Monday, March 26, 2012

The Kyoto Treaty


On December 11, 1997, after an all night session, the Third Conference of Parties (COP-3) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change approved a "Kyoto Protocol" setting a legally-binding collective target for 39 developed country Parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from a 1990 (generally baseline) for the period 2008-2012. The agreement includes individual reduction targets of 7% for the U.S., 8% for the European Union collectively, and 6% for Japan. Each party must show demonstrable progress towards meeting its target by 2005.

Gases, Bubbles and Budgets

The agreement covers six gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, HFCs, PFCs, and SF6) as a "basket" with the latter three using a 1995 instead of a 1990 baseline. It also enshrines the ability of the European Union (EU) to comply as a group, but it requires adjustment of EU commitments if its membership enlarges. The U.S. proposal for a multi-year target (2008-2012) survived, but no second period was established. This is to be done by 2005 by amendment to an Annex to the protocol, requiring 3/4s of the protocol Parties to approve and to ratify. This latter language was tightened at the behest of U.S. Senate staff observers.

Ratification Process

The protocol will be opened for signature between March 16, 1998 and March 15, 1999 and afterward transmitted for acceptance by Parties. It will enter into force after ratification by 55 Parties which must include developed (Annex I) nations representing 55% of the carbon dioxide emissions from all annex I countries in 1990. The U.S. sought a 65/50 formula, which the Chairman of the Negotiating Committee, Raul Estrada, opposed on the grounds that it would allow the U.S. to hold up entry into force of the protocol by withholding its ratification.

Emissions Trading

The agreement nearly collapsed on the issue of emissions trading. It was favored by the U.S. (along with Russia, Iran, Samoa, and Mexico,) but opposed by a number of both developed and developing nations. Opposition within the EU was led by France. In return for gaining acceptance of emission trading (EU amendments calling for establishment of procedures and guidelines for verification and accounting by a future COP before going into force,) U.S. relinquished its opposition to the EU bubble and ultimately moved from a target of stabilization at 1990 levels to a 7% reduction (the bidding began at 2%).

Developing Nations Exemption

Article 9, calling for a voluntary opt-in process for developing nations to adopt binding commitments, was deleted with opposition led by China, Brazil, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. While Russia and the Alliance of Small Island States supported it (as did Mexico, Korea and Argentina with certain reservations,) Chairman Estrada ruled that there was no consensus and dropped the article. Later, Argentina and the U.S. sought to place the issue on the agenda for COP-4 in Buenos Aires next year, but this too was opposed by China and others. Estrada said he would try to work something out next year. Hailing the agreement, Vice President Gore said in Washington on December 11, 1997 that the Administration would not submit the protocol to the Senate until "meaningful participation by key developing nations" was obtained. The agenda for COP-4 will be decided at a meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation in June, 1998 in Bonn.

Joint Implementation/Clean Development Mechanism

Another item identified early on by the U.S. as a "must" for agreeing to a protocol was Joint Implementation (JI) among all Parties with credit. As approved, JI will be limited to Annex I Parties. A new device, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) will be available for joint projects in non-Annex I nations through the payment of a special administrative fee by developed nation participants. This is a reworking of a Brazilian proposal for a penalty fee for non-compliance for Annex I Parties that miss their targets.


Another major negotiating point was the treatment of emissions removed from the atmosphere by land and forestry "sinks". The U.S. sought a definition, although limited to human-induced sinks, that included "managed" forests, a concept strongly opposed by Brazil. Language supported by the U.S. and applicable only to the first budget period (2008-12) was finally accepted.

Compliance and Damages

The Kyoto Protocol says enforcement procedures for dealing with non-compliance "shall" be established at the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol. The first meeting shall also consider what actions related to "funding, insurance and transfer of technology" may be needed to minimize adverse social, environmental and economic impacts on developing nations of actions taken by developed nations to meet their targets.

