A lot of political effort has been expended dealing with the environmental issues raised by global warming. 64 The effort culminated with a treaty that was prepared at a meeting in Kyoto Japan. Seven key elements are identified as important. They are 1- Emission Targets, 2- Legally Binding Commitments, 3- Identifying All Green House Gas, 4- Multiyear Compliance Periods, 5- Emissions Trading between Parties, 6- Sequestration, and 7- Incentives for Developing Countries.
Much human effort was involved in debating and preparing this treaty. The United States Senate voted unanimously to reject the treaty. President Bush has said that he will not support the treaty. The
Kaiser, Jocelyn, "The Other Global Pollutant: Nitrogen proves Tough to Curb", Science, Vol. 294, No. 5545, November 9, 2001, Page 1268
Sandalow, David B. and Bowles, Ian A., "Fundamentals of Treaty-Making on Climate Change", Science, Vol. 292, No. 5523, June 8, 2001, Page 1839
United States has been heavily criticized for not supporting and signing the treaty. Despite the criticism directed specifically at the United States, the governments of the other nations involved in preparing it have largely failed to ratify the treaty.
The Kyoto treaty is defective. Take the key elements one by one and examine them. 1- The only meaningful target is zero emissions of carbon dioxide. All nations must do their utmost to decrease carbon dioxide emissions to put off the onset of damaging global warming. 2- Legally binding commitments implies some method of enforcing the commitments. Who will do it, a United Nations peacekeeping force? Who will pay for the enforcement? What action do you take for those that resist? War? 3- Identifying all the Green house gasses is useful science but has little bearing on reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and should be covered under separate action. 4- Multiyear compliance periods fall in the same category as commitments, who will enforce? 5- The notion that the right to pollute the atmosphere can be traded between nations is patently ridiculous, probably will not work,65 and most would judge it immoral. 6- Sequestration (hiding the carbon dioxide) is like sweeping the dirt under the carpet. It is still there, only now no one can see it; at some point it will make problems for our descendants. 7- What kind of incentives will be provided for developing nations? Are we to pay them to forgo development?
Sequestration has attracted a lot of attention. The notion is that if you hide some of the carbon dioxide you will be allowed to produce more. A number of methods have been suggested for the sequestration. 66 Most of these methods involve the handling of relatively pure carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, none of the carbon dioxide sources produce pure gas. At a minimum, it is diluted with a large amount of nitrogen from the air. Concentrating the carbon dioxide will use relatively simple technology but will require huge and likely costly facilities. The stack gas from a power plant would be cooled. At temperatures below 100 Celsius, the water would condense. This water will contain a small amount of sulfuric acid and a host of other contaminants derived from the impurities found in the fuel. It will require treatment, before disposal. At about -100 Celsius the carbon dioxide would be collected as solid. We are all familiar with solid carbon dioxide; it is the dry ice use to keep some things cold. Once concentrated, the carbon dioxide can be pumped into depleted gas fields. One suggestion was to sink it in deep-sea water. Deep-sea disposal seems likely to product a larger environmental problem that the carbon dioxide in the air.
Another method of sequestration is by planting trees. Many of the nations represented at the Kyoto Conference requested that this be a major part of the treaty. Much data suggests this method is only temporary.67 The trees grow and then decay.68 The carbon dioxide is only held up for a few centuries at the most and under most conditions for only 20 to 30 years. 69 If some type of crop were grown, harvested, bundled with rocks and sunk in Deep Ocean, then this method could probably remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with safety. This method of sequestration would be relatively permanent. This method would require a lot of cropland to make a meaningful impact. The mineral nutrients in the plant materials would be lost to the current biosphere. The side effects of soil depletion and poor use of agriculture land makes this method of sequestration a dreadful idea.
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66 Herzog, Howard, Iliasson, Baldur, and Kaarstad, Olav, "Capturing Greenhouse Gases", Scientific American, Vol. 282, No. 2, Fabruary 2000, Page 72
67 Pickrell, John, "Scientists Shower Climate Change Delegates with Paper", Science, Vol. 293, No. 5528, July 13, 2001, Page 200
68 Noble, I. R., and Scholes, R. J., "Storing Carbon on Land", Science, Vol. 294, No. 5544, November 2, 2001, Page 1012
69 Pacala, S. W. and 22 others "Consistent Land- and Atmosphere-based U. S. Carbon Sink Estimates", Science, Vol. 292, No. 5525, June 22,2001, Page 2316
If all the goals in the Kyoto treaty were met, at the best, the Kyoto notions would put off the effects of global warming a few years. Look back at Figure 1.1 it shows and rough estimate of the reduction in build up of carbon dioxide if the Kyoto treaty is fully implemented. This tiny benefit would be achieved at very high cost. 70 The other issues address in this chapter such as future value of hydrocarbons, their ultimate depletion, other types of environmental damage and the potential for international conflict are not addressed in the treaty.71 The United States Senate voted properly when it rejected the Kyoto treaty. At the time of this writing (February 2002), no nation has ratified the treaty. Unless Japan gets on board the European Union will not have the 55% of industrialized countries producing greenhouse gas, required for the treaty to take effect.
In June of 2001, a gathering called the Millennium Environmental Debate 72 was held in Oxford University Union in England. A motion was made by Dr. Maki Mandela stating, "This house condemns America's neglect of climate change" (read Kyoto Treaty). The motion was adopted with a vote of 274 to 65. The United States President George Bush was heaped with opprobrium for siding with big business. This thinking is based on the notion that big business forces us to purchase goods, drive cars and warm our houses. This notion is naive. Businesses get big by supplying the products we want. They are at our mercy. The steam engine manufacturers no longer build railroad equipment, not because of a management decision to stop, but because there was no longer a market for steam engines. The Coke-Cola Company spent a lot of money on product and advertising to introduce a new drink. It quickly flopped; again, this flop was not the result of a management decision. People simply did not like the taste of the new drink. Coke-Cola made a fool of it self and lost a lot of money.
We all must keep in mind that when the people of the world clearly express the desire to stop global warming and provide this message to big business, then big business will struggle to get bigger satisfying that desire.
The flaw in the Kyoto treaty thinking process is the notion that one can somehow continue to use fossil fuel carbon as the primary energy source and still have meaningful reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide. Governments have forced automobile manufacturers to place emission control devices to new automobiles. These devices add between $500 and $1000 to the price of a new car. They have been remarkably effective at reducing smog-producing emissions, but did they end emissions? No, they did not. They reduced the emission of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, but probably make the car emit slightly more carbon dioxide.
We need to guard against things like the Kyoto process. The process is a bit like taking pictures of food and showing them to hungry people in the hope that seeing food will help diminish their hunger. International studies are, too often, complex diplomatic maneuvers that provide the illusion that action is being taken; when in fact, all that is accomplished is employment for supernumerary government employees.
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