Monday, November 28, 2005


Original Chimes Article Here

Saving the earth or selling the future?

[ see also Treaty may cost Michigan big money ]

As humans continue to destroy God’s environment, the Kyoto treaty is one small step to limit this destruction. The Kyoto treaty, so named because it was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, seeks to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gasses that cause global warming. If the treaty were ratified into law, industrialized countries would reduce these emissions over a five year period beginning in 2008. Although the target level is different for every country, the United States would reduce its emissions by 7 percent during this period.

The Kyoto treaty, since its inception, has been under such intense criticism from both the right and the left that any argument for it must invariably be on the defensive. It now looks unlikely that the treaty will be passed into law, and this is truly a tragedy.

From the left, the Kyoto treaty is criticized for not going far enough. The Union of Concerned Scientists, for instance, states that the climate will be in severe danger unless a goal of reducing admissions by 20 percent, not 7 percent, is adopted. Other activists fault the treaty for dealing only with global warming and ignoring other environmental issues. It is feared that if the Kyoto treaty were passed, it might be at the cost of delaying other environmental legislation.

These concerns are certainly understandable. However, the Kyoto treaty was not designed as a legislative cure-all for the environment. It is only one small step towards a cleaner environment.

What is more, given the intense opposition the treaty already faces from the business community, stricter regulations seem sadly unrealistic. It should also be understood that the Kyoto treaty is a political document and compromises were made in order to get support from various countries. Without these necessary compromises, the Kyoto treaty would never have existed.

Critics from the right accuse Kyoto of unfairly burdening the United States. Developing countries would be exempt from mandatory emissions reductions, but would be encouraged to set voluntary goals. This is partly to make it easier for these countries to catch up to the industrialized nations, and also reflects the reality that the vast majority of emissions come from the wealthiest nations. However, critics argue that Third World countries should have the same emissions regulations placed on them.

Those arguing that the United States should be held to the same standard as Third World countries, however, should be careful what they wish for.

The United States alone is responsible for 36 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Even if the Third World did not attempt to reduce emissions, the United States would have to reduce its emissions by 80 percent to match the per capita emissions of developing countries.

There is also the argument that U.S. businesses will move to the Third World to escape the stricter environmental regulations. This is an argument the American people have heard before. In fact, this argument has surfaced with every piece of environmental legislation for the past 30 years. The Executive Director of Ozone Action stated, “The American Petroleum Institute can pay for countless studies that say reducing our consumption of fossil fuels will make us less competitive with Mexico or China, but think about it. If such stories were true, given all our past environmental laws, we’d have people swimming south across the Rio Grande and stowing away on boats to China.” Because the Kyoto treaty would encourage development of more environmentally friendly forms of energy, some say it might actually benefit the United States economically by giving it a head start on these future energy sources.

In addition, businesses have complained that the costs necessary to comply with the Kyoto treaty would be devastating. James Kotcon, president of the West Virginia Environmental Council, replies to this by saying, “In studies where good data are available, the projections from industry have overestimated the actual cost experienced every time; often by a factor of ten or more. Why would anyone continue to rely on an information source that has been proven wrong every time? Why does industry continue to throw good money away in a futile effort to pretend the world is not changing? Other countries are already capitalizing on these opportunities and investing in the technology to make their industries cleaner and more efficient while the United States stands around complaining that costs are too high.”

Then there is a debate about the very nature of global warming itself. A group of scientists, financed in part by the industries that would be affected under Kyoto, has argued that the impact of global warming is less severe than initially thought. The two most prominent groups are the Global Climate Coalition (made up of coal, oil, utility, railroad and manufacturing companies) and the Greening Earth Society. These scientists base their claims on a narrow set of data and have ignored multiple studies by their peers that suggest global warming is an issue for concern.

Against the powerful lobby of the oil and fuel companies, the Kyoto treaty needs all the help it can get. To find out ways in which you can help, visit . If we do not stand up for the environment, our children will pay the cost.

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