Policies and Measures

Article 2 of the Protocol says each Party "shall" implement or further elaborate policies and measures "in accordance with its national circumstances" and lists eight examples including measures to limit emissions in the transport sector. The COP may later decide to "coordinate" any of these measures. However, the language is not mandatory.

Pentagon Waiver

In a separate decision (FCCC/CP/1997/L.5) the COP approved the waiver sought by U.S. Department of Defense officials. It states that emissions from multi-lateral operations pursuant to the UN Charter should not be included in national reporting totals. However, other defense-related emissions must be reported and this point raised the concern of Congressional observers in Kyoto.

The Scientific Consensus

The U.S. Administration states that the science is "clear and compelling," based on the supposed consensus of 2,000 (and sometimes 2,500) scientists that "the balance of evidence...suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." This statement comes from the 'Summary for Policymakers' of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC published three reports of published research on climate change in 1995 on: science; impacts, adaptation and mitigation; and economics. The contributors and reviewers of all three volumes total about 2,100, relatively few of which are specialists in atmospheric physics. Most are economists, social scientists, policy experts, and government functionaries.

Chapter Eight of the report, "Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes" which provided the background for the "discernible impact' statement, had four lead authors and 32 contributors (not 2,000). After it had been peer-reviewed and approved by the contributors, the chapter was modified so as to change the tone, creating considerable controversy.

From this material, the 'Summary for Policymakers' was written. As one of the IPCC lead authors, Keith Shine said, "We produce a draft, and then the policymakers go through it line by line and change the way it is presented... It's peculiar that they have the final say in what goes into a scientists' report."

Robert Reinstein, former chief State Department negotiator on the climate treaty under President Bush, agrees that the wording of the summary was negotiated at length by international delegations. "Because of this," he said, "the summary must be considered purely a political document, not a scientific one."

Ben Santer, one of the lead authors of the controversial Chapter Eight, said, "It's unfortunate that many people read the media hype before they read the chapter. I think the caveats are there. We say quite clearly that few scientists would say the attribution issue was a done deal."

In July 1996, over 100 European and American scientists issued the "Leipzig Declaration," warning that there is still no scientific consensus on the subject of climate change. "On the contrary," the statement says, "most scientists now accept the fact that actual observations from earth satellites show no climate warming whatsoever."

Science Concerns Greenhouse Effect Explained

The "greenhouse effect" is a natural process that allows the earth to be warm enough to sustain life. Gases in the atmosphere act like a blanket and trap or slow down some infrared radiation, or heat, emitted by the earth, thus warming the earth’s surface. Water vapor makes up about 97% of all greenhouse gases (ghgs). The remaining 3% is composed of primarily of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide. Man-made global emissions of carbon dioxide are less than 4% of total (natural plus man-made) annual emissions. Apparently, nature also removes slightly more carbon dioxide than it emits every year, effectively cutting the annual rate of growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in half. The concern is whether increasing amounts of man-made greenhouse gases may be warming the earth enough to significantly change weather patterns. Man-made CO2 comes primarily from deforestation and burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Methane and nitrous oxide come from a variety of sources, including mining, farming and waste disposal.

What Are the Effects, If Any?

A great deal of recent media attention has been focused on the possible connection between global warming and extreme weather events. In fact, the 1995 UN science report stated that "overall, there is no evidence that extreme weather events, or climate variability, has increased, in a global sense, through the 20th Century." (Section 3.5.4, pg. 173.)

Hurricanes and Tornadoes

Although some people have argued that hurricanes are becoming stronger and more frequent and that droughts and floods are becoming more common, recent work by scientists worldwide dispute this hypothesis. Observational data show that the frequency of both hurricanes and violent tornadoes have not increased in recent decades. Sound theoretical arguments have been advanced that indicate even if global warming does occur, the frequency and aerial extent of hurricanes are not likely to increase. (Macdonald, Norman J., and Sobel, Joseph P., Changing Weather? Facts and Fallacies about Climate Change and Weather Extremes, Accu- Weather, Inc., 1995, page 3.)
There is basically no trend of any sort in the number of hurricanes experienced in any of the four regions [central Atlantic, east coast of the U.S., Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea, for the period 1947 to 1987] with respect to variations in temperature. (S.B. Idso, R.C. Balling, Jr., and R.S. Cerveny, "Carbon Dioxide and Hurricanes: Implications of Northern Hemispheric warming for Atlantic/Caribbean storms," Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics, Vol. 42 (1990), p. 261.

