Kyoto is Ineffective

This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


Objection:

The Kyoto treaty, even if fully implemented, would only save us about a tenth of a degree of future temperature rise many decades from now. What a waste of effort! You can see for yourself here at Junk Science’s website.

Answer:

There are three big problems with this claim.

Firstly, this is really a red herring. The purpose of Kyoto is to establish an international mechanism for dealing with global warming by taking the first tentative steps towards a difficult goal. Political and economic mechanisms need to be worked out and agreed on. You may as well time me waking to the side walk where I parked my car (<cough>) bicycle, and then tell me at this rate I will never get home.

Secondly, Kyoto is a step by step process whose second phase (much less third, fourth etc.) has not even been negotiated yet, so how can anyone claim anything about how effective it is going to be? Junk Science and other sources of this propaganda are starting their dubious calculations from the assumption that Kyoto ends in 2012 when round one is over, this is just Plain Wrong.

Thirdly, the temperature several decades from now is to a large extent already determined by the current energy imbalance due to the extra CO2 already in the atmosphere right now, so short of a complete cessation of emissions today, there is no foreseeable way to avoid the bulk of the warming that is "in the pipeline". This is mostly the result of the extremely large thermal inertia of the oceans and therefore the climate system as a whole, and it means that our actions today, or our inactions, will have consequences felt several decades hence.

Finally, a rather personal peeve I have with this type of criticism. In general I have a big credibility issue with people who vociferously criticize any attempt at a solution and yet propose nothing in its place. You’d think if they were so sincerely concerned about how ineffective Kyoto will be (as frankly, they should be!) they would be agitating for more action, rather than shrugging their shoulders and saying "I guess we should just sit it out". It makes me think of some guy standing on the sidewalk watching all the neighbors fight a house fire, saying "you’ll never make it, don’t enough people."

Shut up and help!


This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


“Kyoto is Ineffective” was first published here, where you can still find the original comment thread. This updated version is also posted on the Grist website, where additional comments can be found, though the author, Coby Beck, does not monitor or respond there.

30 thoughts on “Kyoto is Ineffective

  1. “In general I have a big credibility issue with people who vociferously criticize any attempt at a solution and yet propose nothing in its place. You’d think if they were so sincerely concerned about how ineffective Kyoto will be (as frankly, they should be!) they would be agitating for more action, rather than shrugging their shoulders and saying “I guess we should just sit it out”.”

    You’re in the area of economics now, and a better question is not about some level of effectiveness — it’s about opportunity costs:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost.

    Public Policy makers (who listen to economists, and it’s the economist who factor scientific data into their models — this is where the REAL GAME takes place) are starting to decide that the “costs” of stopping global warming outweigh the “costs” of a warmer world. Economist Bjorn Lomborg does a good job in explaining why this is:

    ~ Best,
    Charters

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  2. Well, I’m not a global warming skeptic. Just about the only thing I suppose I am inclined to agree with the skeptics on is this issue, that Kyoto (at least from a climate change standpoint) won’t do much good. You haven’t really made an effective argument to the contrary here. I suppose one thing that could be said, with respect to Kyoto, is that it will have collateral benefits unrelated to climate change, e.g. as polluter nations buy credits from poorer nations, those poorer nations (ideally) will then spend such revenues on infrastructure, feeding the hungry, supplying medicine, et cetera… the position that Kyoto is symbolic or just a stepping stone to the real solutions to come is hardly persuasive given that most of the developed signatories to the treaty are failing to meet their carbon-cutting goals even now; the prospect of, I can only guess, more aggressive cuts as a next step (while perhaps a beautiful idea) is not realistic.

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  3. Kyoto is ineffective and wasteful. What the critics are saying isn’t that we should do nothing, it’s that if the walk to your bicycle is inefficient and wasteful, park your bike closer to the building. A bad answer to a problem isn’t “better than doing nothing”, it’s simply a bad answer. If we took the money wasted on Kyoto and put it into alternative energy technologies so that they would become economically attractive, people would adopt them without bullying and penalties and we would have actual benefits both economically and in co2 reduction.

    I predict that the next stages of Kyoto will be as wasteful and ineffective as the first because Kyoto is primarily a political weapon and not a serious attempt to best address co2 emissions.

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  4. I’ve heard several times that, considering the massive changes we’ve already seen and how much is already in the pipeline, as you had mentioned, that the climate change has already passed its tipping point and it is indeed too late. Whether this is true or not, I don’t think “we’re going to die anyways” is an acceptable excuse not to try. If we don’t fix the error, we’re already guaranteed a massive die-out, but if we start fixing the error now, there’s at least a chance the nay-sayers are wrong. Kyoto isn’t enough (especially when the US refuses to sign, and we’re the biggest producer of CO2), but it’s a start.

