Home > Environment > Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue

Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue

July 28th, 2005

That’s about the best I can say for the agreement on climate change announced today. It appears to offer nothing beyond an acknowledgement that the problem exists.

This supposedly represents the response of the US, China, India, Australia, Japan and North South Korea to the problem of climate change, but if so, the Americans don’t seem to have noticed. There’s a brief item in the NYT, but it doesn’t even appear in the International section of their website. Going directly to the White House website, there’s nothing on the front page, but digging a bit deeper produces an innocuous item headed President’s Statement on U.S. Joining New Asia-Pacific Partnership which I’ve reproduced over the fold.

If this is the Bush Administration’s answer to Kyoto, they’re keeping pretty quiet about it.

President’s Statement on U.S. Joining New Asia-Pacific Partnership

The United States has joined with Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea to create a new Asia-Pacific partnership on clean development, energy security, and climate change. This new results-oriented partnership will allow our nations to develop and accelerate deployment of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies to meet national pollution reduction, energy security, and climate change concerns in ways that reduce poverty and promote economic development. The six Asia-Pacific partners will build on our strong history of common approaches and demonstrated cooperation on clean energy technologies. I have directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Energy Sam Bodman to meet with their counterparts this fall to carry forward our new partnership and provide direction for our joint work.

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  1. snuh
    July 29th, 2005 at 08:20 | #1

    “US, China, India, Australia, Japan and North Korea”?

  2. jquiggin
    July 29th, 2005 at 08:32 | #2

    Oops! Fixed now

  3. July 29th, 2005 at 08:34 | #3

    The only target I heard on Lateline last night was to cut emissions by 50% this century, and even that was qualified.

  4. July 29th, 2005 at 08:55 | #4

    But isn’t China, India not signatories to Kyoto. Doesn’t it therefore make Kyoto, well, problematic particularly given China and India’s growth economic growth forecasts for pretty much the next 95 years.

    Also, while voluntary, atleast China and India have aggreed to this thing.

  5. Ros
    July 29th, 2005 at 10:02 | #5

    Seems to be news in India, as is the new cosiness between India and US. As they have been at these chats for a while now Prime Minister Singh’s visit to the US, the shift by the US on Nuclear matters with India, and India’s key demand for the transfer of clean technologies at the G8 summit, and the failure of Blair to mention nuclear energy or hydel power two specific energy sources that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sort all seems to gel now.

    And these guys to meet in November for a Dialogue, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, re post 2012 Kyoto.

    As Shanahan says , get over it.
    Italy wants out, France apparently wobbling, All turning to tears for the likes of Russia and poor old NZ. Canada looking bad, in fact best chances appear to be UK Sweden and possibly Germany. The Eurocentric rules based holier than thou with the side serve of damage the US economy is history.

  6. ml
    July 29th, 2005 at 10:17 | #6

    Scenarios: I.Hypocrisy. 2. Penny has dropped in White House. If 2, a gradualist step-by-step strategy with your constituencies to get them used to your new position would be an effective approach.

  7. Katz
    July 29th, 2005 at 10:43 | #7

    Bush will be gone in 2009. Global warming will still be with us in 2009.

    Bush’s statement is a gritted-teeth acknowledgement of those two ineluctable facts.

  8. July 29th, 2005 at 10:55 | #8

    Ian Campbell came across as a complete doofus last night on Lateline. He blathered on and on about technology being the solution to global warming (which it largely is) but (and Tony Jones should have probably pressed harder on this point) without incentives/coercion to adopt cleaner technologies why the hell are private companies and individual governments going to bother?

  9. observa
    July 29th, 2005 at 11:12 | #9

    The fact that the countries involved are apparently responsible for 50% of the globe’s fossil fuel emissions, makes it a very useful allianc. As one of the major energy suppliers to the group our membership was imperative. It is nonsensical for a country like Aust to meet Kyoto type targets by simply digging up coal and exporting it to non-Kyoto countries, in order for them to ship back fossil fuel intensive finished goods to us, whereupon we can say-See, we good guys are meeting our targets. Feel good local environmentalism isn’t really going to cut it in the big scheme of things.

