Copenhagen DOA

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on April 28, 2009

(by Mark Bergin, WorldMag.com) – The near universal failure of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has for years now pressed environmentalists and politicians to long for a new international climate accord. Through a green haze of optimism, many such global warming alarmists have set their eyes on Copenhagen, site of a long-scheduled climate summit this December. If successful, its aim is to install a replacement plan for when Kyoto officially expires in 2012.

But still eight months from that meeting, its vital signs have all but flat-lined. Whereas Kyoto died on the operating table, Copenhagen may prove dead on arrival.

An Indian delegate to the UN made clear earlier this week that any hopes of setting hard emissions caps in India were misguided: “If the question is whether India will take on binding emission reduction commitments, the answer is no. It is morally wrong for us to agree to reduce when 40 percent of Indians do not have access to electricity.”

Coal generates more than 60 percent of India’s energy, and the developing nation of 1.1 billion people has demanded an external subsidy from wealthier countries to develop cleaner technologies. India spends only about 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product on greening its energy production and consumption, an investment with little chance of effecting wide-scale change. And given current economic realities, outside funding is unlikely.

But the worldwide recession has not deterred European Union leaders from calling on all developed countries to contribute significant monies toward a global emissions-cutting platform. Stavros Dimas, the EU’s commissioner for the environment, has put the required annual figure at about $230 billion to fund the climate agenda through 2020. Without such investment, Dimas admits, “we are not going to get anywhere. No money, no deal.”

Czech Environmental Minister Martin Bursik, whose country now controls the EU presidency, placed similar emphasis on the financial need during an informal meeting of EU environmental officials in Prague this week: “It is also clear that without the technical and financial support of developed countries including the EU, the USA, Japan, and others, emerging economies such as China, India, and Brazil will find it extremely difficult to make a transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Despite setting that monetary mandate, the EU remains reticent to make any public commitment or announcement of how much it might contribute. And though President Obama has spoken of a new leadership role for the United States in global climate policy, his administration has yet to put money where his mouth is.

Any shift away from the international climate accord positions of former President George W. Bush has thus far manifested only in rhetoric. True change from the Bush requirement that a binding emissions treaty include China and India might well necessitate that Obama dump billions of dollars into overseas green development-an improbable sell to a Congress and nation already in the throes of buyer’s remorse.

Copyright ©2009 WORLD Magazine, Web Extra posted April 17, 2009.  Reprinted here April 28th with permission from World Magazine. Visit the website at www.WorldMag.com.

Questions

1. What is the purpose of the Kyoto Protocol?

2. What is the aim of the climate summit to be held this December in Copenhagen?

3. Why does India refuse to commit to reducing carbon emissions?

4. What fossil fuel generates the majority of India’s energy – how much does it provide?

5. a) What does India say other countries must do for it to develop cleaner technologies?
b) What will probably cause other countries to refuse India’s demands?

6. Various EU (European Union) leaders have called on all developed countries to fund developing countries’ (China, India, Brazil etc.) clean technologies programs. What will happen if we (western countries) do not fund clean technology programs in other countries?

7. a) How much money has the EU committed to funding clean technology programs in developing countries?
b) How much money has President Obama committed to funding clean technology programs in developing countries?

8. Read the opposing viewpoints on global warming and the Kyoto protocol in the “Background” below. (There is a lot of information there, but its fairly self-explanatory. Take your time and read it over twice.) With which side do you agree? Why?

9. Do you support (billions) of our tax dollars being used to fund programs for China and India to reduce the amount of carbon emissions they produce? Explain your answer.


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a weekly email with answers.

Background

Global warming is an important issue to understand.  The theory that man’s use of fossil fuels (burning coal, oil and gas for energy, which produces carbon dioxide, or CO2) is causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate – global warming – is believed to be true by many scientists, climatologists, citizens, the mainstream media and Hollywood celebrities, and was made popular by former Vice President Al Gore’s move “An Inconvenient Truth.”  People who believe in this theory say we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by limiting/reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use, or by purchasing offsets.

