Kyoto – A Perspective (Part 48)

Posted on Sat 07/05/2008 by



The original premise for this long series of posts was this.
If the Kyoto Protocol is only in place to preserve the environment for future generations, then, surely, that can only be a good thing.
So, why are there Countries holding out on implementing what is called for?
In December the Prime Minister of the Country I live in, Australia, ratified the Protocol and agreed then to start implementing what it called for.
That left only one Country on the whole Planet that has not signed. The United States.

If this is such a good thing, why oh why would they be holding off signing and why did we here in Australia hold off for so long?
For years now we have been force fed how we are destroying the World we live in by polluting the environment that supports us. We have been told at great length that if we don’t do something about it, then we are doomed to increasingly bad weather conditions that will result in the Planet overheating, melting the World’s ice, bigger and wilder tropical storms at latitudes never seen before, the raising of sea levels that will cause low lying areas to vanish into the World’s oceans.
This is something that hasn’t crept up on us, but has been developing over time. It’s just that we have only become aware of it in the last twenty years and it has only come into mainstream widespread coverage in recent times.
The subliminal thing that is used to drive the argument is that this is something we are doing intentionally and callously, and without any thought for the future generations, and that because we are the ones who have caused this, then we should be the ones to solve the problem.


The World’s weather is a delicate entity, balanced by many things. What this argument points to is that what we are doing here on the surface of the Planet is causing something called the Greenhouse Effect. Gases produced by what we do on the surface, raise to the upper levels of the Atmosphere where they act similarly to an insulating blanket, holding in the Planet’s heat, This supposedly raises the ambient average temperature which then plays havoc with our weather.
These gases are called Greenhouse gases, and there are a number of them. Carbon Dioxide is one of them, and this has been mooted as being the largest of them by volume.
Numerous years ago when the argument was first raised, one of the gases was Methane and this was being produced by volcanic action, and as the butt of numerous jokes, livestock, because they ate green herbage and expelled methane, so the ‘cows farting’ jokes proliferated, as this was the largest source of that methane. Very little could be done about methane because you can’t control volcanoes, and livestock is a huge business, mainly for the ground beef trade for ….. well, you know who for without my telling you.
So in recent times one of these other greenhouse gases has come to the fore, one that they tell us we do have control over, and that is Carbon Dioxide. (CO2)

If this is true, then what we need to do is to lessen the emission of this CO2 greenhouse gas.
This is something that is grossly misunderstood. The odd thing is that it is being driven by those Countries in the World that are in the main well educated and able to understand what it really means.
However, do we really understand what it means? We are bombarded by thirty second media bites, and Henny Penny characters telling us that the sky is falling. (And, at a rapid rate) We are told that we need to do something and to start now. Part of the inference is that these gases pour out the exhaust pipes of SUV’s so that aims it squarely at the US because that is where all those cars actually are. This information is then rammed home, and rammed home and rammed home, so we all know that those of us in the Western World are completely to blame and the pointing finger of accusation points squarely at the US.
So then, why is it that emissions from cars only account for 8% of the total CO2 emissions.
That’s odd.

Surely that can’t be right.

Yes, it is correct. Emissions from automobiles only account fro 8% of those emissions.

Then, just where do all those gases come from?
Industry are large emitters, as are mining companies digging everything out of the ground, (and not just coal) there’s the farming industry as well, the transport industry that brings all those goods to us, passenger aircraft, trains, boats, and there are private citizens also in the mix as emitters just by living our lives as consumers of products that have a carbon footprint. Everything has a carbon footprint. But the most emotive thing is the automobile, because that then aims it squarely at affluent societies that can actually afford cars.


That erstwhile and most even handed and fair body, The United Nations, that all encompassing organisation seeking to do good for the sake of the Countries that inhabit the Planet, decided in its infinite wisdom to solve this problem for us all, for the good of the Planet. So they got together, and surprise surprise, formed a committee. That committee then laid down the solution. They formed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They held more meetings and in 1997 laid down the solution. The Countries of the Planet were to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to a level 6 to 8% lower than what was emitted in 1990, later set down at around 5% lower. This was agreed to in 1997.
One hundred and eighty one Countries agreed to the Protocol and what the UN required of them was to sign as agreeing to the principal of the Protocol and then a more important signature, that of actually ratifying the Protocol, which meant that the Countries ratifying it agreed to work towards those targets.
The Protocol was to stay in effect until a new Instrument was raised in 2012.