  10. Lord of the Flies
    July 29th, 2005 at 11:34 | #10

    Observa, you miss the point entirely.

    Solutions to global warming are of no use to JQ and his ilk if they don’t also further their left-wing political aganda. This is why they so favour enforced immediate reductions in CO2 emissions: it requires all of us to consume less, be less capitalist, and generally submit to far greater state control.

    Remember, their philosophy/policies make them unelectable, so they have to find other means by which to impose their vision of what is best for us all.

  11. Katz
    July 29th, 2005 at 12:17 | #11

    I like your thinking Lord of the Flies.

    I’m a bit of a small government man myself.

    Your sentiments gave me such a warm feeling that I turned on my air conditioner to counteract the now unnecessary heat pouring out of my central heating unit.

    Luxurious, I know. But hell, I can afford to make such gestures of consumer sovereignty on behalf of all of you.

  12. July 29th, 2005 at 12:36 | #12

    very well put katz.

    And to all those that think Kyoto shouldn’t be signed because india and china get off the hook – well – Are we strong enough and visionary enough to set the example. Imagine me telling my child, well you won’t eat your vegetables so neither will i.

    We have the resources. We have the ability to sign kyoto with NO economic impact if we put our minds to it.

    We must lead. And there needs to use a stick like penalities to bring corporate entities into line. This has nothing to do with reducing consumption, and everything to do with being smarter about how we produce.

  13. observa
    July 29th, 2005 at 13:45 | #13

    So what are you saying Katz? Your heater/air conditioner should have a sealed Govt meter on it so you can only use it 3 hrs in a day(of your free choice) to meet your/our Kyoto obligations, while your counterpart in Shanghai can please himself with the output of Austn coal or LNG, as long as he pays his power bill?

  14. July 29th, 2005 at 13:57 | #14

    alphacoward Says:

    July 29th, 2005 at 12:36 pm
    “And to all those that think Kyoto shouldn’t be signed because india and china get off the hook – well – Are we strong enough and visionary enough to set the example.”

    Well done Alpha, you are not suggesting that the Indians and the Chinese are by default ‘not strong enough’ and not ‘visionary enough’!

    Tinges of Western, imperialist control seepeing through?

  15. Albatross
    July 29th, 2005 at 14:03 | #15

    Your heater/air conditioner should have a sealed Govt meter on it so you can only use it 3 hrs in a day to meet your/our Kyoto obligation

    Well in acual fact it is possible to go for a year (even in Western Sydney) without using both – we do. All you need is a properly configured dwelling.

  16. Katz
    July 29th, 2005 at 14:35 | #16

    Where’s Western Sydney?

  17. observa
    July 29th, 2005 at 16:44 | #17

    There are only 2 real paths to reducing GG emissions. Price incentive or legislative fiat. History screams at us that administrative fiat is a recipe for tyranny and disaster. That leaves price as the incentive to own houses like Albatross, among the many other changes we need to make.

    IMO Kyoto is the first step for control freaks. We could abandon all current forms of taxation, for a total reliance on fossil fuel and resource taxation. The green incentive we need to build houses like Albatross has, etc, etc, administratively simple(Oh the income tax act!), virtually unavoidable and equitable(rich bastards use more fossil fuels), favours employment(no tax on labour but taxes the life blood of capital). Spinoffs are- no tax on savings(only when you spend on resources), no Company tax so multinationals can headquarter here, no difference in taxation for private, business or religious/charitable use, no transfer pricing offshore and no govt/PS telling us how to do things best. Time to get cracking on it unless the control freaks have a better solution?????

  18. Ian Gould
    July 29th, 2005 at 18:07 | #18

    Actually, China and India ARE signatories to Kyoto.

    The Kyoto Accord has several parts, one part, Annex B, commits the parties whop sign up to it to reduce their emissions.

