Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The white heat of Kyoto debate

The estimable Tim Newman has reiterated his post on the Kyoto Protocol, and I highly recommend that you go and read it. There are a few points that I'd like to emphasise.
Actually, in a democracy such as the US, it is not possible to browbeat a president into doing something which is deeply unpopoular with the general population. In tin-pot countries such as Azerbaijan, Congo, Djibouti, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, and Syria, the president can ratify anything he likes, because if he bothers with elections at all, they are mere formalities which simply prove that the incumbent should be in office for life.

Well, quite. The Kyoto Protocol has not been ratified because it's supposed benefit is merely to delay "catastrophic warming" by about 6 years, even were any of those countries who have ratified it to actually fulfill their obligations. Needless to say, none of them are even close.
In short, if the world wants the US to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, they are going to have to make a decent case and sell it to the general population of the United States. (In Europe this has not been necessary, as thanks to the EU, sweeping decisions are made at a lofty and detached level guarded by a phalanx of bureaucratic jargon and overpaid consultants, meaning there is no longer a requirement to gain approval from the ignorant masses.)

In this, Tim does not go far enough. The EU is, effectively, a tin-pot dictatorship; certainly as far as Britain is concerned. No one in this country has ever voted to be a member of the EU and nor have we ever had a referendum on any of the treaties agreed in our name (the referendum on joining the EEC cannot really be counted, since the people of this country were lied to: it was claimed that it would be a trading partnership only, not a supranational, federal organisation). Not one of our credible political parties is offering the chance to withdraw and nor are they offering even a referendum on whether or not we should.

This is a criminal omission and indicative of the craven nature of politics in this country; that we should have no real option but to continue to prop up this dictatorship is absolutely intolerable. But I digress...
The failure of the US to sign up to what is clearly a flawed agreement is not that of the Bush administration (especially when considering that the US senate rejected the Kyoto Protocol by 95-0 in 1997, when Clinton was president), but that of the people who tasked themselves with trying to get them to do it in the first place.

One of the worst contributions of the Bush administration to the world is that it allows lazy people to write Bush off as some kind of demonic moron; this cannot be the case. No matter that he is not particularly articulate, no one gets to be the President of the United States without having at the very least some kind of animal cunning. And one certainly does not get re-elected with a larger majority than before—despite the foreign policy problems and an almost comedically hostile media—if he is a total idiot.

However, his amusing spoonerisms and mistakes have allowed those engaged in political debate to simply write off any policy with which they do not agree by using the "Bush is a moron/demon" argument, a subject which I have written about previously...
Protagonist "Black is white."
Antagonist: "No it's not."

Protagonist: "It is. Because apparently God tells Bush that white is white. And Bush is an evil wanker."

Antagonist: "Ha ha. Yes, you're right, he is. I didn't believe your argument before, but now you've mocked Bush, suddenly I can see that you're right. And Bush is a silly believer. Therefore black must be white."

I've lost count of the number of people with whom I have had discussions about Kyoto who will happily excoriate Bush, but who are actually utterly unaware of what Kyoto actually says or what any implications might be. Most are also utterly oblivious to the arguments about the extent to which climate change is happening, or why. It is simply that Bush has refused to ratify the Protocol, and the Protocol os going to save us from a fiery death and therefore Bush is bad.

When one points out the problems, replies such as, "well, the problem is one of the UN being able to enforce it" come up. There is no acknowledgement of the fact that the Kytoto Protocol itself is a bad thing, and will do a lot of harm for minimal good. At the very least, it will divert money away from research into other, more productive technologies.
Incidentally, when people refer to the US as “the world’s biggest polluter”, it raises some interesting questions. Firstly, how accurate is the data coming from countries like Russia and China?

And secondly, the term “world’s biggest polluter” is somewhat misleading in itself. It may be the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but the two are not the same. In effect, the statement lumps together all kinds of pollution and fails to recognise that some kinds of pollution are worse than others.

I cannot find the link at present, but I do know that the per capita carbon emissions of the US actually fell last year: the same cannot, unfortunately, be said for the EU. Our emissions simply rose by less than predicted (but still more than was stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol).

Go and read Tim's post: he is pretty much correct.

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