Global Warming Essay: The Kyoto Protocol


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Introduction

From man’s basic understanding of existence, he acknowledges that his presence is but a fraction in time in relation to the longevity of the Earth’s existence. This attests to the time period in which the Earth functions. Man’s calculations of year to year changes in the Earth’s atmosphere are meager at best in determining the cycle for such an entity. Man’s oldest data dating back from ice core samples from Antarctica can not trace back further than a minute percent of the history of the billions of years that the Earth has existed.

(Relatively) recently, Earth has endured "naturally occurring" Ice Ages, meteorological disasters, and the evolution of man and his technology.

So the question is raised, is mankind bold in thinking that anything it does collectively will scar the Earth beyond repair? Man might change the Earth’s surface, man might obliterate his own existence, but man will not change the propensity for nature to allow the continuation of life.

Debate on Global Warming

So, what is man doing for mankind? There is a general concensus that one of the greatest dangers man is imposing upon himself is that of a global change in the atmosphere, causing the average temperature on Earth to increase.

Before any discussion can begin on how to go about fixing the problem of global warming, it is improtant to point out that the problem is more basic than otherwise understood. The problem is not global waring, it is how to deal with the possible existance of global warming.

First, let us consider the assumed temperature change. What real facts are we using to conclude that a global temperature increase is happening?

Second, consider the possible reasons for a temperature change. Is man the only possibility?

Third, assuming the chance for man to be the cause in a real global temperature average increase, is this a situation that we should try and label a problem? Is change always bad?

The amount of data that is accessible and relavant to this this debate can be interpreted in a variety of different ways…

Go on and surf the World Wide Web. You may find convincing arguments on both sides, but that is just it, they are arguments. Models have been constructed, theories have made predictions, and more.

What do we know? We know that the evidence is inconclusive and more research should be done.

Explorations on the corrolation between fluctuations in solar activity and Earth’s temperature changes should be furthur endeavored, expirimentation with simulated Earthly atmospheres should be enhanced, and U.

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S. Weather Satellites should continue to collect the most accurate data.

In addition, the models have predicted catastrophe. The models also predicted the temperature change to hit regionally in the polar regions, yet the North Atlantic has shown a regional cooling trend in the last twenty years. Consider the possibily that the models could be wrong.

Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol was signed on September 16, 1987 by member nations to decrease the total number of greenhouse gas emmissions, specifically CFCs. The protocol agreed to in Montreal, Quebec, was the summation of a short hisory of environmental safety and preservation.

Starting approximately in the mid-seventies, the first event to lead to the protocol was the theory of ozone depletion. Several organizations tried to come up with the best next step to cure the problem of ozone depletion, finally to end up a little over ten years later in Montreal.

The protocol layed the groundwork for a global "phasing out" of CFCs and halons. Both CFCs and halons are considered significant ontributors to the new ozone depletion problem; their exisatance is marked by a twelve year count down as of today. The (official Montreal Protocol) is a successful tool being used to phase out the grenhouse gases that it specifically lists, and so those original 24 member nations have signed an additional 137 nations, making the total number 161 in the most recent count. It has been tweaked and ammended only twice, once in 1990, and again in 1992.

The need for the ammendments was not to work out any flaws in the protocol, rather the 1990 and 1992 ammendments were used to create a new Multilateral Fund. This is a fund fuel by developed nations to help developing nations abide by the protocol and upgrade their technology so that their gas emissions become less imposing on the environment. This successful addition to the Montreal Protocol takes into consideration that such an endeavor depends on global participation. Now, the protocol is more and more popular, being signed by more than six times the original founding nations.

Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol is a contrast to the Montreal Protocol, the latter being the precedent on which the former was created. It was created on the other side of the world, in Kyoto Japan, and seems to be telling for the two prtocols are as different as night and day. The Kyoto Protocol goes into detail explaining exactly which countries will decrease or increase certain gases, time frames, and even integrates a new market for pollution buying and selling.

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted by 160 nations on December 11, 1997 at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Kyoto Protocol is emmensely long, remains today unsigned by the United States of America, and is still dubbed a "work in progress." The ammendments are numerous and confusing, it is viewed as less and less poular over the past year, and there is talk of scrapping this protocol completely.