    The rrest of the Accord commits members to research new technology to reduce or offset emissions, to enage in joint investment in developing countries to reduce their emissions and so on – in other words much the same things as china and India have comitted to AGAIN in this treaty.

    As far as China and India are concerned this agreement comitts them to nothing more than Kyoto – in fact its likely to have less impact than Kyoto because Kyoto has mechanisms for Annex B signatories to meet their reduction targets by financing clean development projects in the developing world (like upgrading China’s highly inefficient coal-fired power-plants.)

  19. Ian Gould
    July 29th, 2005 at 18:14 | #19

    http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/kpeng.html

    “1. Each Party included in Annex I, in achieving its quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments under Article 3, in order to promote sustainable development, shall:

    (a) Implement and/or further elaborate policies and measures in accordance with its national circumstances, such as:

    (i) Enhancement of energy efficiency in relevant sectors of the national economy;

    (ii) Protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, taking into account its commitments under relevant international environmental agreements; promotion of sustainable forest management practices, afforestation and reforestation;

    (iii) Promotion of sustainable forms of agriculture in light of climate change considerations;

    (iv) Research on, and promotion, development and increased use of, new and renewable forms of energy, of carbon dioxide sequestration technologies and of advanced and innovative environmentally sound technologies;

    (v) Progressive reduction or phasing out of market imperfections, fiscal incentives, tax and duty exemptions and subsidies in all greenhouse gas emitting sectors that run counter to the objective of the Convention and application of market instruments;

    (vi) Encouragement of appropriate reforms in relevant sectors aimed at promoting policies and measures which limit or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol;

    (vii) Measures to limit and/or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol in the transport sector;

    (viii) Limitation and/or reduction of methane emissions through recovery and use in waste management, as well as in the production, transport and distribution of energy;

    (b) Cooperate with other such Parties to enhance the individual and combined effectiveness of their policies and measures adopted under this Article, pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 2(e)(i), of the Convention. To this end, these Parties shall take steps to share their experience and exchange information on such policies and measures, including developing ways of improving their comparability, transparency and effectiveness. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall, at its first session or as soon as practicable thereafter, consider ways to facilitate such cooperation, taking into account all relevant information.

    2. The Parties included in Annex I shall pursue limitation or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol from aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively.

    3. The Parties included in Annex I shall strive to implement policies and measures under this Article in such a way as to minimize adverse effects, including the adverse effects of climate change, effects on international trade, and social, environmental and economic impacts on other Parties, especially developing country Parties and in particular those identified in Article 4, paragraphs 8 and 9, of the Convention, taking into account Article 3 of the Convention. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol may take further action, as appropriate, to promote the implementation of the provisions of this paragraph.”

    http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/kyoto_protocol/application/pdf/kpstats.pdf

    Both India and China are non-Annex-B signatories to Kyoto.

  20. Ian Gould
    July 29th, 2005 at 18:18 | #20

    It should also pointed out that the main reason India and China and msot other developed countries didn’t sign up to Annex B with quotas well above their 1990 emissions (similar to the deal Australia negotiated and then pissed away) is that they lacked adequate data on their 1990 emissions.

    Compiling a national inventory is a huge technical undertaking – just ask anyone involved in the Australian inventory process.

    The non-Annex B countries committed themselves during the first Kyoto Implementation period to develop inventories which could then form the basis for future negotiations.

  21. Ian Gould
    July 29th, 2005 at 18:25 | #21

    Observa, there’s absolutely NOTHING in the Kyoto Accord that requires any country to introduce any form of carbon tax or other “legisaltive fiat” to reduce emissions.

    There ARE a number of provisions that specifically promote marekt-based solutions such as emission trading and requrie the removal of existing government subsidies that encourage fossil fuel use.

  22. July 30th, 2005 at 08:50 | #22

    Ian: I was waiting for someone to point that out.

