Friday, October 08, 2004

I'm Back... First On Environmental Issues

In the course of the month I stopped blogging (sorry - hadn't much time), the most important news in my view (but one not getting the headlines amid all the US Presidential debates buzz and the daily Iraq, Gaza etc. carnage) was that Russia is about to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The goverment OKd it, now it's the Duma's turn; but given the way Tsar Vladimir I of the Putins dealt with democracy, that is only a formality. The Kyoto Agreement already has more than twice the required 55 signatories, and now it will have the required more-than-55% of the 1990 CO2 exhausts of industrialised countries among the signatories, so it will come into effect.

I note three points in relation to this. The first is that contrary to jubilant US right-wingers and some other gloomily accepting their analysis, I didn't thought Putin wants to kill the treaty - it seemed quite clear to me that he wants to blackmail Europe to get the highest possible prize. Now, I have to look whether there was any secret deal; or if Putin was satisfied with German Chanchellor Schröder's continuing apologism for his Chechnya and anti-democratic policies, or if he just gave up trying in vain to gain more.

The second point also clouds the joy: it is that these four years meant a loss of momentum, with the focus of public opinion shifting away, which also means politicians won't make the issue a priority again for some time. Worse, paradoxically, the downturn of the global economy from late 2000, rather than forcing the political, economic and media elites to realise that what caused it - the economic religion of our days, neoliberalism - is bunk, made them believe just this bunk is the solution to the budget problems now chronic, thus deepening their orthodoxy and their too narrow focus on the economy. It will be a rough ride 'till 2012.

Third, opponents and critics have argued that Kyoto leaves out developing countries like China and India, and that a 5% reduction is nowhere near the needed 50 to 75%. However, the first is simply not true: developing nations are exempted only in the first ten-year period (well, now less; target date 2012) - but China and India are signatories, which means they will be bound by the yet to be determined targets of the second and further periods. Also, while a 5% reduction is not much to stop global warming, achieving it will mean uncoupling economic growth from CO2 emissions growth - and once that has been achieved, further major reductions will be easier.

Finally, an anecdotic argument for wind power. I often champion the cause of wind power, so I did at Left I, with (off-topic) followups in the comments to this and this post. Someone objected, saying he lives near a wind farm, which is a big problem for birds. But as the studies known to me indicate that older, small hence fast-rotating windmills, on lattice towers, placed in bird migration routes, and unavoidable places like mountain passes are what increase the danger, and the one wind park where counts of dead birds were really high was the combination of all of the above, I ventured a guess that this someone lives near Altamont Pass - and I was right!


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