Part of Al Gore’s campaign platform was that he was instrumental in drafting the Kyoto accords and that he supports cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This is both a dubious boast and an outrageous lie, as evidenced by this week’s U.N. Climate Summit in The Netherlands.
The Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, but the Clinton/Gore administration has never submitted it to Congress for ratification. The agreement, which calls for a 5.2% cut in global greenhouse gas emissions under the 1990 levels by no later than 2012, is therefore not binding on U.S. businesses.
Since 1997, emissions from U.S. sources have continued to increase. The U.S. is by far the largest polluter, producing 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions (with only 4% of the world’s population).
This year’s climate summit is a very important one; it is focused on the practical aspects of cutting greenhouse gas emissions–i.e., how to implement and enforce the Kyoto Protocol. If an agreement can’t be reached by all parties about how emissions cuts are to be achieved, the Kyoto agreement could fail. The U.S. is the major player holding up the talks.
The Clinton/Gore administration has proposed a plan that is very controversial and could undermine the whole intention of the Kyoto Protocol. The plan would rely on “carbon sinks” to offset carbon emissions from U.S. sources. Carbon sinks include forests, farms, and greenbelts–areas of undeveloped land that can absorb carbon from the atmosphere. The controversy lies in an argument over how the sinks would be counted; if all parties agree to allow offsets, the U.S. should only be allowed to count new forests and farms. Yet the Clinton/Gore plan calls for including existing forests, farms, and greenbelts to offset emissions. This is not only bad science, but it could lead to a situation in which the U.S.–the largest producer of greenhouse gases–need not make any real cuts in its emission levels, thereby undermining the Kyoto agreement and worsening global warming.
Many nations object to the use of carbon sinks to offset carbon emissions, since they don’t have the ability to use them (Middle Eastern nations, for example). There’s also a lot of scientific uncertainty about the ability to measure how much carbon is absorbed by carbon sinks. Other critics point out that farms and “managed” forests (which can be cut or subject to carbon-spewing forest fires) often release more carbon into the air than they absorb. Yet the notion of offsets, especially carbon sinks, are popular in the U.S. Congress, where several senators have said that they will never vote for the Kyoto agreement if it hurts the U.S. economy. This is a code phrase for: “We won’t vote for it if it means U.S. businesses have to spend any money to lower their emissions” (particularly U.S. auto makers, which are among the largest corporations in the world).
The Clinton/Gore administration is attempting to appease Congress (i.e., Ford and GM) by undermining the intent of the Kyoto Protocol. Part of that process is to point a finger at the Third World and demand that poor nations commit to making a bigger sacrifice (when, in fact, it’s only fair that the U.S. make the biggest sacrifice, because we are, literally, the biggest offender.) The U.S. also wants to use “pollution credits” to offset emissions here at home. In other words, U.S. businesses would pay companies in other countries to pollute less, thereby allowing U.S. companies to continue to pollute unabated. Everyone else can tighten their belts, except for us.
Other industrial nations are beginning to cut their emissions and are likely to meet the goals specified in the Kyoto agreement (including most of the European Union). The U.S., however, is going in the opposite direction. Current Clinton/Gore policy, if continued, will undermine the treaty completely.
But here’s the real shocker that puts the lie to Gore’s environmental posturing: even if the U.S. reversed policy and began to cut emissions, and if all nations in the world met their targets under the Kyoto Protocol, it wouldn’t be enough. Scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have affirmed that we will soon need to make cuts of at least 60% in carbon emissions to alleviate global warming. Under these circumstances, Al Gore’s boast is not only comic, it’s hollow and sickening.
Many environmentalists are unwilling to give up on the Kyoto agreement, however. They say it is a first, albeit tiny, step in the right direction. If true, it makes this year’s summit all the more important, and the U.S.’s proposal all the more horrific. Even this tiny step will likely be thwarted in favor of U.S. business interests. Tell me: what is the true difference between Gore and Bush? The answer is simple: at least Bush has no sick, idiotic, backward plan that pretends to “address” global warming.
Sources include: “U.S. Climate Plan Threatens to Deepen Summit Rift,” Reuters, 11/14/00, “Climate Talks Critical for U.S.,” BBC Online News, 11/14/00, “High Stakes at The Hague,” BBC News Online, 11/10/00, “Climate Talks Deadlocked, Race to Find Compromise,” Reuters, 11/17/00, “Protesters Besiege Climate Talks to Show Flood Risk,” Reuters, 11/18/00.