Here’s what worries American critics of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol: Any reduction in U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases could be outweighed by increases from China and other developing nations not required to cut their emissions.
A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency confirms those fears.
Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, which is not a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, actually declined by 6 percent in 2009, and are now 8 percent below 2000 levels, according to the EPA.
Global emissions, however, have risen more than 25 percent since 2000, and developing nations accounted for virtually all of the increase. China alone accounted for about half.
“A closer look at global emissions trends show how futile it would be for the U.S to impose economically punitive self-restrictions on carbon dioxide,” James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environmental policy at The Heartland Institute, writes in Forbes magazine.
By 2009, China was the largest emitter, accounting for 24 percent of global emissions, while the United States was responsible for 17 percent. China will likely account for 26 percent when 2010 figures are released, with the U.S. contributing about 15 percent, according to Taylor.
China’s emissions have been increasing by nearly 10 percent a year, and in 2010 probably surpassed the emissions of the entire Western Hemisphere.
“This means that even if the U.S. and the entire Western Hemisphere immediately and completely eliminated all carbon dioxide emissions, the growth in Chinese emissions alone would likely render this action moot within a decade,” Taylor notes.
“China, moreover, has made it very clear it will not agree to carbon dioxide restrictions.”
Reducing U.S. emissions by producing less power from fossil fuels would force consumers to rely on more expensive alternative sources such as wind and solar power, resulting in “very painful economic consequences,” the Forbes article states.
Solar thermal power, for instance, will be 208 percent more expensive than natural gas by 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates.
Taylor concludes: “Attempting to fight global warming by restricting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is therefore both ineffective and painfully costly.”