Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
The Kyoto Protocol is the quixotic attempt by some countries around the world to reduce each participating country’s CO2 emissions to their emission levels in 1990. Since CO2 emissions are a measure of the energy used, that seemed foolish to me, but hey, I was born yesterday. I figured nobody would be that dumb, and although the leaders might agree to such a goofy plan, people would find ways around the restrictions.
There are two very different groups of countries who have signed up to Kyoto to reduce emissions. One group is called the “Economies In Transition” (EIT) group. These are the Eastern European countries who were going from communism to capitalism. They are composed of Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine. They’ve done well at reducing to 1990 levels, since their 1990 emissions were all high, and have declined since after the fall of the Soviet Empire. They’ve reduced their emissions, but no thanks to Kyoto. Indeed, some signed on just so they could sell their carbon credits, because their countries were already below the 1990 levels by the time they ratified … and they did very well at the scam, too. Russia made big bucks from selling credits to the rest of the fools …
The other group, called the “non-EIT” group, is composed of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. This is the group of interest, as they are the group which is like the US—established democracies with generally mature industrialized economies.
I took this issue up because of the recent release of the newest CO2 emission figures for 2009-2010. These gave me the opportunity to investigate the question in the title—what difference has Kyoto made? How much has Kyoto affected the emissions of the countries involved? Carbon saved is carbon earned … Figure 1 shows the emissions of the US, and the emissions of the Kyoto non-EIT nations, from 1990 to 2010.
Figure 1. Annual Emissions of Carbon. Units are billions of metric tonnes of carbon (C, not CO2). “Kyoto Countries” is the total of all of the non-EIT countries, as listed above. Data Source Up to 2008 and 2008-2010 Photo Source
Other than the post-2007 drop due to the 2008 global financial crisis and ensuing world-wide depression, what can we see in this data?
Well, the most obvious thing I see is what’s not there. Looking at the pre- and post-ratification behavior of the Kyoto countries, I don’t see any change in the emissions due to ratification. The trend 1990-1999 is no different from the trend 1999-2007.
Curiously, it looks like the US on the other hand slowed down the growth in emissions over the period. Before ratification the US emissions were rising faster than the EU emissions. After 1998, they have changed pretty much in lock-step. This can be tested by fitting a 2nd order polynomial to the 1990-2007 data for both the US and Kyoto countries, as shown in Figure 2:
So to at least a first approximation, I’d have to say that the total amount of CO2 saved by the Kyoto Protocol to date is … well … not to put too fine a point on it, the CO2 saved by Kyoto seems to be approximately zero. There’s been no change in the rate of rise of the emissions by the Kyoto countries. No difference. Zip. Nicht. Zilch. The US reduced its rate of emission growth over the period more than the Kyoto countries did.
In any case, not to worry, the deus ex machina was waiting in the wings all along . What the Kyoto Protocol was incapable of achieving, the 2008 global economic meltdown had no problem doing. Figure 1 shows the total emissions of the Kyoto countries are now well below the 1990 benchmark … so I suppose the unfortunate citizens in the those countries are celebrating their great success, and hoping that the economic depression continues, no?
PS—It is obvious from this data that economic depression causes a reduction in CO2 emissions.
What has not been so obvious to the Kyoto folks is that the converse is true—forcibly reducing CO2 emissions comes at a cost to the economy.