that organisation made up of representatives of the world's nations - demonised by the US.
Is it just me or is the US a little negative nowadays?
Sorry - I was forgetting positive actions by the US. Pro-missile defense, pro-Iraqi sanctions and pro-exploitation of every natural resource as soon as possible.
Kyoto can't be saved without the full participation of the US. In its concluding remarks the participants ought to let America know that its rejection and obstruction classifies it as an obstacle if not a danger to world regeneration.
The US's closest allies need to be the most vocal about this and should open the question of what point remains of staying in a partnership with a reactionary country that puts its immediate economic interests and comforts ahead of the very survival of the planet's most vulnerable inhabitants.
I voted for Nader/LaDuke and other regional Green Party candidates in the last joke of a presidential election. For the past 30 years countless proposals have been presented to "Republicrats" for research and development of alternative energy sources. This has included solar, wind, geothermal, clean synthetic fuels, electric cars, and effective mass transportation that will dilute congested traffic from our freeways.
These alternatives could provide sound environmental practices as well as "alternative industries" for workers in the US and abroad. Yet Bush continues the "easy route" by allowing oil companies to rip the earth open for more fossil fuels and build more (gasp!) nuclear power plants.
The current climate change is not natural as some speakers suggest. It is true that climate change has occurred but the climate is changing at a rate 100 times that of a natural climate change. Even if Kyoto was ratified it would make little difference to the current situation.
The danger is not rising water levels. It is increased retention of residue in the atmosphere and increased temperatures which will change the type and activity of biological organisms.
Two things are quite clear: 1) President Bush must understand to some extent that humans are contributing to global warming since he has asked for alternative recommendations to the Kyoto treaty. 2) Unfortunately, by asking for recommendations there is no timeline, and therefore no action will be taken.
Chris T, UK/US
Global warming may be a natural phenomenon. However right or wrong the various scientists may be, rubbishing global warming is nothing more than an dangerous excuse to do nothing as concerns the environment and wider energy concerns.
The Kyoto Agreement should be salvaged, should go ahead without the US as whatever changes can be made should be taken. The US must be brought in to reduce their carbon dioxide emmission and this should be done soon.
We have used the earth for a long time, and I say it is time we try to give somthing back.
The Kyoto protocol is the first step. It might look like a big step, stupid step, hard step for some. But it is not an impossible step, and it is necessary for the wellbeing of humanity. How much money can a country/company earn when the world is dead?
"What you take you shall give" is obviously something whole countries' parents
forgott to tell there children at some point.
And please do not tell me that we can not afford it, because we in the Western countries
spend more and more money on luxuries whilst people are starving to death.
Earlier this week, Mr Paani Laupela of the Tuvaluan Ministry of Natural Resources said: "The island is full of holes and sea water is coming through these, flooding areas that weren't normally flooded 10 or 15 years ago."
At its highest point Tuvalu is less than 5 metres above sea level. However it isn┐t only America that is deaf to their pleas for help. Australia point blank refused a request this year from Tuvulan representatives in Canberra to resettle the islanders. With such breathtaking international indifference should we complain if we all eventually go under?
Kyoto as a hook to get the world's governments committed to acting on the real threat of global warming is important. Kyoto need not be a dampener on economic growth. Alternatives to unchecked burning of oil and coal should lead to important technological advances.
Experience leads me to believe that Kyoto will collapse. Until the arctic icecap totally melts and the gulf stream switches off, at which time there will be panic, global warming will effectively be ignored.
Not until there is a
replacement for petrol products and
industrial ways of manufacturing can there be hope for this world.
If global warming were to impact blue chip corporate profits, instead of just the environment, you would see the politicians scrambling over each other to sign an agreement. Until that happens we can forget realistic change.
Claudio Angelo, Brazil
Why would anyone want to save something that is based on dubious reasoning and which, if implemented, is likely to cause major damage to the world's economy? Kyoto should be killed, buried and forgotten about.
Carl Sagan once asked, "Is there intelligent life on Earth?" Let's hope the Bush Administration can change its mind on the Kyoto Treaty and prove that it does exist. President Bush is currently in Europe. While he's "in the neighbourhood" he should drop by Bonn to attend the talks on global warming. We Americans need to acknowledge our "consumption crisis" and work with others to correct this situation. The facts from learned scientists from around the world should be taken to heart more than the demands of those who have made millions in the oil and gas companies. Not all Americans support the irresponsible decision to withdraw from the talks.
Kyoto is important symbolically but, until the west abandons its fetishism with economic growth, environmental problems (not just climate change) will not be solved.
Derek Kelly, USA
If planting trees to act as carbon sinks is encouraged by the agreement, what guarantees are there that afforestation will use only native species and not destroy existing habitats?
