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News What would it take the US to sign a protocol?

  1. Apr 25, 2006 #1
    I believe it was world something or other day in the US yesterday so with that in mind:-

    What would it take for the US to sign an agreed protocol to help combat climate change? I read recently that the US has a population of 298 million roughly yet produces more CO2 than Europe population 450 million or so by about a billion tonnes of CO2 per year. Now I don't want to start *****ing at the US for it's backward approach to ecology, sure you get plenty of that already.

    A simple question, what would it take for the US to take golobal warming seriously or at least seriously enough to sign a Kyoto like protocol? I know trillion dollar defecit and all that? But really is at a matter of never or just when?
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  3. Apr 25, 2006 #2


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    I believe one is referring to Earth Day, April 22.

    As for ratifying and signing a protocol, that would take an act of congress and signature of the president on behalf of the US. This would require different people in congress and a different president.
  4. Apr 25, 2006 #3


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    An argument oft repeated is that the US shouldn't have to ratify Kyoto until China and India do so. On the other hand (and ignoring the rationale behind the above argument), I haven't heard any guarantees that the US will sign if China and India do (but I may just be misinformed).
  5. Apr 25, 2006 #4


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    We don't sign it because as even Clinton realized, it's a meaningless treaty and signing it would give the thumbs up to nations like China to pollute all they want. Signing such a treaty is simply vote-pandering.
  6. Apr 25, 2006 #5


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    What it would take is for the treaty to actually be a step in the right direction instead of punishing the US while sidestepping the issue it is meant to address.

    China now has roughly twice the coal output of the US, and is headed to three times by the end of the decade, while the US's output will remain nearly flat. The treaty utterly fails to recognize the environmental threat that China poses.

    Gokul, China has ratified the treaty and under it, they are now bound to do.... nothing (except gain free pollution reduction technology that they don't have to use). :rolleyes: (as is India)
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2006
  7. Apr 25, 2006 #6


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    Correct, I misspoke. They are under the treaty, but are not counted as countries that are required to reduce (or trade) emission levels. The treaty requires only industrialized nations* to participate in reduction of emissions.

    Under the Clinton administration, the policy was that the US will not ratify the protocol unless developing countries are also included in the list. Under the Bush administration, the primary reasons I've heard are that it will hurt the economy and that it is unfair that China be excluded. But seeing that the administration doesn't really believe there is a correlation between greenhouse emissions and global warming, I can imagine no reason why they should want to ratify the protocol.

    * The reasoning behind requiring the responsibility to lie with only the industrialized nations is based on the principle of common, but differentiated responsibility. The crux of this argument is that :

    (i) The developed countries have been contributing greenhouse emissions to the atmosphere for the last century or so, compared to developing countries which have only been getting in the act this last decade or so;

    (ii) So the developing countries should also be allowed a similar time-frame (or cumulative emission volume) before being asked to cut down (or at the very least, they shouldn't be asked to cut down at the same time as the developed countries).

    In short, the net contribution to global harm comes from the cumulative emissions rather than the emission rate. The developed nations are responsible for over 99% of the cumulative emissions.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2006
  8. Apr 25, 2006 #7


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    Right, so one must ask: what is the goal of the protocols, based on this reasoning? Since if the protocols are followed, the greenhouse gas situation in the world will continue to get worse, it works out to punishing developed countries for developing, looking the other way while developing countries do the same things (or worse), and failing to address the problem for which the protocols were supposedly created to address.

    The flaw in the logic is that the question/problem and the answer are talking about two different things. The problem moving forward is how much CO2 is being dumped into the atmosphere and the solution presented in the protocols is based on how much has already been put into the atmosphere. The problem and solution don't match and as a result, following the protocols won't help solve the problem.

    Why base them on the past? How does that help solve the problem? Whether intentional or not, the protocols as currently structured amount to enviroblackmail/economic warfare.

    When a plan is developed that actually attempts to improve the greenhouse emissions situation in the world, then, the US should sign on.
  9. Apr 25, 2006 #8


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    Here's a question: since per capita CO2 production was one of the bases for the protocol, does that mean that China and India should be given the opportunity match the US's per capita CO2 production?
  10. Apr 25, 2006 #9
    Russ is exactly right.