Now comes a quirky little thing. The UN, which as we all know is a fair and even handed body decided that some Countries were richer than others, so they should carry the brunt of the load. So, what that fair and even handed body did was to say that more than half of those 181 Countries were exempted from trying to achieve the targets because they were classed as ‘developing countries’, and the impost of actually cutting back was going to prove difficult for those ‘poorer’ Nations, just something they could not afford and  because of that, should not then be asked to shoulder that burden.

What this effectively did was to place the load upon those more affluent Countries, and yes, you guessed it, the most affluent Country of all was designated the one to carry the largest load, the USA.
The UN, in its infinite wisdom decided that the US should actively decrease emissions IN ITS OWN COUNTRY, implement replacement methods for anything adversely affected IN ITS OWN COUNTRY, pay a huge carbon tax IN ITS OWN COUNTRY, because they have been shown to be the largest emitters, so therefore they should pay for that so called privilege, because, after all, they can afford it.

Then, on top of that, the US should also pay the bulk of the costs involved with reducing emissions for those developing Countries so that they too can also find replacement methods to lessen the emission of CO2.
I mean, after all that’s only fair, isn’t it.
The US wasn’t all that keen on this having to actually support the rest of the World, so the Clinton Government signed the Protocol as agreeing with the intent, but did not sign as ratifying the Protocol. What the Clinton Administration said was that they would not agree until binding targets were agreed to by all Countries, as this just gave those developing countries open slather to keep doing what they already were doing. The Clinton Administration did not refer the Protocol to the Senate for ratification. The next Administration, that of President George W Bush also did not submit the Protocol to the Senate for ratification, proving that there actually was bipartisan support for that original decision by the Clinton Administration. So, as much as Al Gore trumpets that we need to do something and to do it now, he was part of that Administration who did not ratify the Protocol, and rightfully so too.

So that is the reason that the US is the only Country on Earth not to have ratified the Kyoto protocol, because it placed an unfair imposition upon the US and not upon the rest of those Countries as well. Australia was another of those Countries to hold out, and the Protocol was not ratified until December of 2007 after the Government changed and a new Prime Minister was elected with the populist view that signing was a good thing, and the fact that it was an election promise, the people believing the misinformation they were being spoon fed by a media with no real understanding of the Science, the Technology behind it, the engineering, and most importantly, no understanding of the implications of just what the Protocol’s real intent meant.


So, other than our SUV’s (remember, those automobiles only account for 8% of CO2 emissions) surely we, as general members of the public can’t be affected all that much. I mean. Industry is big business. They are the big emitters aren’t they. Then there’s mining Companies, and the farming sector. That’s where the big emissions are surely.
So then, how can it possibly have any effect on us, the average guy in the street?

Here’s how.
The largest sector producing greenhouse gases is the electrical power generation sector, and that’s where it has an effect on all of us, every single citizen of the US, because every household, every place of work, every shop, every street, everywhere, there is electrical power.
This is where the Kyoto protocol is aimed at the person in the street.

Now it starts to come home. That accusing finger isn’t aimed at us for being profligate wasteful emitters of greenhouse gases to deliberately destroy the environment driving around with no care in our Hummers belching CO2 with no care for the consequences.

No, this emission of CO2 is a by product of the way we live our lives. We have ready access to a constant, reliable, and consistent source of electricity for 24 hours of every day of our lives, something that we rightfully take for granted as a staple of life. It’s always there, and has been for generations now, something we treat similarly to air and water, and without that electricity, then life would descend into outright chaos.

The generation of this electric power is the source of the largest amount of CO2 emissions. The US produces one quarter of all the World’s electricity, and THAT ALONE is why the US is the largest emitter of Greenhouse gases on the Planet. It has virtually nothing to do with the cars we drive. Of that one quarter of the World’s electrical power, just under 50% is produced from coal fired power plants, and the burning of coal is what gives off the CO2.

Coal fired power plants. Coal is burned to heat water to make steam, which then drives a turbine which then drives a generator which produces that electricity.

In the next post, I’ll look at this and explain how the US is developing replacements for those coal fired power plants, but the thing I want you to keep at the forefront of your minds is this.

Of those 181 Countries subject to the Kyoto Protocol only one has refused to ratify it.

The US.

One country is leading the World in finding replacement methods to produce electrical power.

The US.

Other Countries that have signed AND ratified the Kyoto Protocol are blithely continuing to use coal fired power plants, and some have actually increased power production from coal fired sources while in the US, production from coal fired plants is decreasing.