My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Friday, April 04, 2008

Re-thinking Kyoto...

Gee, when the Guardian starts to run articles like this...then the jig is up for Kyoto...
A spring gale is lashing orthodox climate policy. This week, an article was published in Nature that should shake the certainty of anyone who assumes that the Kyoto protocol approach is the sensible way to go, and that signing the accord is a responsible step for the United States to take.

Three climate experts offer some inconvenient truths. Roger Pielke, Tom Wigley and Christopher Green are far from being climate change sceptics, but they are vigorous heretics about some of the orthodoxy of the debate. They show it is even more urgent than we thought to abandon the failed Kyoto strategy and move quickly to policies which might actually reduce carbon emissions. Any workable strategy has to include India and China: Kyoto did not. As they rapidly industrialise and reduce poverty, their CO2 emissions will rise steeply - by as much as 13% a year for the period from 2000 to 2010, in the case of China.

The Nature piece is titled "Dangerous assumptions". The most dangerous assumption is how all the scenarios that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published have a built-in assumption that misleads us about the magnitude of the emissions challenge. It shows that the technological challenge is at least twice as big as people believe. So this is where the rubber hits the road.

The IPCC has assumed that about three-quarters of the emissions reduction required to stabilise CO2 will occur "spontaneously". It would arrive as a free rider on the back of the well-documented trend which indicates that, after an initial upswing, the energy intensity of industrial societies has a record of impressive and continuous decline. What does that mean?

Energy intensity is an elegant and potent function which shows the relationship, over time, between a standardised unit of production - say £1,000 of gross domestic product - and the amount of energy used to make it. Until recently, mature industrial economies have become less energy-intensive: through greater efficiency they have used less and less energy per unit of production during the later 20th century. Japan is the world leader in this respect.

But "Dangerous assumptions" shows that, globally, this is no longer the case. Principally because of the rapid industrialisation of India and China, reduction in energy intensity has levelled out or reversed in recent years. The global economy is not decarbonising - it is recarbonising. This was noticed by the experts in the IPCC but not reported in its Summary for Policymakers, the politically negotiated document mostly read by politicians and journalists. If the free rider of decarbonisation is not available, the challenge to move quickly to a radically different type of global climate policy is all the greater.

What would a materially effective policy do? It would break the link between poverty reduction and carbon emission. It would recognise that the developing world needs to consume - and will consume - more energy, not less. It would recognise that attempting to control human-created carbon emissions by setting binding output targets and relying on artificial carbon markets and dodgy offsets, as Kyoto does, has not and never will work.

Such policy would shift to the input side, and concentrate on radical improvements in the production and use of energy. It would focus first on the sectors of all economies that are the heaviest consumers of energy: power generation, building, cement and metals production. The sectors that western environmentalists have prioritised hitherto, such as road and air transport, should be much further down the list. If all automobile use in the US stopped tonight, the reduction in global emissions would be less than 6%. Instead, there must be a much larger commitment to fundamental energy technology research and development.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home