This is the most threatening piece of legislation to Alberta since the
National Energy Program. Colby Cosh discusses the premises
a Canadian must logically accept before advocating Kyoto:
1. The earth is getting warmer, and...
This warming is significant and will continue, all things remaining
more or less equal.
Over the very short
term, no discernable warming trend in the earth's lower
atmosphere. Using satellite data over the last 18 years, NASA
found even a slight cooling of -0.04C per year.
Over the medium
term, there is a similar lack of evidence that the earth's climate is
getting abnormally warmer
astrophysicists Soon and Baliunas note that the
twentieth century is not an abnormally warm period nor is it the
warmest era in the past 1,000 years.
The earth has certainly warmed since the Little Ice Age, but has also
cooled since the Medieval Warm Period.
This study is
confirmed by McIntyre and McKitrick (2003), who found "collation
errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data,
obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of
principal components and other quality control defects" in Mann,
Bradley and Hughes (1998). They detailed the errors and presented a new
time series of temperatures using the corrected data. Their
findings are that the "hockey stick" indicating rising global
temperatures is based on poor data handling, obsolete data and
incorrect calculation of principal components. In other words, the 20th century is not
And in studies of
global temperatures spawning geological time, similar conclusions are
found that the middle Pilocene (3.15 million and 2.85 million years
ago) was much warmer than present.
Global warming is
not a fact. There are many studies indicating that such a warming is
not occuring, regardless of what time period is considered. Moreover,
if such a warming is occuring, it is not abnormal.
3. The warming is, for the world, more bad
than it is good. (Or, as a possible alternative, the warming is good
for the world, but bad for Canada, and therefore we should act in our
own interests. Or: the warming is bad for the world but good for
Canada, so we have some kind of responsibility to take steps to harm
ourselves and benefit the rest of the world.)
Fact is, nobody can predict
the future with certainty. Could a warmer global climate lead to longer
growing seasons in certain areas, particularly in northern climes like
Canada? Sure. Could a warmer global climate dramatically increase the
amount of arable land that Canada has? Absolutely.
One could just as
easily raise concerns over increased pestilence one observes in warmer
climates, with its associated diseases.
What would be the
net effect? Nobody knows for sure. And if the effect of Global Warming
(assuming it exists, a stretch in itself) cannot be known, why take
steps to stop it?
4. There is a significant human element in the
causes of this warming, and...
gases constitute the most important part of this human element.
The most significant
greenhouse gas is water vapor, from earth's vast oceans:
vapor, man's contribution to greenhouse gases still pales in comparison
Department of Energy, (October, 2000)
expressed in parts per billion)
||Percent of Total
| Carbon Dioxide
| Methane (CH4)
| Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
| Misc. gases
contributions to greenhouse gases comprise 3.298% of all greenhouse gas
CO2 has different heat retention properties
than CH4 or N20, so that has to be taken into account:
|This table adjusts values to compare
greenhouse gases equally with respect to CO2. ( #'s are unit-less)
||Man-made additions (new)
||Tot. Relative Contribution
||Percent of Total (new)
|Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
|Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
Anthropogenic contributions to greenhouse gases, based on the heat
retention of those greenhouse gases, comprise 5.53% of all greenhouse
gas contributions. Once again, this ignores water vapor's contribution.
When the effect of water vapor is factored in, the story changes
of Atmospheric Greenhouse Gases (man-made and natural)
as a Percentage of Relative Contribution to the "Greenhouse Effect"
|Based on concentrations (ppb) adjusted for heat
||Percent of Total
|| Percent of Total -
adjusted for water vapor
|Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
| Methane (CH4)
|Nitrous oxide (N2O)
| CFC's (and
other misc. gases)
Mankind's contribution add up to 0.28% of the greenhouse effect:
Contribution to the Greenhouse Effect,
expressed as a Percentage of Total (Water Vapor Included)
|Based on concentrations (ppb) adjusted for heat
of All Greenhouse Gases
| Water vapor
| Methane (CH4)
| Nitrous Oxide
| Misc. gases (
The anthropogenic CO2 contributions cause 0.117% of earth's greenhouse
effect. This is insignificant.
The modest greenhouse-emissions reductions proposed in the Protocol
will have a noticeable positive effect on climate change.
if one adheres to the proposition that greenhouse gases are the prime
driver of global warming, the above tables indicate that the
anthropogenic contribution to greenhouse gases is miniscule. Even if
the Kyoto Protocol could remove all man-made greenhouse gases, it would
have a negligible effect on climate change.
Further, the Kyoto Protocol will not reduce greenhouse gas levels.
Developing countries are exempt from limitations on CO2. Included in
this list of developing countries are China and India - the 2nd and 5th highest producers
of CO2 respectively. Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Iran and
Brazil are among the other countries in the top twenty CO2 producers
who are similarly exempt.
Further, of the countries whose production of greenhouse gases (except
water vapor), several of those countries (New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine,
Norway, Australia and Iceland) are allowed slight increases in
If Kyoto won't reduce global CO2 emissions, how can it have any effect
on global climate?
There will be no unexpected effects from, say, economic changes which
will counteract the aforementioned positive effect. (If the economic
harm from Kyoto somehow delays the eventual adoption of cleaner
technologies, passing it would be stupid.)
This is one thing that nobody knows the answer to. We do know that
Kyoto will weaken the Canadian economy in general, and the Albertan
economy directly. Will that harm be enough to prevent the adoption of
more painless solutions to reduce carbon emissions?
