Friday, April 22, 2005

Thoughts on the Kyoto Protocol

This is an except from an essay I wrote. It summarizes my thoughts on Kyoto. Flow isn't all there because I just cut and pasted paragraphs from the original essay. If I ever figure out how to upload large files, I may even post the entire essay.

Canada and Kyoto

In Canada, we live a double life of hypocrisy. As a nation, we take the time to separate out our recyclables yet we don’t think twice about trucking our garbage to our neighbours to the south. We like to show that we care about preserving the planet. We were after all one of the first signatories for the Kyoto Protocol which seemed doomed to failure less than six months ago.

Most Canadians have heard about Climate Change and Global Warming. Lobby groups and the controversy of Kyoto have made the issue background noise long enough to register for most of us. What we haven’t done is sift through the noise to answer some fundamental questions about the issue. What are the consequences of Global Warming? Is Global Warming a real threat or merely fear mongered by groups like Green Peace? Has Climate Change already occurred? Why hasn’t anything been done about it?

At the same time that Rick Mercer invades our living rooms through our big screen TVs challenging us to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by one tonne, 50% of all new car purchases in this country are SUVs. Most people in my generation (Canadians in their twenties) don’t seem to fully understand how anyone could possibly dispute the need to address global warming, yet few of us are willing to sacrifice our cars or 30 minute showers. We all agree, CO2 emissions must be reduced, but at the expense of everyone else!

In Canada, we have seen the push for alternative forms of energy thanks in no small part to the Kyoto Protocol. Research into renewable energy is evident to all Toronto commuters who drive by the Windmill at the Exhibition grounds as they drive daily to work in the city. Canadian companies understand that the issues surround Kyoto is now a permanent part of the business landscape. Business as usual cannot continue without addressing pollution concerns whether or not the plans for Kyoto are met.

If Kyoto is a dismal failure, it has already succeed in sparking innovation in emissions and pollution control as well as put the issue of atmospheric pollution at the forefront of business development decisions. Future generations will realize the importance of curbing pollution even if this generation fails to act.

The cost of reducing GHG and in particular Carbon Dioxide is extremely high given the uncertainty surrounding whether or not it is actually directly related to the problems faced by global warming. Two facts are clear: CO2 levels are increasing, and the average temperature of the Earth is rising (its cause is disputed, not the facts).

Global Warming is an issue that will have devastating effects to many parts of the world. Although the correlation between our GHG emissions and global warming is not 100%, how can we wait to prove it conclusively when so much evidence links the two facts together? Are we willing to wait until we prove ourselves right before taking the necessary steps to combat the problem? What is the cost of waiting compared with the cost of action?

Whether or not CO2 causes warming is a non issue. We are releasing unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that alone should be cause for environmental concern. Even if Kyoto is a complete failure and its costs skyrocket out of control, it has brought the issue of environmental pollution to the forefront of Canadian media. Kyoto could be a very costly stumble for Canadians since we are neither on track to meeting our targets nor do we have a plan to get there. However, Kyoto is a first step to tracking GHG emissions. It might be a very expensive stumble, but it’s a stumble in the right direction.


Blogger Ninja Sarah said...

The next meeting of the UNFCCC is this December in Montreal. If Canada really wants to lead the way on this issue, here is our chance.

3:25 PM  

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