    Something else that should be pointed out is that japan, as an Annex I country, can probably get credit under the Clean Development Mechanism for any actual emissions reductions they do under this treaty. The US and Australia can’t, because they haven’t ratified. There’s some suspicion that they want to try and push the conference of states’ parties in Montreal later this year into giving them such credit, despite not having any actual targets to meet. Hopefully that will be rejected…

  23. July 30th, 2005 at 09:45 | #23

    Robert Merkel: “without incentives/coercion to adopt cleaner technologies why the hell are private companies and individual governments going to bother?”

    Technologies change. Some prices go up. Some go down. You do not need the government for this to happen. Currently, the cost of production of alternative energy sources is going down.

    In a competitive environment it makes sense for people to try and find alternative energy technologies with lower costs. Why? So that they can make evil satanic american imperialist die-yuppy-scum western white heterosexual male middle-class profit! Oh, the humanity.

    Also, there is a private demand for cleaner energy.

  24. July 30th, 2005 at 10:17 | #24

    John Humphreys: Technologies change. Some prices go up. Some go down. You do not need the government for this to happen. Currently, the cost of production of alternative energy sources is going down.

    At the moment, burning locally-mined coal and releasing the exhaust gas into the atmosphere is cheaper than any other source of electricity, if the global cost of pollution is not borne by the coal user. This is not likely to change any time soon. It is also an environmental disaster. Given that, all we can to is tilt the market so that the full costs of the pollution are borne by the polluter, so that they will adopt different technologies that don’t pollute.

    The favourite clean energy source of the Australian government is gasified-coal power stations that geosequester the resulting CO2. Given that simply releasing the exhaust gases into the atmosphere costs nothing, I fail to see how geosequestration can be cheaper than not doing so. Cheaper than other non-greenhouse polluting technologies, maybe. Cheaper than doing nothing? Impossible.

  25. observa
    July 30th, 2005 at 11:10 | #25

    It seems to me the object of the game is not to meet some imperfect Kyoto protocols, but seriously address GG emissions in the long term. China and India’s stance is obvious. It’s all about per capita emissions you rich bastards! Aw shucks say we, knowing the game is up, but in Australia’s case, it’s best to make the most of the bad side of an argument and ship our fossil fuels off to low per capita consumption countries(or anyone else not a siganatory to Kyoto) We can then import FF intensive goods back from them and pretend we’re good guys. See, we don’t burn the evil stuff! The logical response would be to measure per capita FF use in final goods consumption and set some targets, but as has already been pointed out, this is a herculean and impossible task. Even if we could and all agreed on mandatory per capita targets, I know what I’d do as a really rich bastard- congregate with an enclave of like rich bastards within some idyllic low per capita consumption state. Why stick with high per capita consumption states and cramp my lifestyle? Like squeezing balloons.

    What our all omniscient God really requires is a serious attack on GG emissions with a level playing field and no exemptions. Like most MDCs, Aust’s high per capita final consumption of FF is really because their private cost is way below their true social cost. Hence my solution to that problem, which if introduced internationally, would produce the level playing field necessary. I really think anything else is skating around the edges of the problem. We need to get the price right and leave the market to come up with the overall solutions.

    Let me introduce you to the sort of band-aid quantity control measures we/you are beginning to see at the moment, in the absence of better social pricing of FF(and other resources). Take the new Greensmart Housing Code. It’s an administrative attempt to encapsulate all the sorts of logical responses the market would take if FF were dear as hell. First you assess the region you’re looking at, because clearly tropical Darwin, is different to the Alice’s desert and Canberra’s chill, etc. Aspect and orientation of the design are entered into the matrix, with window to wall areas, which are north facing, etc, then things like eaves, verandahs, blinds, drapes, insulation, R ratings of roof walls and floors, double glazing, even vented cf closing exhaust fans, yada,yada. Now you plug all this into a ‘deemed to comply’ computer package that Bill Gates would be proud to own and come up with a brownie score and if it meets the minm. for the region you can begin to approach the Development process. If it doesn’t, play around with the variables, or find yourself a more amenable Private Certifier who can mangle the data better, a bit like a friendly mechanic come car registration inspection time. Welcome to the brave new world of GG quantity type controls to presumably help you meet your part of the Kyoto bargain. Yes some of us have to explain to Mr and Mrs Average how unfortunately their dream home doesn’t fit administrative nightmares. Oh that the John Quiggins of this world could be there to explain it all to them. Welcome to plastic shopping bag economics and water restrictions, coming to a city near you soon.

