Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bush, Kyoto, and Global Warming

Today, there is news that Bush calls for global goals for emissions.

Following up from my post below about Energy Demand and Productivity data from the McKinsey report, this news is quite timely. Analyzing the present carbon emission contributions and growth rates across the globe, - and seeing the shared and increasingly distributed extent of global carbon emissions - you get a sense that the U.S. rejection position on Kyoto wasn't as dead wrong as the environmentalists and liberals (myself included) were first thinking.

As I see it, the ability to globally align an effort to curb carbon emissions comes down to two very simple, conflicting notions.

Notion One: Since the developed world did most of the harm in CO2 emissions to date, and continues to pollute the most per capita, the burden to improve and fix the problem lies squarely and firstly there, in countries like the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan.

Notion Two: We're all in this together. Regardless of how we got here, we need to look at the straightforward math of who's putting out CO2, how much growth will occur in each polluter country, and a means to reduce those growth rates across all countries. That math says that the biggest gains/improvements can be made only when we are reducing carbon emissions in the biggest emitter countries.

The Kyoto accord was very much in alignment with Notion One - developed countries pay now, and that China and India get a "free pass" until the next round of cuts next time.

But what was the right approach? This is a hard dilimmna, and I've shifted my view CLOSER to the Bush administration. One can say that Notion One has progressive justice and ethics on it's side, but I am seeing a new fairness and efficiency in Notion two. Maybe it's just becoming a parent, and arbitrarily putting all my kids in "timeouts" regardless of how, when, and who started the latest ruckuss. The point being, looking to the past and trying to establish total fairness is secondary to fixing the immediate problem at hand.

In fact, if your trying to fix the problems of emissions with one set of countries obeying one set of rules, and then allowing a different set of countries to have no rules, you end up with those countries actually growing the problem you are trying to regulate and fix. That's broken.

Is it fair to crimp on China's growth when they consume 1/20th the power of Americans?

Perhaps "next time around" the solution lies in both sides coming to a compromise approach. Something that balances the fact that sacrifices have to be shared, reduction progress has to be made across the globe, AND that those sacrifices are somehow fair-weighted to both past pollution and present per capita considerations. Heck, a similar compromise approach solved the constitutional crises in forming America in the 1770s by giving smaller States equal representation in one governing body - the Senate, and giving the bigger, more populous states more representation power int e House of Representatives.

Maybe the way to Kyoto isn't through Montreal, but in a bicameral emissions reduction math - everybody pays, and the biggest polluter hogs pay more?