Saturday, April 08, 2006

Kyoto No-Go

In the second anti-surprise of the week, the Conservatives are now saying that Canada should scrap the Kyoto Protocol and do something different about climate change. The thing is, they're probably right. Kyoto was/is a terrible plan (especially for Canada), and no serious-thinking person with a gram of understanding of economics could have ever believed we'd achieve it's targets without resorting to "pulling people out of their cars and shooting them".1

The hilarious (and somewhat scary) part of this article is when they say:

Canada is not the only country that agreed to the protocol on global warming in Kyoto, Japan, nine years ago only to find now that cutting greenhouse gases is a lot tougher than first thought.

Really? Did they really believe that it was going to be easy? My god, the inmates are running the asylum.

Rona Ambrose, the Canadian Environment Minister had this to say:

Canadians need to talk about "action and solutions long term. We need solutions that are out by 50, 100 years, not two years, five years."

Well, she's partly correct. We actually need both. The big changes do need to happen over longer time periods - the Kyoto window was ridiculously short. The problem with the 50-year target is that it's basically an excuse to do nothing for 45 years and then realize we're not going to make it. What we should do is create very moderate short-term reductions (or even slowing the growth of GHG emissions), and have those reductions ramped up over time to allow for turnover in the capital stock of the economy. This provides long-term signals about future costs that can be incorporated in business planning, which will stimulate innovation while avoiding the huge up-front costs associated with restructing the economy in a short time period. Additonally, the cuts could presumably be accelerated over time as the economy adjusts to new realities such as a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme.

1 - this fine little quip can be attributed to a former professor of mine, Mark Jaccard, who teaches ecological economics at the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. And just to clarify for Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, et. al., he was not actually advocating doing this - it was just way of stating how unreachable Kyoto's goals were.


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