By far, most of the earth’s 6 billion are unconcerned about
human-induced global warming. By comparison, a small handful of people
are deeply concerned about it. Most of these people assembled in Bonn,
Germany, on Oct. 25 to plan strategies to force all humans to conform to
a lifestyle they say will slow global warming.
The two-week meeting is the 5th Conference of the Parties (COP 5) to
the Framework Convention on Climate Change which is expected to attract
more than 5,000 delegates and observers from more than 150 of the
world’s 188 nations.
When the treaty was signed by President Bush in 1992, it required
voluntary action by 34 developed nations to reduce greenhouse emissions
to 1990 levels by the year 2000. When the first conference of the
parties met in Berlin in 1995, the delegates decided that the developed
nations would not meet the voluntary targets, and that legally binding
targets must be mandated by the United Nations body.
The Kyoto Protocol established those legally binding targets in 1997,
requiring the United States to reduce its emissions to a level 7 percent
below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. A Ministerial Declaration adopted at
COP 2 in Geneva described the Kyoto Protocol as the “first stage” of an
ongoing effort to eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels.
Is human activity causing global warming?
The only truthful answer is, no one knows. Neither the $8 million
advertising campaign funded by the Environmental Trust, nor vice
presidential pronouncements that claim human-induced global warming is
real can make it so.
It is also too early to conclude that human activity has no effect on
global warming, although the science continues to support this view.
The clear, simple fact is that no one knows — for sure — whether or
not the use of fossil fuel has any influence on the climate. Even Dr.
Stephen Schneider, Stanford University’s outspoken global warming
advocate, admitted at COP 4 that no “reputable” scientist could say for
certain that climate change due to human activity has yet occurred.
This fact is well known to the United Nations negotiators, but it
doesn’t matter. The 1992 “Earth Summit” which produced the climate
treaty, also produced a declaration which sets forth what is called the
“precautionary principle.” This means when a threat exists, policy
action should not be postponed by the absence of scientific certainty.
The Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC), presented to COP 2 in 1996, said, “… the
balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on global
climate.” The IPCC is the official scientific body of the United
This somewhat meager statement was sufficient for the policy makers
to announce that the science was settled; that there would be no further
discussion of the science, and that henceforth, the delegates would
focus on policies to prevent the emissions of greenhouse gasses from
reaching a “dangerous” level.
Of course, “dangerous” is not defined, and no one knows whether or
not any particular level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is
dangerous. The earth has experienced periods when carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere was several times more dense than current levels.
The rest of the scientific community was not deterred by the U.N.
pronouncement. Several scientists, however, were de-funded when their
research failed to support the U.N.’s conclusions.
Since the U.N. pronouncement in 1996, more than 18,000 scientists
have signed a public statement
- There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of
carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will,
in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s
atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is
substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon
dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and
animal environments of the Earth.
Few issues have ever divided the scientific community as
bitterly as the dispute about global warming. But it doesn’t matter.
The policy makers are gathering in Bonn to continue negotiating rules
that will require dramatic changes in the way people in developed
countries conduct their lives.
Dr. Bonner Cohen, publisher of EPA Watch, compares the policy
requirements of the Kyoto Protocol to a doctor who prescribes
chemotherapy to a patient, just in case a sneeze may lead to cancer,
when it is not yet known whether or not the patient even has a cold.
Policy makers are so far beyond any discussion of the science, that
they are now concentrating on the precise rules for implementing the
Kyoto protocol as if it had already been ratified. Since the Protocol
was adopted in 1997, it has been ratified by only 14 nations, none of
which are bound by its requirements. None of the developed nations have
ratified the Protocol. Nevertheless, the agenda has been set, and
negotiations resumed on Oct. 25.
Two major areas are on the table for negotiations: 1) rules by which
so-called “flexibility mechanisms” will be implemented, and 2) defining
the consequences for non-compliance.
In the jargon of the U.N., flexibility mechanisms are “CDM,” “JI,”
CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) is envisioned to be a system that
would allow a developed country to receive “credit” toward its Kyoto
emissions target by financing a “sustainable” project in a developing
country. For example, if the United States wanted to finance the
construction of a coal-burning generating facility that could provide
electricity to every family in Bangladesh, the U.S. would get no credit
for its effort. On the other hand, should the United States finance
solar panels, or windmills, its emission reduction requirements would be
eased by some yet-to-be-determined measure.
