Climate

By Bryan • environment • 18 Nov 2006

The time in China has helped to reduce my previously well developed shade of green. Rather ironically, as one would suspect that witnessing environmental catastrophes daily would reinforce their present convictions even more so. However, the situation in China (and other mega developing nations) illustrates do me just how hopeless (in many ways) the situation actually is and how silly the Kyoto Protocol appears without the proper involvement of these countries.

It’s been very trendy to blast the Canadian government recently over their environmental performance. Much of it is warranted (See the hilarious South Park spoof on trawling) but in the case of current Kyoto initiative, I’m going to have to side with the (ah! Have I sold out?!) Feds on this. Canada produces approximately 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Adhering to Protocol guidelines and reducing emissions is not going to cost a few dollars of our money, make no mistake. So Canada invests billions into the program, and on a good day we just might possibly meet our targets (not that the targets would negate the impact of climate change). In Beijing ALONE, 1000 new petroleum powered vehicles are placed on the streets every day. It doesn’t matter where emissions are produced, only that they are produced. For every ton of carbon we take out of the air countless more from mega developing countries go back into the air.

I don’t for a moment blame these countries for balking at the prospect of reducing emissions, given that even rich nations like Canada have doubts about the ability of their economy to handle such changes. The salvation of Kyoto lies in the ability these countries to develop efficient infrastructure based upon and around sustainable technologies etc…before they invest in a inefficient old school infrastructure based upon largely fossil fuels. Once such an infrastructure is in place (and it is rapidly becoming the base in China) efforts to change over to more efficient systems are very difficult. Imagine building a brand new coal power plant at a cost of millions of dollars, then being expected to change over to a wind farm several years later…it isn’t easy. However, constructing a wind farm in the first place, would most likely negate this problem…except that a wind farm is slightly more expensive that coal power (given locale restrictions…not necessarily per/kilowatt costs). Cost is everything, and driving towards economic prosperity follows the shortest route (usually the most cheapest and mos unsustainable) in developing countries, so rationally. Kyoto recognizes this problem, and allows such countries to the opportunity to sell their emissions by allowing developed countries to improve infrastructure and promote sustainable practices (ie. planting forests, upgrading energy systems etc). Yet again, though, there is a problem, such projects are not nearly happening fast enough nor often enough to negate the addition of 1000cars/day phenomenon.

Kyoto was/is such a good proposition…never as a serious contender to reduce emissions, but as a incentive to develop ways of doing things better. However, I feel it fails developing countries which are the essential piece in the equation. If these countries don’t develop properly now, they will be cemented into a system that the West is desperately trying to get out of. If it fails them, it fails everyone.

*Oddly enough, China views itself as a contributer to the world environment, given it’s population control methods, citing that from a per-capita basis, it’s energy usage is below most other countries. However, I believe that when discussing emissions, per-capita data offers little, other than a hollow pat on the back from yourself.

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