Monday, May 22, 2006

Kyoto Protocol: trading dollars for pennies is immoral

Back in 1997, the Oxford economist Wilfred Berkerman, author of 'Small is Stupid' asked 'why should one impose a much higher burden on present generations in order to reduce carbon concentrations significantly' for a future generation that will be far richer than us in any case? (1)

I thinks it's completely immoral to ask developing (and developed) nations, in particular, India and China, to distribute their wealth, for the next 100 years, to a future generation that will be far, far richer than we are today. Furthermore, not only is the Kyoto Protocol morally bankrupt, the economic analysis of the costs of implementing Kyoto, seem highly dubious as well.

OpenDemocracy's very own eco-worrier, Caspar Henderson, is adimant that the Protocol will only cost some '£10 billion', and not the '$4 trillion' which I quoted previously on openDemocracy. The figure I quoted came from Dr Sallie Baliunas, who is the senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. According to Baliunas, in order to meet the criteria laid down by Kyoto, the US would have 'no choice but to cut energy use'.

Baliunas argues, that by the year 2010, if the Protocol was implemented by American environmentalists standards, the United State's annual consumption of energy would be around 110 quads, 110 quadrillion BTUs of energy. (2) But, back in 1995, the US consumed nearly 90 quads per year. (3) By 2003, that went up to 98.1 quads per year. (4)

So, in order to meet the 2010 bar of 110 quads, America would have to reduce their energy consumption by some hefty 7 percent. The US would have to make do with a lot less energy. So energy cuts, coupled with the implementation of Kyoto, until 2010, will cost somewhere between $2 trillion and $4 trillion. (5)

The statistician Bjorn Lomborg, author of 'The Skepitical Environmentalist' argues that the worldwide cost of Kyoto would be in the region of $350 billion per year, by the start of 2010 - rising to a massive $900 billion per year by 2050. The American Department of Energy Information Administration calculate a much gloomier figure. They estimate that Kyoto will cost the US, alone about $300 billion per year - with a resulting loss of GDP, over ten years would be about 28 percent, triple the loss of GDP experienced by the US during the Great Depression, that was about 10 percent. The sum of money needed to implement Kyoto is truly enormous. All that money, for all that length of time, for what? So we can delay the predicted amount of warming by a measly 6 years? (6)

A lot of people think it's morally right to spend thousands of billions of dollars, over the next 100 years, in order to prevent global warming. But when you balance out the sheer costs to what benefits we would receive, the benefits just don't seem worth it. Kyoto is akin to handing over a dollar in order to receive a penny - and in mine eye, that's immoral.

Read on:

(1) Professor Wilfred Berkerman. The Millennium Environment Debate.


(2) Dr. Sallie Baliunas - Senior Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.


(3) Figures for BTU consumption from Ecoworld.com.


(4) American Department of Energy Information Administration Statistics.


(5) Dr. Sallie Baliunas.


(6) Global warming nonsense. An economic journal publishes junk. By Paul Georgia. National Review.

Picture: 'The Blue Marble' - From Visible Earth. NASA.

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