Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dion's Dog

Another reason that Stephane Dion shouldn't be Canada's next prime minister: he has a dog. And see - Stephen Harper is a cat lover, so...

OK, I'm not really taking that angle. It has more to do with what Dion named his dog. Yup: "Kyoto." After the Protocol. (As if I could make this up!)

It is important that Kyoto fail. Climate change may be real, but that doesn't say anything whatever about whether Kyoto is the appropriate way to fight it. And in fact, it's about the least appropriate way I can imagine.

You've all heard the drill. Kyoto transfers wealth artificially to underdeveloped economies because these are not covered by the treaty. More emportantly, it transfers wealth to India and China - which will acquire it on their own eventually with or without our "help." Most importantly, China and India are huge polluters, so without their compliance the treaty is pretty much ineffective anyway. And even with their compliance, the year chosen (1990) just so happens to be politically expedient for a number of players. Germany, for example, had just reunified in 1990, so they get to count all the communist carbon production from industries that hadn't been shut down yet in their general package. They basically meet the goal for free. The UK, likewise, gets to benefit from a transition from coal-based electricity production to oil-based production that really got underway about 1990. So they get compliance for free as well. Russia suffered major industrial collapse in the 1990s, so they're actually a net beneficiary of the treaty as written (though they have decided to pull out anyway - presumably because they expect their industry to start recovering soon and know that it will look a lot like third world industry in the early stages of the recovery). France has but to continue its nuclearization program. So yes, the treaty pretty much is designed to punish the US for being...well, for being the US. Canada and Australia get caught in the crossfire - but Australia, at least, had the good sense to know a sucker's bet when it saw one and got out when we did.

The real tragedy of Kyoto, though, is that environmentaism has taken over for religion in a lot of people's psyches. All evidence indicates that the world is, in fact, warming. What we don't know is how much of this really has to do with human activity, or what the real economic tradeoffs are for dealing with the portion that does have something to do with us, or even what the consequences of doing nothing about it are likely to be. And we're not going to know so long as vast swathes of the human population simply take it on faith that industry is bad and Mother Nature loves us.

One thing in particular that seems to be off the table for discussion is technology-based solutions. For example: the US could easily cut its emissions seriously by switching over to mostly nuclear electricity production - but the environmentalists won't hear it. True, the oil and coal industries aren't happy about it either - but at least for them I can see a motive in trying to protect jobs and profits. The environmentalists don't like nuclear power because they don't like technological advancement in general. It's more or less the same reason that all the focus in the climate change debate is on carbon emissions, despite the fact that methane is just as implicated. But methane, you see, comes from rice paddies and cows - so it can't be neatly blamed on Detroit.

What we need on climate change is a healthy and open debate. Which is to say we need a lot less "religion." And by that I mean a lot less anti-Americanism, and a lot less nature-worship.

Kyoto is the worst government policy since the War on Drugs. You have to be seriously mentally deficient to think it's a good idea. As it stands, it buys you absolutely no progress in combatting climate change at a HUGE price. It doesn't even come close to passing a cost-benefit analysis - so why are we even still talking about it? I cannot seriously believe that most people who support it do so in good faith. True, some argue that Kyoto is merely a way of putting the regulatory aparatus in place that will eventually Save Us All, and I suppose this is something like a good faith argument in favor. But notice where this argument leads. It essentially admits that the Treaty is a trojan horse to ever more painful emissions caps. And it does so without bothering to present convincing math that this "pain" is worth it.

It's difficult to believe that we'll always be as dependent on fossil fuels as we are now. Fossil fuels have a limited supply, and industry presumably wants to keep profits rolling long after they've run out. If there are ways to produce energy as or nearly as cheaply with alternative sources as we're currently doing with oil and coal, rest assured they will be found. If the government absolutely must play a role in stopping climate change, then research on developing such sources seems like a better place to put our money than in building an international regulatory apparatus that will only get more painful as time goes by - sapping, in the process, the capital base vital to doing the research into alternative fuels that needs to be done.

But Stephane Dion didn't name his dog "Nuclear Power." Or "Alternative Energy." He didn't even name it "Hybrid Car" or "Green Investment Strategy." Nope. Out of all the millions of names on the table, he settled on "Kyoto," and even jokes that its nickname is "Protocol." I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the climate change debate if he gets elected isn't going to be very...oh, what's the word...open-minded? The good news is that Canada's vote on Kyoto (they've signed it, but Stephen Harper has been staying up late nights trying to work out a way out of it, bless him!) matters to no one, so Dion and his dog aren't adding even a milisecond to its lifespan even if they do make it to Sussex. So I guess the only thing to say about this, really, is that if Canadians make him their 23rd Prime Minister in the spring (or whenever the hell the election happens), they'll have the government they deserve and no one but themselves to blame. It ain't like they won't have seen it coming!

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