Thursday, December 17, 2009


The United Nations Climate Change Conference is taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, between December 7th and 18th 2009. The conference in Copenhagen is the 15th conference of parties (COP15) in the Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the conference in Copenhagen the parties of the UNFCCC meet for the last time before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 and intend to hammer out a new agreement to prevent or stop climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The Kyoto Protocol requires emissions cuts from developed countries that ratified it. The US did not ratify Kyoto. China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, is exempt from the Kyoto because it is classified as a developing nation. India is also exempt.

Even if the stated goals of the conference are all met, emissions of carbon dioxide will continue rising rapidly beyond current level. Total atmospheric CO2 is currently 386 part per million. Most future carbon emissions will not come from the currently industrialized world, but from the emerging economies, especially China, which emits 30% MORE CO2 per year than the US. China, has not promised to cut actual emissions. China and the other developing nations have promised only to cut their carbon "intensity," meaning emissions per unit of GDP.

True, China's CO2 per capita is only a quarter of the U.S. emissions rate. But warming (if caused by CO2 emissions) doesn't come from emissions per capita, it comes from total emissions. With 10% annual growth in China's economy, a 4% cut in intensity is actually a 6% annual increase in emissions. China is framing the negotiations in Copenhagen as a referendum on the developed nation’s responsibility for past emissions.

At the heart of the disputes in Copenhagen is money and economic growth and strength. The poorest nations want a large pot of money to compensate them and pay for adaption to climate change. China and India want to agree to allow their emissions to continue to grow at 6% per year and have the developed nations cut emission by significant amounts while paying retribution. This will result in crippling of the western economies as demonstrated by the experience of California, a leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

California which represents 20% of the US economy has demonstrated the costs to an economy of cutting emissions with their passage of AB 32 which established a comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, reductions of greenhouse gases (GHG) that were intended to be cost effective. This law established a statewide GHG emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions. California has lead the way in cap and trade legislation and serves as an example to the nation of the concerns and problems with this particular approach to attempt to prevent climate change by controlling CO2 emissions.

In a recent report by Sanjay Varshney, of California State University, Sacramento and Dennis H. Tootelian, Ph.D., Director, Center for Small Business, California State University, Sacramento, titled “Cost of AB 32 on California Small Business-Summary Report of Findings,” the financial impacts to the economy and people of California to implement California’s greenhouse gas program was outlined.

The report concluded that result would be approximately a 10% loss in total gross state output. This will translate into nearly 1.1 million lost jobs in California which represents about 6% of the state labor force. The study also found that in order to cope with the increased costs generated by the AB 32 program, consumers will be forced to cut their discretionary spending by 26.2%, to cover the increased costs of necessary goods and services. The study’s cost analysis was based on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) findings, which revealed significant cost increases. The study’s findings are consistent with the Peer Review analysis that CARB commissioned, which also concluded that the cost of the AB 32 Scoping Plan would be significant, and that the California Resource Board had significantly underestimated these costs.

In a global economy having the developed nations agree to cut greenhouse gases while the developing nations are allowed to continue to grow their emission will not result in any amelioration of the increase in greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, the production of CO2 will just moves out of the country along with the economic activity that is producing the emissions making the developed nations poorer. The wealth will be transferred to the developing world. We as a nation are currently spending much more money than we have; there is not enough money to pay for our current programs let alone any future programs. Strangling our economy to drastically cut emissions of CO2 will not save the earth and will become increasingly irrelevant as the Chinese and other developing economies ellipse the US.

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