Heat Waves

The 1995 UN science report found that there was no evidence of an increase in extreme maximum temperatures across the United States. (IPCC Climate Change 1995, Working Group 1, section


Recent droughts in the Southwest and the excessive rainfall in the East are related to certain unusual features of the jet stream. There is substantial evidence that variations in the jet stream and associated drought conditions over the Southwest were due in part to abnormally cold sea temperatures over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. (Dole, Randall M., NOAA Environmental Research Laboratories, Climate Diagnostic Center.)

Sea-Level Rise

"Initial estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency projected that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would cause sea level rises to rise by between 80 and 120 inches. By 1990 these estimates had been reduced by 75%. In 1996 a United States science advisory panel predicted a rise of only 15 to 22 inches by 2100 -- still based on shaky assumptions."

"Data from the warming of 1900-1940 show a drop in sea levels, while the subsequent cooler period shows a sea level rise. This effect is even more pronounced in comparisons of sea-level changes with sea-surface temperatures in the tropics, where most of the oceans’ evaporation occurs."

"These findings support the hypothesis that ice accumulation in the polar regions may have a greater impact on sea levels than do the melting of glaciers and the thermal expansion of ocean water. Support for this view also comes from concurrent but as yet incomplete measurements of ice accumulation at certain locations in Greenland and the Antarctic." Fred Singer, professor emeritus on environmental sciences, University of Virginia, "The Sky Isn’t Falling, and the Ocean Isn’t Rising."

While sea levels have always fluctuated throughout history, increases in global average temperatures have the potential to impact sea levels in three ways. Water expands in volume as its temperature increases above current levels, and this "thermal expansion" is the primary driver of predictions of rising sea levels. In addition, any melting of the polar ice caps could augment the sea level rise. Offsetting thes factors, higher average temperature could result in an increase in precipitation. This could have the effect of removing water from the sea through evaporation, and depositing the water via increased snowfall in polar regions, resulting in a buildup of water stored as accumulated snow and ice away from the sea. Current estimates are that sea levels have risen five to ten inches over the past 100 years, with the UN’s scientific panel on climate change predicting in 1995 a 20 inch increase over the next 100 years. This prediction compares to their 1990 estimate of a 26 inch increase over 100 years. Models which assign more importance to the precipitation effect predict smaller sea level changes and some models even show a sea level decrease.


"Global changes in temperature and precipitation patterns during the next century are not likely to imperil food production for the world as a whole." (U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, June 1995.)

"The effects of the increasing atmospheric level of CO2 on photosynthetic capacity for the enhancement of food production and the output of rangelands and forests, appear far more important than any detectable change in climate." Sylvan H. Wittwer, "The Global Environment: It's Good for Food Production," 1997.


"Fewer than 50 years ago malaria was endemic in many mid-latitude countries of the temperate zones and occasionally reached as far north as the Arctic Circle. The Netherlands, which last time we checked was a tad north of the tropical rain forests, wasn't declared malaria-free until 1970." Dr. Paul Reiter, Global Warming and Mosquito-borne Disease in the U.S., The Lancet, 1996. "Singapore, which is located just 2 degrees from the equator, reported no deaths from malaria in 1994. Malaysia, just next door, suffers from endemic malaria and dengue fever. The difference is not the climate, but the wealth of the two areas." Thomas Gale Moore, WHO Cares!, World Climate Report.