Work In Progress

Not to mention the countless amendments that have been made to the treaty in this last year, Kyoto Protocol is a work in progress for each nation internally. They have systems to create, implement, and stand behind. The International Pollution Trading Regime is a new concept altogether and would have to revolutionize the way businesses are run globally. There is need for a tracking system or stock market to adopt this policy of buying and selling shares of… pollution. Yet, the protocol already has binding limits for 38 developing nations to decrease their emmisions on an average 5.2 percent below 1990 emmissions. The gases that will be limited are specifically: carbon dioxide (C02), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N20), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The cost of compliance is high, and the protocol infers possible ways to try and defer some of the costs.

In comparison to the Montreal Protocol, Kyoto Protocol is far more complex and controversial. As it is, Montreal Protocol had two contries that successfully abided by the protocol, Great Britain and Germany. The way in which they went about complying was not by making more complexities within their nations, rather these two contries revolutionized the mandate way of thinking by going through their own procedure within their own govenemnets, and removing restrictions and policies. In a way, it it opened up their own propensity for a positive change naturally.

Perspectives

Right versus Might. Global Disaster versus Econmic Disaster. Who is right, and what are the risks on both sides? Is there a common ground to work from?

There is a huge gamble that the protocol takes on if it is implemented for the United States. That gamble is the American economy. Every testimony debating the issue pointing out the risk for the American economy is acting on behalf of a nation that is healthy, successful, and the standard for high qualiy of life. The economy is booming, the citizens are rallying behind each cause, and innovention has become a way of life. So how does the United States go about protecting this invaluable good? Does it choose sides in the debate of global warming, put all of it’s egg in one basket, and hope for the best?

In the event that either extreme occurs, the possible reprocussions are numerous. If the Earth faces global catastrophe if no action is taken, it could be in the form of flooding throughout the world, death via lethal skin cancer, world wide resettlement operations, etc. If the United States faces economic disaster, it could be in the form of billions of dollars lost in GDP, a startling increase in unemployment, the decrease in the American standard of living, small businesses might suffer and become handicapped, and equally important, the world would go on the same wild ride as the American economy. In Armageddon, it was so eloquently put, "Honey, do you think that someone somewhere is doing exactly the same thing that we are doing right now?" " … I hope so, or else what are we fighting for?" (Of course, insert into this analogy the American economy.)

Options…

Kyoto Protocol is on the table, needs work, but otherwise ready to be ratified by the United States. The United Nations can implement a new plan of action with less contingincies, similar to the Montreal Protocol. It should be noted that the more complex and defined the international law, the closer chance it has of falling into the realm of disaster, such as banning DDT which inadvertantly afflicted Malaria upon millions. The history proves that such protocol can not only help, but their good intentions can drastically hurt as well.

Or, the protocol can remained unsigned and the United Nations would be forced to come up with something new. This would set a new standard for innovation on behalf of the organization.

Sources

Cornell University. Montreal Protocol On Substance That Deplete the Ozone Layer. gopher://gopher.law.cornell.edu/00/foreign/fletcher/MONTREAL-1992.txt.

Environment Canada. The Montreal Protocol. http://www.ec.gc.ca/ozone/Mont_opp/montsumm.htm. November 28 1997.

Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Montreal Conference Participants. http://www.strategies.org/Participants.

Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Negotiating the Montreal Protocol Concepts and Terms. http://www.strategies.org/Ozone-Terms.

International Research Institute. IGOSS nmc monthly ssta: Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly data. http://ingrid.ldgo.columbia.edu/SOURCES/.IGOSS/.nmc/.monthly/.ssta/.

International Research Institute. [/KEELING /MAUNA_LOA (CO2)]: co2. http://ingrid.ldgo.columbia.edu/SOURCES/KEELING/.MAUNA_LOA.cdf/co2/.

Lewis, Marlo Jr. Testimony of Marlo Lewis. The Competitive Enterprise Institute Washington, D.C. http://www.cei.org/testimony/1998/98-06-11-ml.html. June 4, 1998.

National Geographic. Ice Cores From Antarctica. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/2000/header.html. 1998.

Peace Energy Project. Global Warming Central. http://www.law.pace.edu/env/energy/kyoto.html, May 11, 1998

The Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, An Overview. http://www.envirotrust.com/protocol.html, NET Web Site Version 4 rev 1998.


Weathervane Perspectives on Policy. http://www.weathervane.rff.org/pointcpoint/index.html,


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