Nobody can predict the evolution of technological developments, nor how
much it will cost to discover and put these developments into every day
usage. While it is quite likely that some technological developments
will be prevented, there is no way to calculate their magnitude.
Assuming that ratifying Kyoto is a good idea for all these reasons, it
is ethically proper for our federal government to implement, on our
behalf, an economically damaging plan which has been rejected by
Australia, Japan, and the United States and which hasn't been imposed
at all upon India and China.
Canada ratifying Kyoto while her largest trading partners do not reeks
of head-in-the-clouds impracticality. In such a case, Canada would be
undercutting her own interests by making her economy less productive
than that of the U.S., Japan, etc.. Why would someone willingly
endanger their own competitiveness vis-a-vis direct competitors?
It is even more silly to ratifying Kyoto considering that Kyoto will
not go into effect. With Russia and the U.S. deciding not to ratify
Kyoto, the treaty does not become enforceable. This is because the
treaty does not go into effect if Annex B countries responsible for at
least 55% of carbon emissions do not ratify Kyoto.
If 55% of the emissions from Annex B countries aren't being limited via
Kyoto, and 100% of the emissions from non-Annex B countries are not
being limited, what is the point of ratifying Kyoto? There is no point.
Assuming that ratifying Kyoto is a good idea for all these reasons,
imposing the plan on the parts of Canada which have high greenhouse
emissions (because they are the economically productive parts of
Confederation) (a) is ethically acceptable, (b) is being done in a
politically appropriate way, and (c) will not harm the economy of the
country, as a whole, too badly for the plan to be tenable.
We will discuss the effect of Kyoto on Canada, and more importantly,
Alberta, in greater detail below. In short, the Canadian government's
plan for implementing Kyoto will harm Alberta disproportionately, and
is essentially a transfer of wealth from Alberta to the rest of the
What we will discuss here is that natural resources, as per Canada's
Constitution, as a provincial responsibility. Kyoto represents a
federal intrusion into an area of provincial responsibility. The
political appropriateness of imposing legislation that is likely to be
unconstitutional is debatable at best.
Assuming that these reasons are all good and that it is proper to take
on the proposed degree of economic self-harm, there is no alternative way of
spending the same (or less) money which would yield more benefit in
The Alberta government has taken the initiative by creating a
Made-In-Alberta Plan as an alternative to the vague federal Kyoto
legislation that has yet to emerge.
While a lot of the rationale behind global warming is questionable, at
least this legislation sets the legal precedent that carbon emissions
are indeed a natural resource.
From a cost / benefit analysis, the Alberta has some things that the
federal legislation probably won't have, namely:
1. Setting longer terms to lessen economic dislocation,
2. Rejecting the idea of paying emission credits to other countries,
and reinvesting that money,
3. Focusing on research instead of penalties, and
4. Focusing on pollution per unit of GNP rather than overall.
The Effect of
Kyoto on Alberta
As was the case with the National Energy Program, Kyoto has the
potential to wreak havoc on Alberta.
We are already seeing Kyoto being used as nothing more than a program
used to redistribute more of Alberta's wealth to the rest of Canada.
Ontario has their auto industries exempt from Kyoto. Quebec gets credit
(if the Canadian government gets their way) for clean-burning
hydroelectricity. Manitoba is fortunate to have an industry that Quebec
has, so they will get similar credit. Ontario and Quebec are the base
of Liberal political power. No federal government gets elected without
Ontario's and Quebec's permission. It matters if Quebec and Ontario are
punitively harmed by Kyoto. It doesn't matter whether Alberta is.
With increased costs of extracting oil from Alberta's oil sands,
investment will become more scarce. The federal government has
exacerbated this by being very coy on how they plan to implement Kyoto.
With greater uncertainty comes less investment. “The problem
right now is that there are no defined rules (for implementing
Kyoto),” Edwards said. “As a businessman, if you
don’t have defined rules, you have to make decisions in the
absence of them and therefore you go where the certainty is.”
Murray Smith said that Kyoto could wipe out $10 billion of investment
in the oil sands. His guess might be conservative. Here
is a story of how Kyoto has delayed a $3.5 billion TrueNorth Energy L.P.. Kyoto hasn't even been implemented, and $3.5
billion is already delayed? What happens when it is implemented? The
status of the investment changes from "delayed" to "canceled."
With investment in Alberta wiped out, investment in the U.S. could
possibly boom. Here
is a story of how EnCana is considering locating a bitumen upgrader in
the U.S., instead of Alberta.
Note that this project would eliminate 100,000 man jobs during the
construction phase and billions of dollars in tax and royalty revenue. From the same article, a director of Canadian
Natural Resources Ltd. notes that the upgrader portion of his company,
a $4.2 billion project, could be built in the U.S.. Here's
a story about Petrocanada saying that Kyoto is imperiling a $415
million dollar project.
I hope the irony of anti-American ecologists providing the U.S. a
reward for not signing on to Kyoto is noted.
The energy industry may not be the only industry adversely affected by
Kyoto's implementation. Methane, as previously noted, is a greenhouse
gas. Moreover, methane retains heat at 21 times the rate that carbon
dioxide does. Further, while carbon dioxide naturally occurs in the
environment and has certain benefits, methane is poisonous. And what
industry produces methane? The cattle industry produces methane.
Australian government website details how methane is created by the
Australian cattle industry. I
haven't seen much in the way of Canada planning to harm the Alberta
cattle industry, but the above documentation of methane production by
cattle indicates it could be a future target of Canadian regulation.
Kyoto not only threatens Alberta's largest industry - oil - but
threatens Alberta's largest agricultural industry, cattle.