"Simple steps, such as screens on windows, the elimination of standing water, and suburbanization (which reduced population density and thus the risk of transmission) were largely responsible for eliminating mosquito-borne diseases. As evidence, we previously reported on a 1995 dengue pandemic that infected a Mexican state that borders Texas. Reynosa, Mexico reported 2,361 cases; the entire state of Texas reported eight cases. The only reasonable explanation for the difference is living standards. Where people enjoy good sanitation and public education, have the knowledge and the willingness to manage fresh water around households, implement programs to control mosquitoes, and employ screens and air-conditioning, these mosquito-borne diseases cannot spread. If the climate does warm, these factors will remain." Thomas Gale Moore, "The Big Scare", World Climate Report, December 30, 1996.

"Evidence for the importance of context can be found in the historic extent of malaria. Between 1780 and 1840 virtually all people living in Ontario, as far north as Ottawa, suffered from a disease ... now recognized as being benign tertian Malaria … Few climatologists would argue that there has been significant regional cooling in Ontario since 1840, so why did the incidence of malaria change from being almost universal to afflicting fewer than one patient per decade? Today, Ontario continues to host three species of anopheline mosquitoes capable of transmitting malaria. However, the large swamps in the south of the province have been drained, other surface waters are well managed, and disease surveillance leads to rapid isolation of patients and severance of the parasite-host cycle essential to further transmission of the disease. It is clear that public health measures, case management, and land use play a [more] significant role in determination of the prevalence of malaria than climate." Hadi Dowlatabadi, "Assessing the Health Impacts of Climate Change," Degrees of Change Newsletter, Global Change Integrated Assessment Program, Carnegie Mellon, September, 1996. 

A Libertarian’s Favorite President

On President’s Day George Will published a wonderful article in Newsweek on libertarian Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX):
Most congressional offices are decorated with photos of representatives gripping and grinning with presidents and other eminences. Paul, who thinks the presidency has swollen to anticonstitutional proportions, has photos of two Austrian School economists, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, who warned against what Hayek called “the fatal conceit” of governments thinking they can allocate wealth and opportunity more reasonably than can markets. Paul’s office has a picture of one president—Grover Cleveland, the conservative Democrat who asked, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”
I knew that Paul had strong Austrian influences (economic and political) and I knew he would agree that presidential powers have grown to dangerously authoritarian levels (which are two prime reasons why I am supporting his run for the presidency), what I was pleasantly surprised to find was that his favorite president, like mine, was Grover Cleveland. It lead me to consider the best “libertarian” presidents.
(I put “libertarian” in quotations because being a good Objectivist I am of course supposed to despise the label as it lacks definition and philosophical substance and such. Let me then define best “libertarian” presidents as the presidents who best embodied the principles of individual liberty and limited government in their time.)

I think that Grover Cleveland has to be at the top of the list. The empirical evidence shows this, but I postulate that many, if not most, “libertarians” would put the former sheriff from Buffalo at the top of their list. A senior faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Thomas J. Dilorenzo, wrote back in 2004 that Cleveland was the best president in line with a limited government tradition (“The Last Good Democrat”). Its a very interesting article, and his stance reaffirms my claim that Grover is the libertarian’s favorite president.

So here are my rankings.

Best “Libertarian” Presidents: 1) Grover Cleveland. 2) George Washington. 3) Calvin Coolidge. 4) Ronald Reagan. Honorable Mention) Thomas Jefferson. Andrew Jackson.

Defeated Presidential Candidates: Samuel Tilden. Barry Goldwater.

Jane Galt on Behavioral Economics

The always interesting Jane Galt made a pithy and amusing critique on behavioral economics (the study of the rationality, or lack thereof, of economic actors in the [free] marketplace; often used by the left to criticize the idea of free market efficiency):
The post below also applies to behavioural economics, which the left seems to believe is a magical proof of the benevolence of government intervention, because after all, people are stupid, so they need the government to protect them from themselves. My take is a little subtler than that:
1) People are often stupid
2) Bureaucrats are the same stupid people, with bad incentives.