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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bali Climate Change Conference

Google announced they will be participating in the Bali climate change conference, sharing their views over the coming days (for more background,, the philanthropic arm of Google, is detailing what they do to battle climate change). Associated Press earlier this week wrote:

Delegates and scientists from around the world opened the biggest-ever climate change conference Monday, urging rapid progress in building a new international pact by 2009 to combat global warming – or risk economic and environmental disaster.

Some 10,000 conferees, activists and journalists from nearly 190 countries gathered on the resort island of Bali for two weeks of U.N.-led talks that follow a series of scientific reports this year concluding that the world has the technology to slow global warming, but must act immediately. (...)

A main thrust will be to draw the United States, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, into the process. Washington did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that mandatory cuts in emissions would harm the economy and calling into question the veracity of global warming science.

The objective of the Kyoto Protocol mentioned above is, according to the United Nations treaty, to achieve “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The following map shows the current participation in the Kyoto Protocol, according to Wikipedia, who explains: “green indicates states parties, yellow indicates states with ratification pending, and red indicates those that signed but declined ratification of the treaty”:

[Image GNU licensed by Alinor.]

Update: MarWi comments that the Wikipedia map could be misleading:

The Kyoto Protocol basically distinguishes between developed countries and developing countries. At the time the treaty was negotiated (1997) China, along with India and Brazil, were regarded as developing countries. With regards to the need for developing countries to grow, they were not given any reduction targets. The treaty only came into effect 2004 and by that time China, India and Brazil already were major air polluters, but still weren’t required to reduce anything.

As opposed to what the AP suggest – writing that the US argued “mandatory cuts in emissions would harm the economy,” calling into question “the veracity of global warming science” – MarWi thinks that this part of the treaty is the actual “main reason the US is still not ratifying the protocol.” In regards to China, the Wikipedia entry on the Kyoto protocol has this to say (footnote pointers removed):

In 2004 the total greenhouse gas emissions from the People’s Republic of China were about 54% of the USA emissions. However, China is now building on average one coal-fired power plant every week, and plans to continue doing so for years. Various predictions see China overtaking the US in total greenhouse emissions between late 2007 and 2010, and according to many other estimates, this already occurred in 2006.

[Thanks MarWi!]

Update 2: TS in the comments adds:

China has 4.3 times the population, so the actual emission per person is about a factor of 7 less than the US. It is true China is not being asked to reduce emissions, but how could they, given they currently use 7 times less per person?

It’s a common rhetorical trick by opponents of Kyoto to only talk about growth rates and not absolute numbers, and much of the media eagerly swallows this idea. Now, if someone where to propose a global limit on emissions per person, say at the level of 50% of the US, I am pretty sure China and India would eagerly accept.

[Thanks TS!]


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