The objective here is not to get life-saving electricity to the
maximum number of people at the lowest possible cost, but to prevent the
use of fossil fuel at all cost, and to provide the more fashionable
“sustainable” electricity to the fortunate few who may be selected to
JI (Joint Implementation) is envisioned to be a system that would
allow “credits” for contributing to projects in Central and Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union. In other words, if money flows from
west to east, the West won’t have to curtail its energy use quite as
Once the U.N. gobbledygook has been penetrated, it is fairly easy to
see that CDM means send money south, and JI means send money east.
Otherwise, we’re going to turn off your energy spigot.
ETR (Emissions Trading Regime) is envisioned to be a system that
would allow developed countries to buy and sell emissions credits among
themselves. A cursory analysis of the Kyoto targets and the eligible
countries, reveals that the only countries that can have credits to sell
are those countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union where
the economy is in shambles and industry in near collapse. ETR is simply
another way to send money eastward.
The consequences for non-compliance is on the table in Bonn in a more
serious way than ever before. No agreement on this vital aspect of the
Protocol is expected at this meeting. Discussion has been postponed
since 1995, when the “legally binding” language was first adopted. The
target date for final agreement is COP 6, scheduled for late next year
or early 2001 in the Hague.
At previous meetings, special committees, special task forces and
subsidiary groups have discussed compliance and enforcement. Ideas for
enforcement are plentiful. Some have proposed using the new
International Criminal Court for enforcement. A recently proposed
Charter for Global Democracy calls for the creation of a brand new
Environmental Court in the United Nations judicial system. Various
taxes have been proposed against nations that fail to meet the targets
mandated by the U.N. body.
The most likely compliance mechanism at the moment, and perhaps for
the foreseeable future, is the World Trade Organization. The WTO
already exists and has the power to enforce trade sanctions against any
nation. There has been considerable discussion about utilizing these
powers to enforce the Kyoto Protocol.
As Bonner Cohen suggests, while most of the 6 billion people on earth
are not convinced that the patient has a cold, the handful of “earth
doctors” meeting in Bonn are writing the prescription and planning the
procedures to administer chemotherapy.
The treatment may truly be worse than the disease. The only point of
scientific agreement is the fact that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
has increased from about 270 parts per million (ppm) to about 350 ppm
over the last century, and that most of the increase is the result of
using fossil fuel. The only known consequence of elevated atmospheric
carbon is a direct and measurable increase in the growth and
productivity of vegetation. A comprehensive analysis of all the reviewed
scientific studies on elevated atmospheric carbon conducted by
scientists around the world, revealed that 93 percent of all vegetation
species benefit from elevated atmospheric carbon.
Studies conducted by Dr. Sherwood Idso, a career scientist with the
federal government, reveal increased production in several food crops
that correlate directly with increased atmospheric carbon. Since human
activity generates carbon dioxide, exhaling, for example, and since
oxygen is generated by vegetation, one might reasonably conclude that
the original system design included an automatic balancing system to
ensure that increases in the number of mammals exhaling had all the
oxygen needed to first inhale.
At a press conference at COP 4 in Buenos Aires, Congressman Jim
Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the Kyoto Protocol was an economic, rather
than an environmental treaty. As the delegates begin to put the final
rules together governing CDMs, JIs, and ETRs, his observation is being
confirmed. Compliance with Kyoto’s targets in the United States would
require a reduction of fossil fuel energy use of at least 30 percent
over the next decade. Some calculations put the estimate much higher.
Negotiators are convinced that Americans would rather send money east,
south, or anywhere, rather than give up their automobiles, and air
conditioners, and face revolving electricity “brown-outs.”
As perplexing as these unresolved issues may be, the absolute refusal
of the delegates to even consider bringing developing nations under the
Protocol’s requirements, may be the most telling feature of the entire
process. More than 150 nations are not affected by the treaty including
China (whose emissions are expected to surpass the United States’ within
the decade), Brazil, Korea, and virtually all of the emerging Asian
Before the Kyoto Conference, the president said he would not accept a
treaty that failed to embrace all the nations of the world. In Kyoto,
Al Gore accepted the treaty, and the president signed it. The U.S.
Senate adopted a resolution that said it would not ratify a treaty that
failed to embrace all the nations of the world. Consequently, the
treaty has not been presented for ratification. It is being withheld in
hopes that a more friendly Senate will emerge after the next election.
Led by China and the developing nations, there is no hope that the
U.N. will subject developing nations to the requirements of the
Protocol. China has said in public forum, to ask them again in 20 or 50
years. In Buenos Aires, the question was officially removed from any