Kyoto institutionalises exploitation of third world 'carbon sinks' and will make it difficult in the future for these countries to develop their own competitive advantage. It entrenches short term monetary gains at the expense of sovereign ownership of their own 'carbon sinks' aka forests. Just imagine: You can't develop that province to feed your people because we sold the rights to counter the effects of German industry. Go figure! If the third world had any guts they wouldn't be willing to trade their own futures for foreign dollars. Kyoto should not proceed - it is global horse trading at its worst.
Charles G, USA
At some point in the not too distant future, natural resources, such as arable unflooded land will be scarce. We will be faced with the prospect of nations going to war for food to maintain their burgeoning populations. In a time when fuel will be prohibitively expensive and extremes of weather will be characteristic of a global climate, a nation wishing to protect itself may require a missile defence shield.
The fact is the Kyoto accord is nothing but an attempt by the left to hobble capitalism and more precisely the USA. There is evidence that the world is warming, there is no real evidence that humans are causing the warming.
Kyoto and subsequent meetings have at least started the discussion/ argument; but it is mostly from entrenched positions. Where is the critical analysis. Scientists have done their part, produced models and hypotheses etc. But the media communicate this only by parroting handouts. They would rather discuss the workings of political parties or sitcoms than ask hard questions that would lose them audience or advertising. So how can the public become engaged? When they do, the politicians may follow. It is up to us, not THEM, to reduce our footprint on this planet.
Fortunately some of us are already committed to reductions without a treaty. All the major oil companies have committed to emissions reductions over the next 7 years. The major culprits are the powerplants whose low efficiencies (30%) result in high emissions for little energy. Those are the areas that must be tackled now.
Point 1: We've put 254 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere over the last century compared with the 600 that was there originally. Every year we add another 6. This is an unprecedented and risky experiment. Point 2. Bush is prepared to spend billions on a nuclear defence shield yet there is no conclusive scientific proof that anyone will definitely attack the US. Why such a different approach to the threat posed by climate change? If there is a risk that climate change might harm Americans in the future then it is just as logical to spend on this threat as it is to spend on potential military threats.
Lesian Melamai Mollel, Tanzania
Is Kyoto worth the effort that's being expended in the attempt to save it? The U.S. will not ratify it under either a Republican or Democratic administration. Japan also appears unlikely to ratify it and the EU nations, for all their talk, have not ratified it either. Kyoto does not cover the undeveloped world, the likely source of much of the future increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Would it not be better and more productive to abandon Kyoto and begin working on a truly global solution?
Phillip Smith's comments are absolutely outrageous. Hard working people are the ones who bear the brunt of hurricanes and not the politicians, who make vital decisions about a country's direction. I have lived through seven hurricanes here in eastern North Carolina, since 1995, with Hurricane Floyd breaking all historical records. Thousands of people were made homeless and the state will probably take years to recover.
Just because you don't like Americans, don't wish hurricanes on us again - please.
The US will only sit up and take note when an iceberg knocks on the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Pedros De La Fuente, Cuba
Kyoto is meaningless. Even if we accept human induced global warming as a reality, the effects of Kyoto will be to make global temperature to increase in 2100 to the level it would otherwise reach in 2094. Only 3% of global CO2 emissions are man-made.
No. Bush would rather spend the money on a pointless defence 'shield'. Next step, bio-spheres to further isolate the US from the rest of the planet.
When you consider that Greater New York consumes more fossil fuels than Africa, you understand that the Kyoto treaty is a non-starter without the USA's participation.
Philip Smith, UK
Well the EU could stop being hypocritical and ratify the treaty.
To dismiss the scientific evidence on this matter as unreliable and claim that "the earth is warming up anyway" is a dangerous business. What if your predictions that humankind is not responsible for global warming are wrong? Are you going to tell your children in fifty years' time: "Sorry, Daddy/Mummy was wrong and we messed up this planet beyond repair"? Think about what your children will think about you if you let this planet deteriorate to an uninhabitable desert.
In my view Kyoto is not enough and our energy consumption needs to change dramatically if we want to make a change for a better future.
Kyoto is a very small step in the right direction, but many seem to regard it as a miracle cure. Wrong! To be totally effective we are looking at reductions in excess of 60% of CO2 emissions within this century. I also take great offence to those who say this is just another ice-age. Ice-ages do NOT come and go in less than one-hundred years. If they did, we would certainly not have been able to evolve to meet such incredible climate changes in the past and we would almost certainly not be around today. Climate change on this rapid scale has probably never been seen since the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction of the dinosaurs, and we all know what happened to them!
Countries have gone to war to insure a source of fuel. If you lose even a portion of supply the economy is threatened. Why would any country voluntarily reduce what is "life blood" to them? Those who worship Gaia are misguided by faith. Society attempts to maintain a precarious balance while a great drama unfolds. We can be good stewards of this world and make best use of it. The Kyoto protocols make no sense.