  26. July 30th, 2005 at 13:09 | #26

    In this wonderful free market pact these are the areas that will be targeted: I am assuming that it is in priority order. If you look wind and solar are at the bottom and forgotten even though they are one of the only things mentioned that are actually in production and working. The list is from http://www.evworld.com/view.cfm?section=communique&newsid=9016

    – Energy efficiency
    Good easy and cheap and doable

    – Clean coal
    Not developed or working in production yet

    – Integrated gasification combined cycle:
    In production but dearer then just burning coal. Still releases CO2, the only gain is from a gas turbine with exhaust recovery is 55% efficient whereas steam turbines are at best 36% effiecient.

    – Liquefied natural gas
    Still releases CO2

    – Carbon capture and storage:
    Only in the first stages of research and not in production or even near. Australia would have to sequester 140 million tons of CO2 per year to offset its coal CO2 output. Also in much the same as nuclear power there are no gaurantees that the CO2 will not bubble to the surface in 1000 years.

    – Methane capture and use:
    Good – methane is a powerful greenhouse gas

    – Civilian nuclear power
    No CO2 however this is just shifting the pollution to the future

    – Geothermal, rural/village energy systems
    Can be good however the hot rocks do cool in time

    – Advanced transportation
    This means fuel cells completely ignoring the fact that lithium battery electric cars are totally practical now and could be in large scale production tomorrow without waiting 10 years for practical PEM fuel cells and hydrogen storage

    – Bioenergy: using materials such as wood and manure in place of coal to generate electricity.
    OK

    – Hydropower
    Can produce CO2 due to covering of forests etc with water causing them to rot and release the carbon

    – Wind power
    Now right down at the bottom is one of the only in production and ready, non CO2 releasing power sources. Wind power is already producing gigawatts of power all around the world however it is put at the bottom of this list of speculative and imaginative power sources that are either not even close to production or still release CO2. I would say it is at the bottom so hopefully people will ignore it.

    – Solar power
    Same as wind. There are solar thermal plants in operation producing power to the grid. This also includes PV panels on roofs and solar hot water.

    …AND IN THE LONG TERM

    – Hydrogen: an environmentally friendly fuel that, if processed in a fuel cell, generates only electricity and water.
    Environmentally friendly only if produced from renewables. For transport it is more efficient just to use the electricity in an electric car. Can be stored and used for backup power and base load.
    – Nanotechnologies: working with extremely small particles to try to create miniscule computers and tiny medical devices. A nano is a billionth of a metre.
    Not even out of the labs

    – Next-generation nuclear fission
    Hooray more nuclear waste

    – Fusion energy
    50 years of trying still not a watt of power

  27. July 30th, 2005 at 14:10 | #27

    This sort of thing is defective policy because the treaties themselves build in preconceptions about the directions of technology. For instance, I’ve pointed out before that the quickest way to remove carbon from the carbon cycle is to have lots of forest fires and bulldoze the remains into landfills and creeks, thus sequestering charccoal of biological origin in a non-biodegradable form away from water/ultraviolet oxidation.

    Yet that would count as releasing carbon, merely because the cycle itself registers an increase in carbon flow more than the cumulative carbon sequestration.

    What we need is more bush clearing and burning and bulldozing. That would do the job quick smart.

  28. Ian Gould
    July 31st, 2005 at 08:27 | #28

    So let me get this right – the “market-friendly way” to address global warming isn’t to impose a cost on emissions for all major emitters and leave them to identify for themselves the msot cost-effective way to minimise that cost. Rather it’s for government to identify what it thinks will be the appropriate technological solutions and throw public monet at them?

