Monday, November 28, 2005

US Shuns Kyoto 2

Montreal is center stage for yet another world conference on developing legislation to combat global warming. The conference is being billed as the successor to the Kyoto Pact, a global warming treaty that was not signed by the US. (Washington Post: World Leaders to Discuss Strategies for Climate Control). Faced with the same fundamental flaws as the original Kyoto treaty, the US has already indicated it has no interest in pursuing the pact up for discussion in Montreal.

The biggest problem with Kyoto - and the reason it was not signed by the US - was an exemption in that treaty for developing nations, and specifically for China. That exemption would spell economic disaster for the US, giving American manufacturing firms an even greater incentive to relocate to the third world. US industry is already suffering from widespread foreign outsourcing of technology and manufacturing all in the quest for lower wages. To remove the burden of emissions controls as well, which is effectively what Kyoto did, would be the final nail in the coffin for US manufacturing firms.

Despite the misinformation being distributed by environmentalists, the US is taking aggressive steps towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush Administration has already spent $20 Billion on climate control initiatives and has cut emissions nationwide by 0.8% between 2000 and 2003. Note that this is in the wake of numerous other emissions control initiatives that started in the early 1980s and had already significantly reduced greenhouse emissions in the US.

The one disturbing trend is that many states are now starting to impose their own Kyoto-like restrictions on a local level. That spells disaster for workers in those states who will see manufacturing migrate out of their region in search of lower cost alternatives either nationally or abroad. When you look at the average wage in China coupled with the lack of emissions controls standards, that becomes a very attractive option for any company being forced to compete with a handicap here at home.

What is not being addressed by any of the treaties is the simple fact that controlling greenhouse emissions is only delaying the inevitable, and not by much more than a century at best. This planet has been warming since the end of the last ice age, and it will continue to do so with or without greenhouse emissions. We have had numerous cycles in the history of this planet where the earth transitions from ice age to tropical and back to ice age. We happen to live in that period where the earth is still on the upward slope of the global temperature curve.

Perhaps a more realistic approach for world governments is to not focus on preventing what cannot be prevented - i.e. global warming - but rather to start developing plans to cope with the eventual climate change we will face. It is simple fact that we will continue to warm. Ice caps will continue to melt, and the more they melt, the faster the planet will warm. Coastal regions will flood. What was once arctic tundra may well become tropical. What is now tropical may become desert. Where there is land today may be ocean tomorrow. This has happened at least five times in the history of this planet and it will happen again.

What the extreme environmentalists do not want to acknowledge is that greenhouse gases are lower - yes, lower - now than they were at the end of the last ice age. Much of the human impact on this planet is localized. We have very little capacity to have a global effect on the planet. A single volcanic eruption emits more greenhouse gases than any industrialized nation could ever hope to produce. The forest fires that plague the west every year have the same impact. We do not see the smog from LA here on the east coast, but we do see the smoke from forest fires in Alberta, Canada when they rage out of control. It is only man's hubris that leads us to believe that we can have such a widespread impact on the climate.

So stop wasting our time and money trying to prevent the inevitable. Start planning for how we will deal with the effects of global warming as the warming trend continues. We also need to plan for the opposite, since current scientific theory shows that the net result of global warming is an ice age, and that the transition is extremely swift. Climate change will happen. We cannot prevent it any more than we can cause it. The solution is to deal with the after-effects because that is all we can control.


No comments :