    Kyoto is worthless. The idea of differentiated responsibility doesn't work if you want to actually stop CO2 emissions. If you want to punish those nations whose economies have done the polluting, it works well, but that has nothing to do with stopping the pollution, and will do nothing as far as CO2 emissions. So when there is a meaningful protocol that will actually help, then you can complain about the US government not signing it.
  11. Apr 26, 2006 #10


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    Hmm...sounds like you're waiting to pull out your trump card. In any case, I'll take the bait.

    My opinion : I think the per capita number is more relevant than the gross number (when comparing emission rates)*. After all it takes roughly** twice the amount of steel, cement, processed foods, and cloth to provide shelter, food and clothing to twice the number of people. And this means roughly twice the emission rate.

    * I don't think, however, that it is the emission rate (gross or per capita) that should be thing that decides when a country be asked to cut emissions. I think the fair number to use is the cumulative emissions (area under the emission rate*** vs time graph), but I don't think we can afford the luxury of being that fair. Far sooner than the time it takes for a developing country to reach the cumulative levels grossed by the US to date, we will have to pull the plug on it.

    ** The gross production of a developed country does not scale linearly with its population, but it certainly isn't independent of the population either. If I had to guess a power-law fit, I'd say the exponent would be much closer to 1 than to 0.

    *** Which emission rate - gross or per capita ? Again, I think the per capita number would be fairer, but like I said, even using the gross number is a luxury we can't afford.

    Franz : Why will asking the US to cut down CO2 emissions do nothing to cut down CO2 emissions ?
  12. Apr 26, 2006 #11


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    I wonder how emission rate scales per $$ of gdp...?
  13. Apr 26, 2006 #12

    Nice miswording of what I meant.

    Basing your cuts on past emissions will not help, well at least not necessarily. Past emissions are not necessarily present emissions, and present emissions are the problem that we actually can address. We can do nothing about past emissions, that is already done. Basing the cuts on past emissions is nothing more than economic punishment. It does not address the problem of present emissions, except possibly by coincidence. Now, if you base cuts on current GDP in a way that reflects the current emission rates from various countries, then that actually addresses the problem we can deal with.
  14. Apr 26, 2006 #13


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    I completely missed this post before.
    To curb the rate of greenhouse emissions globally.
    Not worse than without the protocol. So, I see that as an improvement. And what do you mean by "the greenhouse gas situation in the world will continue to get worse" ? Can you rephrase using well-defined terms? In terms of global numbers, what does it take to make the "situation" better. I honestly don't know enough of the science involved here to determine this even approximately.

    No, it's punishing developed countries for emitting at high rates after having developed. If you're a developed country and your current emission rate is low, you are not punished.

    My above argument negates this.

    No russ (and I'm repeating stuff I've said above), that's not true.

    Q : Will the protocol cause a reduction of the global emission rate ?
    A : Yes, it will.
    Q : Will it cause the maximum possible reduction ?
    A : No. That will require every factory, combustion engine and other inanimate emitter to be shut down. This, however, will cause a large fraction of the world's population to die in a very short time.

    How about punishment ? I'm okay with that; it's a bonus !

    And I'll repeat : the crime here is not emitting all the stuff you emitted while you were developing (ie: what you repeatedly refer to as "the past"). That's natural (the only civilizations that can be really low emitters are the technologically unaware and the technologically advanced). The crime is in continuing to emit at high levels when you are developed and have the ability to incorporate lower emitting technology.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2006
  15. Apr 26, 2006 #14


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    Don't those two statements contradict each other, or, at best, not discuss the same thing? I guess it really depends on what you mean by "curb".
    Well hey - you too.

    Anyway, what I mean is that the greenhouse gas situation is based on the total quantity of CO2 in the air. Ie, more CO2 into the atmosphere=getting worse. If implimented, the Kyoto treaty will merely decrease the rate of increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere - and even then, not by very much.

    Think of it like a ship with a few holes in it. The Kyoto treaty forces some countries to plug small holes while simultaneously allowing other countries to punch much larger holes in the ship. The flooding situation is getting worse because the rate that water is pouring into the ship is rising.
    Ehh, yeah, I'll accept that.
    You mean about cutting emissions after developing? Not really - it doesn't change the root issue. The root issue is that dumping CO2 into the atmosphere is a bad thing.