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  5. Australia will introduce its own version of C02 reduction soon and will drop its levels by 5%, alot of people say this is a waste of time as we only produce 1% of global emissions so why bother. It is a fair point when most of the world are doing nothing. all the big polluters get thier credits for free!!!! the only thing this scheme will achieve is raising the governments tax intake a tax that comes from its citizens not from the companies that produce the C02 in the first place. The Aust version will do absolutely nothing to reduce the C02 content we produce now.

    Oh and by the way we are about to allow another pulp mill to be built in Tasmania and apart from all the pollution it will pump into the river it will also increase our C02 foot print. How many carbon credits do you think this pulp mill will need to buy? NONE.

    I have another idea why does the government not put solar panels on all the rooves of all the houses and factories an Australia, one can only imagine how much electricity this would generate reducing our dependence on coal fired power, we could reduce our C02 by a lot more than 5% thats for sure.

    We do not do this because this will cost the government money whereas a bogus tax grab allows them to get money for doing nothing. Australia is full of examples of government stupidity and incompetence all they are interested in is taxing a problem that does not exist.

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  6. The real argument is whether the expenditures required to achieve the Kyoto goals would not be better spent preparing for the climate change which appears to be increasingly inevitable. Coastal cities will have to be evacuated. Droughts and famines will have to be dealt with. Civil unrest is a possibility.

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  7. The problem is that the solutions being offered don’t provide any detectable relief from this so-called catastrophe. Congress is now discussing an 80% reduction in U.S. greenhouse emissions by 2050. But that would affect the global temperature by only a few hundredths of a degree by 2050 and a few more hundredths by 2100. We wouldn’t even notice it.

    What action(s) should the world take to stave off AGW?
    At what cost?
    And at what benefit?

    I think until these questions are answered, it’s fairly irrelevant if it’s happening or not.

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  8. It makes me think of some guy standing on the sidewalk watching all the neighbors fight a house fire, saying “you’ll never make it, don’t enough people.”

    Should this be: “You’ll never make it, you don’t have enough people”?

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  9. >Shut up and help!

    Maybe instead of spending huge resources on the effort that won’t change anything, that resources should be spent so the humanity can adapt to the climate change.

    If a hurricane is coming towards you and you are a mayor of a town in its track with a limited budget, than if you spend your budget on some sort of action that decreases the strength of the hurricane by 1% and not on the evacuation/building a bunker where people can hide, than you are a criminal, responsible for all the deaths.

    Again, spending all those trillions on “green technologies” and not on preparation/adaptation of humanity to inevitable climate change, may result in millions of preventable deaths after all, so

    Shut up and help!

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  10. N:

    Adapt to climate change–fair point.

    So, to clarify: Do you agree or disagree that climate change is, to some degree, anthropogenic?

    We can’t get anywhere until we establish your answer to that simple question.

    Skip

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  11. skip

    Absolutely agree about anthropogenic factor, I just say that green technology (I mean more expensive energy) is worth it only if it can influence the climate change in a major way. If the cycle is already pretty unstoppable (melting thaws, more ice-free ocean not reflecting solar radiation and so on) going for green technology just to recognise our sins (and not really affecting anything) is a waste of resources

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  12. N,
    there are certain people whose opinions or thoughts are not allowed here.
    Lomborg is one of them.
    if you seek open discussion, go to another blog.

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  13. You want to discuss Lomborg, Paul? Be my guest. Did you actually *read* his book (I did; want to read my review?)–or do you just *cite* it?

    Will we hear from you anymore about your New World Order claim from earlier?

    Skip

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  14. Paul:

    Re: New World Order. It was tongue-in-cheek. I assumed you were the one who told us to look at that UN document which supposedly proved the sinister motives behind proposals to act on AGW. If it was not you, then that mistake is on me. I don’t claim to remember it perfectly and forget what thread it was on.

    Now let’s look at how your last post illustrates . . . (drum roll) . . . *narratives*!

    What you initially claimed:

    there are certain people whose opinions or thoughts are not allowed here.
    Lomborg is one of them.
    if you seek open discussion, go to another blog.

    To which I responded:

    You want to discuss Lomborg, Paul? Be my guest. Did you actually *read* his book (I did; want to read my review?)–or do you just *cite* it?

    If you want to debate Lomborg I’m your man, Paul. I have actually read his book *Cool It*. Have you? (Please consider that a direct, non-rhetorical question.)

    Now you’re claiming:

    btw, Your comments have proven my point.
    Thank-you.

    You first claimed that Lomborg is a forbidden topic on this blog (it is not). I offered to debate Lomborg with you if you please. I asked if you merely cite Lomborg or if you’ve actually read him. You ignored this and claimed victory.

    These are narratives at work, gents. Paul knows he’s right somehow, and now is able to convince himself that his point is proven even though he ignores the offer to debate the very thing he claims was censored. Amazing.

