Killing Kyoto

The ineffective and mostly ignored Kyoto agreement is due to expire in 2012. Climate change activists around the world are girding their loins in preparation for the battle over Kyoto 2, the follow on treaty. Their goal? New regulations for black carbon, methane and driving anthropogenic CO2 emissions to zero. Leaving no bad idea unused, there is talk of implementing a global cap & trade system where developed nations that are able to reduce emissions beyond their Kyoto targets can sell excess reduction credit to other developed nations through the Emissions Trading mechanism. Beyond that, rather than negotiating CO2 emission reduction targets on a nation-by-nation basis—as in the current Kyoto framework—a future level of maximum allowable global temperature increase can be chosen. It is clear that the warmists have made the transition from irrational to delusional.

The Kyoto Protocol was written in response to the Rio de Janeiro summit on the environment in 1992.The countries involved in Rio agreed that CO2 levels in the atmosphere needed to return to 1990 levels and decided that this change would be achievable by 2000. This did not happen.

In the policy section of a recent issue of Science, Andrew J. Weaver of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, has revealed the hopes and aspirations of the climate change lobby for a second round of Kyoto regulation. In an article entitled “Toward the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol,” Weaver calls for expanding the scope of the Kyoto framework to include other forms of carbon: black carbon and methane. Of course, there is plenty of opprobrium left for that old daemon, CO2.

Black Carbon

First on the climate change enemies list is black carbon, otherwise known as soot. This is tricky ground for social activists because a major source of soot comes from developing nations. “Black carbon is primarily released in developing nations during deforestation and the inefficient combustion of fossil fuels,” states the article. It's so much easier to denounce pollution when it comes from rich countries, populated by undeserving fat cats driving fancy cars and living energy squandering lifestyles. But the facts are the facts, as shown by the black carbon sources map below.

Black carbon emissions in 2000.

Noting that black carbon is very effective at absorbing incoming solar radiation, the article states: “In terms of radiative forcing (which describes an imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiation), black carbon is the next biggest player in global warming behind CO2.” The author then tries to soften the blow to the world's poor, including everybody's favorite developing nation—China.

Amending the Kyoto Protocol to include black carbon as a regulated substance would be beneficial for several reasons. First, it would allow developing nations a relatively straightforward means of participating in second-reporting-period emissions reduction through more efficient burning of fossil fuels and reduction or elimination of deforestation. Second, air quality would be improved. Third, an additional area of potential projects would exist under the CDM. Finally, the benefits of reducing black carbon emissions are realized almost immediately owing to its short atmospheric lifetime. Measurement, reporting, and verification of black carbon would fall under current national GHG inventory reporting and REDD+.

Here CDM stands for Clean Development Mechanism, a UN program that allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction credits. Each credit is equivalent to one ton of CO2. Credits can be traded and sold, and used by industrialized countries to a meet a part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. In other words, this is another cap & trade scam.


Next up is methane, CH4, also known as natural gas. Methane is the next biggest contributor to global warming after black carbon. CH4 is a short-lived greenhouse gas (GHG) with an atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years. In 1995 the global warming potential (GWP) of methane was estimated to be 21 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year time horizon. Strangely, its GWP was pegged at 56 when taken over a 20 year period, but the 21 fold number was inexplicably codified in the framework.

How unlike the climate alarmists to miss the chance to paint an even grimmer picture. Yet somehow, methane was mostly overlooked by the original Kyoto accord to the point that methane reduction programs can actually be punished under the Kyoto framework. The author explains:

Unfortunately, barriers have inadvertently been put in place for the implementation of such abatement projects under the JI and CDM. For example, the CDM defines an arbitrary crediting period over which avoided methane emissions are calculated and credited to a project. Projects can use one of two options: a single 10-year period or a 7-year period that is renewable twice. Although projects can only earn emission reduction credits over these relatively brief periods, a methane GWP of 21, reflecting the 100-year horizon, is used. This makes little sense, as the CDM's focus is on short-term emissions avoidance and diminishes the viability of projects that could afford immediate realization of the benefits of methane abatement.

Again the alphabet soup of green speak intrudes. JI stands for the Joint Implementation mechanism, part of the Kyoto framework. Defined in Article 6 of the Protocol, JI allows a country with an emission reduction or limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to earn emission reduction units (ERUs) from an emission-reduction or emission removal project in another Annex B Party, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting its Kyoto target. More simply put, developed nation A can get credit for an emission reduction project in developed country B, earning ERUs toward its own emissions goals (got that?).

Unfortunately, the author opines, under the CDM, cost barriers have been inadvertently introduced through issuing too few carbon credits for the resulting methane emission avoidance. When it comes to the Kyoto Protocol, even its authors and supporters are confused by the emissions shell game it created. Has it really taken 10 years to figure out that many of its provisions are counter productive? The author was correct when he said, this makes little sense.

Carbon Dioxide

Finally, we turn to that familiar old villain, the Darth Vader of global warming, carbon dioxide. Here the plan is simple, no CO2 allowed. “Scientific advances since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol have led to the recognition that stabilization of atmospheric CO2 at any level requires anthropogenic CO2 emissions to go eventually to zero,” Weaver states. He goes on to restate the green dream of a zero emissions future for all mankind.

The case for developing parallel policy initiatives for near- and short-term climate mitigation is compelling. Reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions to zero in order to stabilize atmospheric temperatures is an onerous task. Socioeconomic, cultural, and behavioral inertia preclude rapid transformation of global energy systems away from dependence on fossil fuel combustion. However, gradual reduction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions within a cumulative emissions framework could allow for a smooth transition to renewable and zero-emission energy systems.

Citing “certain policy advantages,” the article throws its full support behind moving from individual national goals to a single global one. This would be set by picking a maximum allowable global temperature rise. But earlier, it was plainly stated that limiting global warming to any fixed level requires zero CO2 emissions. No matter, Weaver blithely states “under the Copenhagen Accord, it appears that 2°C above preindustrial levels has already been agreed upon.” Who agreed? A bunch of know-nothing bureaucrats, diplomats and NGO hacks in a closed room at the last minute—unlike politics, science is not done in a smoke filled room. He then claims that the allowable future cumulative emissions required to keep global warming below this temperature threshold can then be calculated. And the answer is... ZERO!

Carbon, still green public enemy number one.

This all flies in the face of recent scientific reports that the UN IPCC promoted goal of limiting climate change to a 2°C temperature rise is unreachable (see “Researchers Say UN Climate Goals Impossible”). And the planned assault on methane is eclipsed by news that we do not even understand the fundamentals of the methane driven ocean carbon cycle. By its creators' own admission, Kyoto has been a failure. Surely the best thing we could do is to kill Kyoto altogether. Yet hope springs eternal in the breast of bureaucratic climate regulators everywhere.

They got the science wrong and in many cases their regulations have been counter productive. The only thing Kyoto helped to create is a gigantic international bureaucracy that tries to insinuate itself into every government, every agency on the planet. Not satisfied with wasting billions of dollars that could be put to far better use, the IPCC and its green fellow travelers wish to dictate how we live our daily lives. If it is zero CO2 emissions they desire let them lead by example—stop jetting around the world, attending international conclaves in fancy hotels, shuttling about in limousines. In fact, since they demand zero human carbon dioxide output, let's insist they all stop exhaling. The whole world would breath much easier.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Kyoto deal loses four big nations

Japan and Canada told the G8 they would not join a second round of carbon cuts under the Kyoto Protocol at United Nations talks this year and the US reiterated it would remain outside the treaty.