Withdrawal from Kyoto Protocol not Canada’s finest hour
The immanent end of the Kyoto protocol necessitated the drafting of a new agreement that many hoped would promote more immediate action on climate change. Last year’s UN summit in Cancun had bred hopes of a new era of international collaboration on climate change as world powers agreed that keeping global warming below 2°C was imperative and, with time running out (a reduction by 2020 is necessary to avert a 2°C increase), it finally seemed as though the world was intent on meaningful action. In Cancun, the powers that be architectured a global emissions monitoring system and forged a commitment to help developing countries with climate change. The Durban climate change summit was meant to bolster the terms agreed upon in Cancun and forge a legally binding agreement. In a dramatic conclusion to the Durban meeting, world leaders from 194 countries hammered out an agreement a full 36 hours after the summit was scheduled to end.
Spearheaded by the EU, the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action will see major world powers collaborating in a legally binding agreement that will extend the mandate of the Kyoto protocol. The agreement reinforces their commitment to the prevention of climate change through emissions reduction initiatives. The signatories also agreed to draft a legally binding protocol by 2015 which will be enacted by 2020; a move seen as too little too late by some, and hailed as a breakthrough by others. The platform also committed to raising $100 billion by 2020 to help developing countries with their bids to prevent climate change. The platform extended the current Kyoto protocol to 2017.
Rhian Kelly, CBI director of business, echoed most big business sentiments when she extolled the agreement as a success. “Tangible progress towards a global deal in the form of a roadmap and the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol is a great result and shows that the UN process is not dead in the water,” she said. “However, this isn’t a deal itself and must be used as the base camp for the mountain we’re still to climb. We need to keep the momentum going and ensure this roadmap results in something concrete. Businesses have not slowed their pace in managing their emissions, developing new low-carbon products, and investing in new sources of low-carbon energy – we need the same level of ambition from our politicians.” The perceived success of the summit by big business is mostly due to the fact that business leaders do not expect the platform to result in any concrete change to their operations.
Others cite the platform’s lack of resolve and firm action as proof that it did not go far enough. Many environmental groups declared that the summit fell short of actions that will result in meaningful change. The continued reticence of India and China to commit to legally binding protocols is the major hurdle in the bid to prevent climate change. The US and EU suggested that China and India be removed from the list of developing countries, given their volume of GHG emissions and the size of their economies. These suggestions were resisted with the officials of both countries urging the west to fully implement existing agreements in their own countries before any new legally binding protocols were created.
Many environmental groups and those in the scientific community counter that the glacial pace of reform renders climate change inevitable: “This empty shell of a plan leaves the planet hurtling towards catastrophic climate change. If Durban is to be a historic stepping stone towards success, the world must urgently agree to ambitious targets to slash emissions,” said Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth.
The Durban summit was not Canada’s finest hour
The government’s continued support of the lucrative oil sands initiative in Alberta makes the restrictions of the Kyoto protocol too expensive to comply with. As a result, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol in a bid to save $14 billion in penalties for failing to meet emissions targets.
Why being a sceptic is passe
When it comes to climate change, 98% of climate researchers, 97.4% of climatologists and about 90% of earth scientists agree that global warming exists and is causing irreparable changes to the earth’s weather. Then there are the sceptics. Perhaps the fact that they stand out from the majority and that many are trusted scientists in their fields gives them a louder voice. If what they say is true, then global warming is a farce and we can put down the granola and step away from the tree.
Their explanations for the change in the weather are legion, but the most popular are that it’s a natural phenomenon that would occur anyway (after all, the CO₂ emitted by volcanoes and rotting vegetation is certainly voluminous) or that the facts and figures are false and the majority of scientists are alarmists. Often politicians and industrialists cling to these assertions like barnacles, refusing to change their evil, greenhouse gas producing ways until more scientific evidence is brought to bare. Now a leading voice in the sceptics corner is about to jump ship.
The stakes are really high. If what the sceptics claim is true, then our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are fatuous. Instead of developing renewable energy and spending money on making industry greener, we should feel free to spew forth, using the cheapest forms of energy available. We could all go the way of China and India; it would really help our economies and create much needed jobs.
Meet Richard Muller. Some of you may know him as a leading Berkley University physicist and outspoken critic of global warming. So adamant was Muller that global warming was an alarmist stunt, that he formed the Berkley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study to refute it. His basic tenant was that the scientific methodology used during the measurements of global warming phenomenon was flawed. He blamed errors in measurement for the results that various institutes (including NASA) had obtained. The BEST team decided to sift through 200 years of global temperature data, rigorously checking for accuracy and throwing out measurements that were suspect. This meant that a staggering 1.6 billion figures from 39, 000 stations across the world would need to be checked over a two-year period.
The results were not what Muller expected; instead of refuting global warming theorists, Muller’s study only confirmed that studies conducted by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other groups were, in fact, accurate. The BEST team confirmed that global warming had caused a 1 degree increase in temperature since the 1950’s. The sceptic has been reformed. In a statement on his website he says: “Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”