    Skip

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  15. PIM said:

    if you want to convert the non-believers, you need to engage them, not chase them away.

    Well Paul, what sort of evidence would it take to “convert” you, to allow you to accept that the science is correct and fossil fuel derived CO2 is causing a worrying increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? This will lead to a number of problems which will be detrimental to our current way of life.

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  16. And, yes, that is the $64k question.

    Ian, you’ll be glad to know that this website is responsible for moving me as far along as I am.

    Currently only variance from your above statements are “worrying”[remove] and “problems which will be detrimental” [replace with “changes”].

    I watch closely the various models alignment with observed reality and quantification of various “solutions” into actual amount of global temperature impact.

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  17. PaulinMI#19
    “if you want to convert the non-believers, you need to engage them, not chase them away.”

    There are two posts between your initial #13 & your claim that the posts have “proved your point”. One asks you whether an in-depth discussion of Lomborg’s errors is an acceptable blog & one offer to debate Lomborg’s “cool it” book. How are either of these an effort to “chase [you] away?”

    (Full disclosure – I too have read Lomborg (the Skeptical Environmentalist” and found it seductively convincing. Then I read the catalogue of his errors and was “converted” (such a loaded term dontcha think?)

    Of course, it wasn’t just Fog’s blog – my research in long-term insect population dynamics has also contributed strongly to my acceptance that AGW is an important – and alarming – development.

    What the Lomborg Errors blog made clear to me was the lengths the various Business As Usual factions are prepared to go to in order to miseducate the both the general public and the policy makers.)

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  18. It’s not me you’re chasing away, but the hapless visitor who knows what he knows and per chance happens to post it here. He’s the one you have a chance at getting to, who may just have been reading or listening to all but the science to which this group refers. He’s the one who may have enough interest to look further. That is all.

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  19. Paul:

    Notice how you artlessly dodged my questions? It looks like you have *not* read any Lomborg, but were simply “dogma propping”. I get this (and I mean it) *all the time* from deniers who cite things they don’t read. Again and again and again this happens.

    You’re *welcome* to join the discussion, Paul. But calling you on your bluster is not chasing you away. If you make a baseless assertion like there are certain people whose opinions or thoughts are not allowed here.Lomborg is one of them . . . you’re going to get called on it every time.

    So, one final time: Have you read *anything* by Lomborg–or he just a guy you cite because you’re hoping he proves your point?

    Skip

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  20. I didn’t artlessly dodge your question. I didn’t mention Lomborg, you did.
    I allowed that he wasn’t going to be discussed here, so there was no use for N to continue with something you attributed to Lomborg.
    I know very little of Lomborg, other than he proposes spending based on results. But that type of discussion (reasoning) will not be tolerated here, so I don’t bring it up.

    capisce?

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  21. I didn’t artlessly dodge your question. I didn’t mention Lomborg, you did.

    Then what was this?

    there are certain people whose opinions or thoughts are not allowed here.Lomborg is one of them . . .

    I had asked N if that’s where he was going with his query.

    I allowed that he wasn’t going to be discussed here,

    No one was asking your permission to not discuss him. The offers to debate him were a response to your claim.

    so there was no use for N to continue with something you attributed to Lomborg.

    There is as much use as you wish to make of it. The offer to debate the validity of his arguments stands, except:

    I know very little of Lomborg,

    The truth. Thank you.

    other than he proposes spending based on results. But that type of discussion (reasoning) will not be tolerated here, so I don’t bring it up.

    Paul: What if I came to you and said, “The Vikings have no pass defense, but since I know that is a forbidden topic, I will now leave the discussion after making this assertion.”? Its an empty claim anyone can make while simultaneously avoiding refutation.

    capisce?

    I think so, yes.

    Repeat: We can talk Lomborg and the relative costs of action versus inaction *all day* if you wish, Paul. Coby will not only tolerate it; I embrace it. There is a moral to this story: Don’t make an outrageous claim of censorship if you’re not willing to back it up with real debate when offered.

    But thanks for the admission of being unfamiliar with Lomborg. In my experience with deniers they won’t even concede it when caught red-handed citing stuff they don’t really know.

    Skip

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  22. skip,
    thanks for the comments.
    Apparently you haven’t been around to see the flame-throwers when someone asks “the wrong question”.

    So we’ll see how it goes, from now.

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  23. PauinMI:

    As far as I can see from this thread the only attempt to ‘chase’ N away was the following:

    “there are certain people whose opinions or thoughts are not allowed here.
    Lomborg is one of them.
    if you seek open discussion, go to another blog.”

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  24. Chris,
    thanks for the comments.
    Apparently you haven’t been around to see the flame-throwers when someone asks “the wrong question”.

    So we’ll see how it goes, from now.

    Like

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