Feature

Just say no to Kyoto

A group of Canadian companies and industry groups recently launched a campaign challenging Ottawa's decision to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The initiative is laudable, and overdue.Signa...


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October 1, 2002 by Canadian Plastics

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A group of Canadian companies and industry groups recently launched a campaign challenging Ottawa’s decision to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The initiative is laudable, and overdue.

Signatories to a full-page ad that appeared in the National Post kicking off the campaign included the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and others. The ad called upon Canadians to call or write the Prime Minster and demand to know how meeting the greenhouse gas emission targets set by Kyoto will affect jobs, taxes and the economy, among other things.

The economic costs of Kyoto are one thing, but politicians aren’t likely to listen until the very premises of Kyoto are persuasively challenged. These premises are, in order, that the earth is warming, that CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are the cause of the warming, and that cutting these emissions to pre-1990 levels (Kyoto) will mitigate this warming.

In fact, the certainty of all three premises can be questioned.

The earth is warming: The weather channel, CNN and thousands of other media outlets that feed our thirst for instant information (and easy explanations) have contributed to the popular view that the earth is very quickly becoming a sauna. Yet, a survey of temperature data collected since the turn of the last century shows that the earth’s average surface temperature has increased little more than 1C. This incremental increase is no greater than random background variation in temperature. Further, measurements taken by satellites find no warming of the earth’s atmosphere.

One commonly cited “proof” of global warming is the melting of glaciers in arctic regions of Scandinavia. This melting began, however, before large scale build-up of atmospheric CO2 in the late 20th century and the supposed recent warming trend. Meanwhile, there has been ice accumulation in parts of the Antarctic.

CO2 is causing the warming: In the past hundred years the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen to 350 ppm from 280 ppm, or about 25%. What is not commonly known by the general public is that CO2 is only one of many atmospheric greenhouse gases, and a minor one at that. Water vapor, in fact, is a far more significant heat-trapping source, accounting for 97% of the total of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is difficult to conceive how a fractional increase of a gas that accounts for less than 2% of total atmospheric greenhouse gas could be the cause of wide-spread global warming.

The case for CO2-caused warming appears even shakier when one considers the analysis of trapped gas in ice core samples which shows that the ancient earth was often cold when the atmospheric CO2 level was high; and vice versa. If global warming is occurring it is most likely the result of large scale, sun-driven warming and cooling fluctuations of the type that have taken place for millions of years in the earth’s history

Kyoto will stop warming: Even among many Kyoto supporters, there is general agreement that cutting CO2 emissions to 1990 levels will have little or no affect on global surface temperatures. The estimated $40 billion a year it will cost to implement Kyoto could be used to provide every human on the planet with clean water.

Bluntly put, Kyoto is being rammed down our throats by developing countries (and their Euro-environmental supporters) who believe they have a bone to pick with the rich West. It has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with science.

Industry needs to make more effective, public use of science if it hopes to derail the implementation of Kyoto in Canada.

Michael LeGault, editore-mail: mlegault@canplastics.com