  29. observa
    July 31st, 2005 at 09:40 | #29

    Don’t be silly Ian. We run a mixed economy these days as you are well aware. So, you impose a cost on the emitters and let them work out the most cost effective way of doing business. The gas and utility companies pass this cost on to consumers because of their natural monopoly. Our steel, aluminium, manufacturing industries offshore to China, India,etc, because they don’t enjoy this market advantage, while our public servants beaver away at legislatively getting us to change our wicked ways with all sorts of new programs like Greensmart Housing Codes. They of course need indexed wages to ameliorate all these extra consumer cost burdens and you know what that means.

  30. Ian Gould
    July 31st, 2005 at 11:27 | #30

    Actually Observa it’s highly unlikely that our aluminium etc. industries WOULD relocate – electricity is only one cost of production and an increase is unlikely to offset the loss of local sunk costs, the transition costs of relocation and the higher costs of other factors of production.

    There’s a reason the world’s entire manufacturing basis hasn’t decmped to subsaharan African where wage costs are even lower than in China.

    The aluminium industry et al are always careful to report job losses as losses comapred to the Business as Usual case. In fact, if you look at the detail of the McKibbin modelling, employment in manufacturing and minerals processing would rise if we ratified Kyoto – but by a lower amount than the BAU scenario.

  31. July 31st, 2005 at 19:41 | #31

    Ender, I think we’ve discussed this topic before (let’s just say I think you’re grossly overestimating the risks from long-term storage of nuclear waste, but one point that we haven’t is Jevon’s Paradox. Basically, the suggestion is that using a resource more efficiently doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll get used less; it may get used more. The implications for energy efficiency as a greenhouse mitigation scheme are pretty obvious…

    Thoughts, everyone?

  32. c8to
    July 31st, 2005 at 21:52 | #32

    i googled for the etymology of the title, and this post itself is the top google link.

    the quote has exceeded the notoriety of the original author.

  33. jquiggin
    July 31st, 2005 at 22:14 | #33

    Amazing! The source is La Rochefoucauld

  34. Ian Gould
    August 1st, 2005 at 00:21 | #34

    Robert,

    It is true that in some circumstances the reduction in price will result in greater consumption but ask yourself the follwoign questions:

    1. If toilet paper cost half as much woudl you use twice as much?

    2. If the cost of air conditioning fell significantly would you start cooling your workspace to 5 degrees celsius?

  35. Ian Gould
    August 1st, 2005 at 00:22 | #35

    Robert,

    It is true that in some circumstances the reduction in price will result in greater consumption but it isn’t always the case. Ask yourself the following questions:

    1. If toilet paper cost half as much would you use twice as much?

    2. If the cost of air conditioning fell significantly would you start cooling your workspace to 5 degrees celsius?

  36. James Wimberley
    August 1st, 2005 at 04:56 | #36

    Meanwhile,back in the real world, Spain takes solar thermal energy from research to commercial pilots: http://www.elpais.es/articulo/elpporeco/20050725elpepieco_6/Tes/Constructoras%20y%20el%E9ctricas%20invierten%20300%20millones%20en%20centrales%20solares%20t%E9rmicas
    Note that they still need a big subsidy, confirmng the “not by technology alone” principle. But the solar thermal tchnology isn’t complicated, the only high-tech bit is the porous ceramic target, through which you blow air to extract the heat. Not much to go wrong, and the scheme should get cheaper quickly.

    Another good sign (paradoxically) is that the price of solar photovoltaic panels is rising: http://www.solarbuzz.com/moduleprices.htm . Since the underlying costs must be falling, this means that demand is very strong. 1 GW a year, increasing at 25% a year, ain’t peanuts

  37. Ian Gould
    August 1st, 2005 at 09:52 | #37

    James, in addition to the soalr thermal stuff you mention, there’s also been some very promising recent developments in using high efficiency multi-junction cells in conjunction with concentrator systems.

    http://www.evworld.com/view.cfm?section=communique&newsid=8909

    Solar may actually be on the verge of becoming economically viable in the next couple of years.

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