Surely it's a crime against humanity to put opinions of corrupt politicians before scientific evidence - even if we only just might endanger the future world for our children, plants and fellow creatures.
Robert Parker, UK
America and Japan are two of the biggest economic powers in the world. Any threat to their profits and status, such as the environment, are circumvented with prose and soundbites. Their short term, greed based outlook on this issue is nothing less than astounding. No doubt they have the next generation of technology just waiting to be released when all the fossil fuels run out. A typical capitalistic ploy.
Even if implemented the Kyoto agreement is meaningless in the long run - it won't do anything to stop global warming, would be expensive to implement for a huge country like the US and would never get through Congress in a million years anyway. It's a waste of money and this is why George Bush hasn't agreed to it. It only stipulates a 5%-7% cut from 1990 levels and everyone's got until 2012 to do it! Ridiculous.
The World needs to stop relying on oil, full stop, but it won't happen anytime soon because the average man on the street doesn't want to live anywhere near a nuclear power station or drive a clockwork car. If global warming is happening as a result of carbon dioxide emissions then we are stuck with it and it's time we started trying to find a way of actively reversing the outcome rather than vainly trying to slow down the cause.
First off I think that this situation needs to be looked at from all points of view. The earth is getting warmer but it does that on its own quiet often as Earl said. I understand everyone's concern for our planet but you need to see what its like from our point of view. We aren't anti-earth, we just don't agree with the specifics of this agreement, that doesn't mean that we aren't doing other things to preserve the earth and protect nature. Also do you really expect Bush to say hey Americans I know we're having an economic downturn and an energy shortage but some other countries are mad at us so let's just do what they say?
Brien Alkire, US
The US is a bully because they
will not agree to abide by a set of protocols
that some want to force on it. This is
a funny definition of being a bully, it would
seem that some people should consult their
dictionaries. If the EU countries (by the way
which ones have ratified this agreement?) want
to sign-up for this then they are free to do so.
The US would not presume to dictate the treaty
ratification process for EU counties. This meddling
with internal matters seems to be a European
European friends, please remember that President Bush might well be voted out of office in 2004. The real problem is that our brand of capitalism is so unbalanced and myopic that we're reluctant to consider what's good for the whole even if the long-term sustainability of life depended on it (literally, unfortunately).
What we could sorely use is leadership by example from the EU. Please ratify the KP even if as symbolic gesture. With this and a little more patience on your part, I do believe that America can reach "critical mass" on this issue. And accelerating the development of viable alternatives to fossil fuels wouldn't hurt either.
The Kyoto treaty is an abomination, and serves as a fine example of how corrupt and biased the UN has become. Thankfully it seems Kyoto is going to fail, and the sooner it fails the better. For once it's gone then we can get started on working on a truly comprehensive plan, this time one that is actually intended to improve the environment, and not one that is designed to play geopolitical power games under the guise of emissions restrictions as Kyoto is. One which this time does not exempt half the world's population, including the two fastest growing nations in both population and gas emissions increases (namely China and India), from being held accountable for a global problem.
It is allready a fact that Europe is way ahead of the US in developing
and implementing pollution abatement technology. The amounts of
pollutants put out by many American heavy industries would not
be tolerated here in Europe.
I follow American environmental policy very closely and there is absolutely
no coherence to it. We can be glad that we have the European Union to
cordinate our national efforts.
Let's hope not. It was a half-baked notion that tried to pin responsibility on a certain few instead of recognizing that the responsibility is upon the world as a whole. That so many governments have withheld ratification shows the infeasibility of this waste of paper.
The real villains in this are not Bush and co., but the scientific community for not coming up with a more airtight case that manmade CO2 emissions are the chief culprit.
Everyone agrees that global warming is real, but the role that manmade CO2 plays in the warming is still hotly debated. This provides an easy loophole for Bush. No CO2 treaty will fly until the scientists can make a stronger case.
Kyoto is pointless without Bush's support. Pride will have to be swallowed and the world will need to agree the way forward together. If it means going to Bush to find out to what he would agree, then so be it. This is far too important an issue to be clouded by emotion.
Saving our planet can't be achieved by unfair means, we should all pay the price.
Leonard Tso, Hong Kong
Just who's going to make sure the Americans understand that the planet is not their possession? Am I the only human being to be FED UP with the way the US treats the rest of the world? This kind of short-term, self-oriented and egocentric way to do politics and economy will affect directly the lives of our children! Are we going to tolerate this forever? Kyoto accords are merely a starting point. There is so much to be done.
With no support from the US, little support from Australia, no requirements at all on developing countries and apparently nothing more than lip-service from the EU, it is hard to see how this treaty can be saved. When scientific opinion is divided over whether global warming is even a reality one has to wonder whether it should be salvaged.
Earth warming is just a climate thing. It happens throughout history. Check on the earth's wobble every so many years.
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