    Consider CFC's - the entire world has agreed to get rid of them, even developing countries. Yet Kyoto allows for completely unrestricted use of CO2 by countries like China. It doesn't even recommend a future cutoff when they should begin to start decreasing their emissions. That's my point above - if allowed to develop naturally (as you seem to be implying they should), China will rapidly surpass the rest of the world's CO2 production combined and the global greenhouse gas situation (the total quantity in the atmosphere) will get rapidly worse.
    No, Gokul, that's simply wrong. China's emission rate is rising much faster than the US's emission rate would fall if we implimented Kyoto. Over the course of this decade, ours will remain roughly flat (without Kyoto), while China's will double. The net global emission rate will rise. True, it will rise slower if the US signs and adopts it, but not really all that much.
    Heck, Gokul, Kyoto doesn't even call for China to slow its rate of increase in the rate of CO2 production. I'd settle for that.
    Well, ok. If you think it is good because it is punishment, that is up to you. I think it is bad because it condones the punching of more holes into an already sinking ship.
  16. Apr 26, 2006 #15


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    Okay, that was a boo boo.By 'curb' I meant 'effect a reduction to the current trend'.

    See attachment :

    y : global volume of greenhouses gases dumped into the atmosphere
    x : time
    dy/dx : global emission rate)

    Let y1(x) represent the curve of projected emissions if Kyoto was ratified by nobody (black). Let y2(x) represent the curve of real emissions since Kyoto took effect (red). Let Kyoto(x) = [dy2(x)/dx] - [dy1(x)/dx] = net change in emission rate due to Kyoto.

    Kyoto(x) < 0 => there is a reduction in the net emission rate due to Kyoto.

    Is this the best we can do ? No, we can, in the best realistic case, make the absolute value of the emission rate decrease (ie: d2y/dx2 < 0, blue line; this I think is what you, Russ, are calling for). But can this be achieved in a manner that will be fair to developing countries ? I think not. Is being fair more important than risking damage to the atmosphere, and hence to us ? For the short term I think it is.

    That depends on what you call 'much' (ie: compared to what). If you look at Kyoto's effect[/url] on CFCs and methane, it is significant, and looks like the blue line of my plot. The effect on CO2 and N2O is weak, like the red line in my plot.


    [/quote]Think of it like a ship with a few holes in it. The Kyoto treaty forces some countries to plug small holes while simultaneously allowing other countries to punch much larger holes in the ship. [/quote]Right now, no one is punching "much larger holes" than the US. The Chinese holes are tiny compared to the US holes (about one-sixth per capita; and the gross emissions is still what, about half the US level ?)
    Clearly, that can't be allowed to go on indefinitely.

    So what ? Your breathing dumps CO2 into the atmosphere. No one's asking you to stop breathing. Why not ? Because that would would rob you of a fundamental right.

    Did you mean to say "CFC's" in the second sentence ? I'm the first to admit that it's a dangerous stance, yet I don't see it as being unfair to the US.

    That, I agree is bad, but perhaps not completely disastrous. I refer you to http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/background/items/1362.php [Broken] :

    The point is that the Kyoto Protocol (including the list of countries under Annex I), as of now, is still only a first of several steps. If you can't get the most technologically developed countries (particularly those emitting several times the global average) to agree to cut down/trade emission levels, what hope is there to enforce emission cuts in countries where the majority of the population eats less in a day than you or I eat in a meal ?

    On the other hand, I see no reason to not set down clear criteria (subject to change by a vote from some overwhelming majority) for future inductees.

    I only imply that that would be the fair thing to do. I expect that China will soon be required to jump in as well. And then India after that and ...

    I agree. It certainly will getting worse, and we will need changes to the Protocol when it does. But the US contributing to the mess doesn't help any. And during the most part of the late 1940s, the US was emitting more greenhouse gas than all the rest of the world put together. Enforcing restrictions on them then would have been unfair (though no one in Europe would have complained).
    I agree with most of this, except for one little bit. The US emission rate is certainly nothing like flat.


    In fact, the growth rate last year was more than double the growth rate for 10 years ago....it's only increasing. Since 1990, the US emission rate has increased by over 25%. If it stays at about a 2% per year increase (the present level) and rises no further (unexpected, but possible), then it would have increased by nearly another 25% over the next decade. China would still have not exceeded the US gross emission rate (but it will be pretty darn close) and both the per capita (as well as per GDP dollar) emission rates.

    That sounds more reasonable to me (even if still a little unfair).

    I don't think the best solution for the atmosphere can be fair to all countries. I do believe, however, that there may be a point soon, when the fair solution will be disastrous to the atmosphere, and will have to be ditched.

