Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Kyoto Protocol Controversy

In an article entitled “The heat is on,” the editorialist puts forth an argument advocating the importance of major world powers to be front runners in the talks concerning the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to end in its current form in the year 2012. The author’s thesis statement is that only with the prolonged and strong support of the Protocol by its most dedicated members (particularly England and to some extent Germany) as well as economic incentives for booming economic powers such as India and China, will the Protocol survive. Obviously, with the survival of the Protocol comes less greenhouse emissions due to mandatory standards.

A controversy concerning the prolonging of the Kyoto Protocol develops because many developing nations lack an incentive to slow down economic progress. Tired of living in the shadows of wealthy countries such as the United States (a non member of the Kyoto Protocol), these nations are doing what they can to achieve greater economic success and better standards of living for all citizens. Without an incentive to keep emissions down, these countries see little need to sign the Protocol and continue progress unregulated, as better living conditions trump environmental concerns. Other controversy sparks when there is a denial of the dangerous effects from greenhouse gases or an apathetic view towards the Protocol because some people see it failing as a result of conflicting government interests and bureaucratic inefficiency. One final source of controversy is the pressure the United States faces as a non-member of the Protocol. Some feel that the country, as the leading economic power in the world, should take a leading role in emissions reduction, however, as the next article will demonstrate, some people feel that the United States is already taking a leading role, while others discredit emissions claims in general.

In a clear and stark disagreement, author S. Fred Singer argues in his editorial that the Kyoto Protocol is “a radical initiative in launching economic and social policies that threaten democratic values, economic growth, and national sovereignty” (Singer). While he does recognize global warming, he points out that there are other, more important threats to mankind including nuclear war, bio-terrorism as well as poverty and social unrest. He also notes that the current Protocol requires countries to go back to 1990 levels of emissions and does not include heavy-pollution producing countries like Brazil, India and China. While there are too many points to list here, he proceeds to list why the Protocol is obsolete. One reason being that as technology develops; more energy efficient fuels and safer fuels will be developed. Here he places much importance on technology, something the other editorialist disputed. He goes on to illustrate a number of steps the United States has taken in the pursuit of cleaner air as well as points out the bureaucratic problems that would stifle attempts to fully adhere to the Protocol.

The major difference between these two articles is that one seems to take a more realistic approach while the other is more idealistic. The first editorial relies on the hope that certain nations will step up to the plate in order to get other countries to adhere to the Protocol, while the other editorial uses facts to back up the argument. The second article is somewhat outdated but the basic tenets of the Protocol have not changed, so much of the information would seem to currently hold true. Each author clearly has a bias towards the material; however, neither is overtly harsh towards the other point of view.

Personally, I favor the second article. I like to base decisions on facts, not “what if” proposals, especially “what if” proposals directed at countries like China and the United States that consistently seem intent on pursuing whatever means necessary to keep the economies booming. I agree that keeping the air clean is very important for both the preservation of our environment as well as human security, but I would put more of an emphasis on solutions concerning more efficient fuels, although economic incentives may also be something to try. The bottom line is that this is a real problem in need of real solutions. Yes major powers would ideally promote these measures, but realistically I’m not sure China, India, Brazil, the United States and other large economic powers are particularly interested in slowing down economic progress.


Singer, S. Fred. “The Kyoto Protocol.” World & I, Dec99, Vol. 14 Issue 12, p330, 12p, 2bw; Reading Level (Lexile): 1250; (AN 2517287).

“The heat is on.Nature, 11/24/2005, Vol. 438 Issue 7067, p396-396, 1p; DOI: 10.1038/435396a; (AN 18944372).

1 comment:

Daniel Lupton said...

Will, I think you've done a good job on your first post. You've done a very good job of summarizing and critiquing the articles and everything is very clear and powerfully-written. I do have some critiques, though. First of all, I think that you should be careful about your citations. The link in your first paragraph doesn't work, and the way in which you introduce the summary makes it impossible to tell which of the two articles on your works cited list you are summarizing.

Also, I think that your post is a perfect example of one that could've benefited from a little more background research. I think the two opinions expressed are rather far from one another and I'm disinclined to trust either one wholeheartedly. I think that bouncing things off of a third article/opinion could have done a lot here, though obviously the assignment doesn't require that.