Monday, June 18, 2007

Kyoto Politics

It is starting to become clearer that carbon dioxide emissions are becoming a global problem. The top 20 emitters are listed by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The top one is the United States, though China is a close second, especially considering the growth rate of emissions from that country.

If the problem is urgent, if American scientists and, increasingly, politicians know the risks, why has the U.S. refused to ratify the Kyoto protocols?

It may be, that under the current agreement Large emitters such as China and India, which could potentially grow much larger, are not required to reduce their emissions under the protocol. Though the U.S. emissions are dramatically higher, this is effectively a call to negate America's historical competitive advantages.

The theory behind Kyoto is that if America reduces its emissions then that leaves room for growth or sustained levels of emissions from other countries. In reality, all nations need to reduce emissions and rationalizing that some nations should not have to do so amounts to a desire to transfer economic activity from the U.S. to other nations.

Because this is an important global issue about which something must be done, it would seem that the U.S. would prefer to rely on its technical and innovative prowess to deal with the carbon dioxide issue rather than effectively hand its sovereign power over to other nations.

Should there be an accord that recognizes that every nation must work to reduce CO2 emissions and change its energy usage patterns, then that is an accord America could sign. The U.S. would also have an extra large responsibility to reduce emissions, under such an agreement.

What Kyoto represents is simply the transfer of economic and industrial activity from the United States to other countries like India and China. This is an obvious political and competitive coup through which American politicians can see directly.

If CO2 is a real problem, everyone must target downward, instead of trying to transfer American industrial and technological lead time to other nations in a kind of carbon welfare system.

The United States will, no doubt, need to seek solutions to the CO2 emission issue and the effects of global warming will impact every nation. Though, it is clear as day why the U.S. and nations like Australia do not ratify the Kyoto protocols. Both nations have signed the protocols, demonstrating the importance of the issue at hand. However, the solution must involve all nations seeking reductions, not some nations simply seeking a larger slice of American historical advantage, insisting on a school-yard catch-up game instead of seeking actual reductions of their own CO2 emissions.

The U.S. should keep its sovereignty and insist on accords that target reductions by all, and do not offer a kind of carbon amnesty for coming late to the industrialized technology game.


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