    What I don't see is this being unfair to the US. You punched nearly half the holes in the ship; you start patching them up.

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  17. Apr 27, 2006 #16


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    Global warming is not the only possible harm done by greenhouse gas emissions. Poor air quality lowers the quality of life for anyone living in a heavily polluted area. My school must have cancelled PE four or five times a month because of smog alerts when I was growing up. I and all three of my sisters have developed asthma, despite no family history.

    Plus the air where I grew up in Los Angeles is just flat-out ugly. It mars what would otherwise be a gorgeous city backdrop in the San Gabriel mountains, which you usually cannot even see unless it rained the previous day.
  18. Apr 27, 2006 #17


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    Agreed. Nor do I imagine they refute the harm to the Ozone layer from CFCs.

    I guess I was thinking of CO2 levels. If they didn't believe that increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere was a bad thing, then it would still be a bad idea to ratify Kyoto, just for the other stuff.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2006
  19. Apr 27, 2006 #18
    I did say Kyoto like protocol( say in 10 years a Helsinki protocol with a more US friendly set of cards on the table) I would imagine that the US would not care less whether China/India was forced into the same restrictions as it, and it would make little impact on whether it would sign(the economic impact is the major consideration IMO) If this were in fact the only consideration then the US would have signed already. This is the classic bargaining chip of a child, but he's allowed to do it(no mater what the reasoning behind it is) Why can't I? Not comparing the US governement to a child obviously, although it's sometimes tempting :wink:

    I think the value of the old Kyoto protocol if it can be said to have had value is that people are at least trying to meet it's quotas, if you don't sign up then it seems your somewhat saying - from what I'm seeing out there - that I not only don't have to meet it's quotas, but I can get away with doing absolutely nothing at all, and maintain a moral high ground, since the protocol is unfair I am being righteous in doing nothing at all?

    I've heard people say that the US couldn't meet a quota system it just doesn't have the means to, to me this is a nonsense, can't or wont?

    Short of using rhetoric such as how many people have to die in the 21st century for the US to get on the ECO bus, I see little way that any sort of respect for the planet will prevail, to me this is somewhat morally moribund, it's also colossaly selfish. Let's not beat around the bush(although sometimes I think I'd like to :wink:) The US are the worlds dirty neighbours.

    Doing nothing does not lead to a good prognosis, trying to may not lead to a glorious success, but to me if it means the difference between category 4 and category 5, just once in 200 years then it is worth it. We can and always have put a price on life and death, the question to me is what is the price and when does the price of apathy become high enough to change political will?

    I sometimes get the impression that the US is not paying things forward at all and will reap some sort of whirlwind for it's outlook; although I've never wanted to be more wrong about anything in my life, I suspect if I'm still alive in 50 years, I'll have seen some more convincing evidence of the GMT issue.

    I think Astronuc is correct, it would take a completely different government, how long before the whole of congress retires I wonder? 20/40 years?:smile:
  20. Apr 27, 2006 #19


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    There are questions


    regarding proximal causes of various observed changes in the environment, and questions regarding what is "cause" and what is "effect." Once such questions have been addressed conclusively, then it becomes time to agree upon actions to be taken.
  21. May 2, 2006 #20
    Evidence in my favour is that, sorry It's time for me to retire to the land of Nod and I had to skim it briefly. I expected a rebuttal but obviously was mistaken this is very vague but again I have not the time to read or answer it properly, nor probably the scientific knowhow.

    Actually I was trying to be provocative because the thread was dying but it seems I had the opposite effect, I must be right then :wink: :tongue2:

    With the price of oil as it is now America would do well to be looking into renewable energy anyway. I think most scientists apart probably form those with a political agenda agree that CO2 is affecting GMT. There are other reasons it could be going up but they are gradually becoming less and less likely. Do nothing 'til it's too late is again a bit of a backward idea. I think the jury isn't in but I don't think that's the reason the US is reticent either, again I think it's economics pure and simple. I'm not meaning to be insulting but the US has for a long time been a hard core capatilist country, and thus I agree with Astronuc, only a more forward thinking government would sign, and that isn't likely to happen soon. In our lifetimes, depends on how many US dollars they can lose before it becomes cost effective to do something :wink: Here's hoping that they never lose any because it's all just a natural warming cycle caused by the sun, and I truly mean that :smile:
    Last edited: May 2, 2006
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