- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Given the heated rhetoric it was surprising to see a mostly muted response to the news that the Kyoto Protocol will finally become a legally binding treaty. With Russia handing its official ratification papers to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Nairobi on Nov. 18, the protocol at long last has the support from countries that emit 55 percent of the world’s so-called greenhouse gases.

The subdued reaction was likely due to the refusal of the United States and Australia to ratify the treaty. Although Russia produces 17 per cent of emissions, the big prize was the United States which produced 36.1 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions in 1990. It was with nothing less than fury that the world responded when President Bush withdrew American support for the treaty.

Despite that anger, Mr. Bush was entirely correct. Numerous economic studies, including ones conducted by the Clinton administration, predicted serious adverse effects, including the loss of up to 900,000 jobs by 2010 if emissions were stabilized at 1990 levels. Reductions to 7 per cent of 1990 levels would impact employment on an even greater scale. The Energy Information Administration estimated that it could cost the American economy as much as $397 billion annually in taxes and regulations designed to reduce energy consumption.

Of course, the Kyoto Protocol is a global treaty and its effects will be felt worldwide. Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, estimates that the global economy could lose as much as $274 trillion by 2100 and barely have any effect on global warming, with the Third World bearing the brunt. Energy, of which the developing world will use more of as it continues to modernize, will only escalate in price.

Mr. Bush was also correct when he stated that there continues to be a scientific debate over global warming. Over 17,100 scientists — including 2,660 physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers and environmental scientists and 5,017 scientists who specialize in chemistry, biochemistry, biology and other life sciences — have signed a petition organized by Dr. Frederick Seitz, a past president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, opposing the Kyoto Protocol.

Their opposition to the treaty is based on the lack of conclusive science that supports traditional global-warming theories. In recent years, an avalanche of studies largely ignored by the media has argued that much of global warming seems to be related to natural processes out of human control. There have been 250 rapid climate change events over the past 2.5 million years. Philip Stott, emeritus professor of biogeography at the University of London, even went so far as to announce in 2002 that attributing global warming to greenhouse gases was “a lie” and that “Kyoto will not halt climate change.”

Despite their refusal to join, the United States and Australia aren’t out of the woods. The issue of enforcement has long been debated by the treaty’s proponents. It is likely that the World Trade Organization, of which the United States and Australia are both members, will be the mechanism used. The protocol itself, once it comes into force, can be amended to include any date for enforcement that its members wish. One way or another, the world will attempt to punish the two biggest nations that refused to be parties to the treaty.

Though that is likely, the two nations should continue to stay out. Untold amounts of money will be spent over the coming decades to meet the requirements of a treaty in which the science is suspect and where actions undertaken will have little to no impact on global warming. The United States and Australia will pay a price by refusing to ratify the protocol but it will be far cheaper than the one the treaty’s parties will pay, as they will come to learn.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

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