December 28, 2005
Kyoto: Japanese for Hypocrisy?

By Jack Kelly

It isn't absolutely necessary to be a hypocrite in order to be a liberal, but it sure helps.

During the first week in December, ten thousand people gathered in Montreal for a UN-sponsored conference on global warming.

Rex Murphy of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. thought the size of the gathering inappropriate:

"Just think of the Montreal summit's ecological footprint," he said. "Is there really a need to fly ten thousand people from 189 countries to a cold city to exchange ideas? Is there no email? Are the phone lines down?"

Then Mr. Murphy answered his own question: "I suppose...ecology is not really different from politics. High on sermons, low on example."

The principal topic of the conference was the future of the treaty drafted in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, which obligates signatories in the developed world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In his address, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin took a poke at the United States for refusing to sign on to the Kyoto Accord.

Toronto Star columnist Richard Gwyn agreed with what Mr. Martin had to say about the evil Bush administration, but speaking of Canada in general and Mr. Martin's Liberal government in particular, Mr. Gwyn noted:

"We've done nothing about climate change and about global warming except talk. For us to now preach at others is pure hypocrisy."

Since 1990, the base year for Kyoto calculations, Canadian emissions of so-called "greenhouse gases" have increased 24.2 percent, while those of the United States have increased by only 13.3 percent, Mr. Gwyn noted.

Another popular speaker was former President Bill Clinton, who declared President Bush was "flat wrong" that the Kyoto targets would damage the U.S. economy.

Mr. Clinton failed to mention to his audience in Montreal that, as president, he had described the Kyoto accord as a "work in progress," and refused to submit it to the senate for ratification. This was chiefly because in July of 1997, the senate had voted, 95-0, for a resolution saying the U.S. should not sign the treaty if it would damage our economy, or if it excluded developing nations from emissions restrictions.

A 1998 study by the Energy Information Administration estimated trying to meet the Kyoto standards would cost the U.S. economy about $400 billion a year, mostly by hugely increasing the cost to consumers of electricity, home heating oil, and gasoline.

China and India, expected to be the world's largest producers of greenhouse gases by 2020, are exempt from Kyoto's restraints, as are South Korea and other emitters in the developing world.

"(Clinton) can't have it both ways," said Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "Either the lack of meaningful participation by key developing countries justified his no ratification policy or not. If it did, then Bush's identical policy of not seeking ratification is equally justified. If it did not, then he should apologize today to his fellow Kyoto supporters for not submitting the treaty when it was in his power to do so."

This week the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-leaning British think tank, released a study which indicates that 13 of 15 European nations which signed the Kyoto treaty will not meet the "mandatory" emissions reductions to which they agreed.

The worst offenders, the IPPR said, are Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, all falling about 20 percent short of their targets.

"The poorly performing nations are among the many who have criticized the U.S. and President George Bush," noted Alison Hardie, a reporter for the Scotsman newspaper.

Britain and Sweden are the only two European countries close to meeting their Kyoto targets, the IPPR said. But at a news conference in September, British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- heretofore considered a strong Kyoto supporter -- said ordering countries to cut greenhouse gases won't work.

But though no signatory has met its Kyoto goals, and only a few are likely to come close, the talk at Montreal was about a new, more restrictive treaty to follow Kyoto when it expires in 2012. For liberals, it is talk that matters, not action. Appearances trump reality.

"Perhaps Kyoto is Japanese for hypocrisy," the CBC's Mr. Murphy said.

Jack Kelly is national security columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

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