The belief that man’s activities are not causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate is held by many other scientists (see MIT’s Professor of Meteorology Dr. Richard Lindzen’s commentary in Newsweek here). This view is very unpopular in the media and widely condemned by those who believe man-made global warming is fact. See Newsweek magazine’s online presentation “The Global Warming Deniers” here.  Those who do not believe man is causing the global temperature to rise don’t believe it is necessary to reduce the production of CO2 by reducing our use of fossil fuels or to purchase carbon offsets.

  • Greenhouse gases are components of the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Some greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities such as burning of fossil fuels such as coal.  Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. (from wikipedia.org)
  • Carbon offsetting  involves paying others to remove or [contain] 100% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the atmosphere – for example by planting trees – or by funding ‘carbon projects’ that should lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove (or ‘retire’) them through carbon trading. These practices are often used in parallel, together with energy conservation measures to minimize energy use. (from wikipedia.org)

ON GLOBAL WARMING and the KYOTO TREATY:

  • The theory of global warming is that the earth’s temperature is rising due to man’s use of fossil fuels (gas, oil).  It is believed that this temperature change will result in catastrophic problems in the environment.  To prevent this man-made climate change, countries need to restrict energy use (reduce use of gas and oil).
  • In the Kyoto Treaty governments agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions (reduce their use of gas and oil).  They believe this will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions world-wide and will prevent global warming. 
  • President Clinton supported the Kyoto Treaty.  President Bush did not. He said it would harm the economy and cost jobs.
  • The U.S. and Australia are the 2 western countries that did not sign the Kyoto Treaty.  Great Britain did sign on.  China and India did not.
  • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair believes in the theory of global warming and was a great supporter of the Kyoto Treaty. However, in November 2005 he backed away from the Kyoto Protocol (it is assumed he recognized that many countries would not live up to their obligations under Kyoto).
  • Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made signing the Kyoto Treaty priority for his new government.  Days after Australia’s delegation backed a plan at the climate talks in Bali to make deep cuts to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Rudd said the Government would not support the target. This announcement came after the electricity industry reported that it may not be able to meet growing consumer demand and comply with the 2020 target. The expectation after Rudd unseated (conservative) John Howard last month was that Australia would suddenly be a strong advocate for carbon dioxide emissions caps that would pressure the United States to do the same.  With Rudd doing this surprising about face, it appears unlikely that anything definitive will come from this highly-anticipated conference.
  • Global warming is a controversial issue.  Scientists today have two opposing views on global warming: 

The opposing viewspoints on global warming are: 

  • The earth’s climate is warming as a result of human actions; an extreme change in the earth’s climate is going to occur, caused by greenhouse gas emitted by the world’s use of fossile fuels (coal, oil, gas).  This temperature change will result in catastrophic problems in the environment. Humans must drastically reduce the consumption of fossile fuels immediately.  To prevent this man-made climate change, countries need to restrict energy use (reduce use of gas and oil).
    Liberals generally hold this view.  Check out two liberal organizations which defend this viewpoint:
    Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace.
  • Human activity does not affect the earth’s temperature.  Burning fossil fuels (gas, coal and oil) does not cause climate change.  The earth’s climate changes naturally, but not so much that it will cause a change of catastrophic proportions.  An extreme change in the earth’s climate will not happen.  There are natural warming and cooling trends over time.  In the 1970’s a coming ice age was predicted, but now that scare has been replaced with the current global warming scare. 
    Conservatives generally hold this view.  Two conservative organizations which support this view are:
    FriendsOfScience.org and Junk Science.
    NOTE: The UN climate conference (of Dec. 2007) met in Bali to discuss global warming met strong opposition from a team of over 100 prominent international scientists, who warned the UN that attempting to control the Earth’s climate was “ultimately futile.” The scientists, many of whom are current and former UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientists, released an open letter (Dec. 13, 2007) to the UN Secretary-General questioning the scientific basis for climate fears and the UN’s so-called “solutions.”
    Read the complete letter here and the list of scientists who signed the letter here.