Kyoto Protocol – Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

After much anticipation, today marks the beginning of the global implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, the latest and perhaps greatest validation of the theory that the mixing of good intentions and public policy usually results in pure insanity. Why is Kyoto insane? Iain Murray reminds us of the one basic fact that sold me on this point of view long ago:

“So the Kyoto Protocol will do virtually nothing to halt any possible global temperature increase ââ?¬â?? the temperature that would have been reached in 2100 will be reached in 2106. Yet independent analyses of the annual cost to the world of complying with Kyoto put it at between $150 billion and $350 billion a year (the global development aid budget is $50 billion annually). The cost of the “solution” vastly outweighs any purported benefits.”

So for roughly $15-35 TRILLION dollars over the next century, we buy a whopping 6 extra years to reach the same temperature level? What a deal! Where do I sign up? The Washington Post adds this:

“The global environmental movement calls it a historic victory, but critics in the industry and elsewhere say the bang could end in a whimper: Emissions of carbon dioxide will continue to rise, many of the cuts in greenhouse gases claimed under Kyoto probably would have happened anyway, and its future could be derailed by the stony opposition of the Bush administration. Supporters acknowledge those realities but argue that the real impact of the treaty is not tangible. “The greatest value is symbolic,” said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, an independent research and advocacy organization that works with many large companies interested in addressing the risks of global warming.”

So all of those TRILLIONS of dollars are really going to buy some symbolism. Fantastic. This deal just gets better and better. The funny thing is, it appears that the old adage “be careful what you wish for” is starting to sink in around the world:

“With the Kyoto Protocol set to take effect tomorrow, a disturbing realization is hitting many of the world’s biggest global-warming suspects: Trying to meet their obligations to limit global-warming emissions under the treaty is proving a political and economic nightmare. What is confronting many of the industrialized participants is the fact that turning their abstract environmental promise into tangible economic policy is extremely unpopular with politically powerful interests. Joining the Kyoto club was the easy part; now governments have to figure out how to divvy up responsibility for the cuts among companies and consumers that produce the emissions. Particularly since economies — and emissions — in many of these countries have grown significantly since the pact was negotiated in 1997, the process is producing a nasty political backlash.”

As usual, EnviroSpin Watch’s Phillip Stott hits the nail on the head:

“The Kyoto Protocol is a shambles and one utter waste of political effort. It will do absolutely nothing about climate change, although it will cost us all dear in energy prices, taxes, and jobs. Even its few remaining supporters should be putting the champagne back in the fridge. The sooner we stop playing this farcical charade, the better for everyone.”

Finally, Steven Milloy of has thoughtfully offered the world one of those famous calculators that we all love so much: the Kyoto Count! It tells us at any given moment how much the world has spent on Kyoto and the projected temperature savings by 2050. So far, in the first day of implementation, we’re already upwards of $300 million spent. But don’t forget what we’ve already bought with that…a massive 0.000002848 degrees C reduction in potential 2050 temperature. What a deal! Seriously, it will be amusing over the next several years to watch the Kyoto Protocol wither on the vine, meeting the same fate of irrelevancy as the League of Nations. But it’s too bad that so many resources have to be squandered in the process, as they could have been spent much more effectively on any number of other pressing global issues, like malaria, AIDS, Third World economic development, etc…

Leonard Gilroy is vice president of government reform at Reason Foundation and senior managing director of Reason's Pension Integrity Project.