Kyoto Goes Local

One of the constant retorts heard mostly from economists, is that all efforts to reduce oil consumption just creates an incentive for someone else to consume it instead - the old Jevon's Paradox. The best way that I have come up with to answer to Jevon's Paradox is through a combination of efficiency gains and society-level agreements on total consumption. Richard Heinberg has outlined his own ideas on a society-level protocol to deal with oil depletion in a equitable and peaceful manner.

In Montreal, there is a conference discussing climate change in an air of pessimism about global agreements. The Kyoto Protocol, despite coming into effect in February 2005, is largely seen as a failure since high-growth developing nations like India and China have publicly stated that they would never accept limits on their emissions and the Bush administration has refused to sign.

Despite the lack of Federal level action on climate change there is a growing movement among America's mayors led by Seattle's mayor Greg Nichels to take action on climate change which now has 192 cities signed up, including New York, LA, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and even Las Vegas. If your local community has not signed up, please lobby your local officials to take action. If they have signed up, hold them to task and don't let them have their soundbyte without taking clear actions to reduce emissions.
(Endorsed Language)


WHEREAS, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has previously adopted strong policy resolutions calling for cities, communities and the federal government to take actions to reduce global warming pollution; and

WHEREAS, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international community's most respected assemblage of scientists, has found that climate disruption is a reality and that human activities are largely responsible for increasing concentrations of global warming pollution; and

WHEREAS, recent, well-documented impacts of climate disruption include average global sea level increases of four to eight inches during the 20th century; a 40 percent decline in Arctic sea-ice thickness; and nine of the ten hottest years on record occurring in the past decade; and

WHEREAS, climate disruption of the magnitude now predicted by the scientific community will cause extremely costly disruption of human and natural systems throughout the world including: increased risk of floods or droughts; sea-level rises that interact with coastal storms to erode beaches, inundate land, and damage structures; more frequent and extreme heat waves; more frequent and greater concentrations of smog; and

WHEREAS, on February 16, 2005, the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to address climate disruption, went into effect in the 141 countries that have ratified it to date; 38 of those countries are now legally required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on average 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012; and

WHEREAS, the United States of America, with less than five percent of the world's population, is responsible for producing approximately 25 percent of the world's global warming pollutants; and

WHEREAS, the Kyoto Protocol emissions reduction target for the U.S. would have been 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012; and

WHEREAS, many leading US companies that have adopted greenhouse gas reduction programs to demonstrate corporate social responsibility have also publicly expressed preference for the US to adopt precise and mandatory emissions targets and timetables as a means by which to remain competitive in the international marketplace, to mitigate financial risk and to promote sound investment decisions; and

WHEREAS, state and local governments throughout the United States are adopting emission reduction targets and programs and that this leadership is bipartisan, coming from Republican and Democratic governors and mayors alike; and

WHEREAS, many cities throughout the nation, both large and small, are reducing global warming pollutants through programs that provide economic and quality of life benefits such as reduced energy bills, green space preservation, air quality improvements, reduced traffic congestion, improved transportation choices, and economic development and job creation through energy conservation and new energy technologies; and

WHEREAS, mayors from around the nation have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement which, as amended at the 73rd Annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting, reads:

The U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement

We urge the federal government and state governments to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the target of reducing global warming pollution levels to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, including efforts to: reduce the United States' dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate the development of clean, economical energy resources and fuel-efficient technologies such as conservation, methane recovery for energy generation, waste to energy, wind and solar energy, fuel cells, efficient motor vehicles, and biofuels;
We urge the U.S. Congress to pass bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation that includes 1) clear timetables and emissions limits and 2) a flexible, market-based system of tradable allowances among emitting industries; and
We will strive to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution by taking actions in our own operations and communities such as:
*Inventory global warming emissions in City operations and in the community, set reduction targets and create an action plan.
*Adopt and enforce land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban communities;
*Promote transportation options such as bicycle trails, commute trip reduction programs, incentives for car pooling and public transit;
*Increase the use of clean, alternative energy by, for example, investing in "green tags", advocating for the development of renewable energy resources, recovering landfill methane for energy production, and supporting the use of waste to energy technology;
*Make energy efficiency a priority through building code improvements, retrofitting city facilities with energy efficient lighting and urging employees to conserve energy and save money;
*Purchase only Energy Star equipment and appliances for City use;
*Practice and promote sustainable building practices using the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program or a similar system;
*Increase the average fuel efficiency of municipal fleet vehicles; reduce the number of vehicles; launch an employee education program including anti-idling messages; convert diesel vehicles to bio-diesel;
*Evaluate opportunities to increase pump efficiency in water and wastewater systems; recover wastewater treatment methane for energy production;
*Increase recycling rates in City operations and in the community;
*Maintain healthy urban forests; promote tree planting to increase shading and to absorb CO2; and
*Help educate the public, schools, other jurisdictions, professional associations, business and industry about reducing global warming pollution.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors endorses the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement as amended by the 73rd annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting and urges mayors from around the nation to join this effort.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The U.S. Conference of Mayors will work in conjunction with ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and other appropriate organizations to track progress and implementation of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement as amended by the 73rd annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting.

Yes, I suppose that having the mayors on board is better than nothing.  Given the way that manufacturing has been exported, I am starting to think that even if the emissions within the U.S. proper were to decrease, the world emissions would continue to increase.  
I've often thought of what the true US consumption is when you factor in how much industrial goods we now import and that most of our exports are in the service/paper economy. It is the end consumer that is the cause of most pollution.

True.  Consumers buying lots of crap, and as long as this continues the situation won't improve.

On a global scale, I am having a hard time seeing how you can have any kind of agreement on global warming.  Kyoto was an attempt to freeze emission levels, but as was pointed out rapidly growing countries will never sign on.  If you were to redistribute the carbon from western coutries to China and India, then the western countries would never sign on (for that matter we wouldn't even sign on to Kyoto).

In the future, we may start to see the true signs of climate change.  Some aspects may have already been identified, others   are yet to be seen, I fear.  And even this may be insufficient to generate any sense of urgency.

This is exactly the problem - Kyoto is and always was a non-event because it did not account for everybody. Like many such short-sighted solutions, Kyoto sought to browbeat the west and particularly the US on climate while ignoring 5 billion other people, most of whom wanted the west's lifestyle. And now we are seeing roughly 2.3 billion Indians and Chinese moving down that path and the ecological damage they will do while moving through the "smokestack" phase of industrialization is going to be huge, particularly since both are blessed with good reserves of coal and that cleaner fuels such as oil and natural gas are becoming more rare. Consider also that the western nations have already passed through the smokestack phase and that the western nations have much lower population growth rates such that they represent a small fraction of the India/China population total and you'll see that Kyoto just doesn't do enough at all.

I've always felt that the US should have signed Kyoto and I am glad that the mayors are on board but until someone tames the Chinese industrial dragon's emissions and the Indian subcontinent's emissions, Kyoto is doomed to fail.

What I particularly like about the local level action is that it is more about improving energy efficiency, reducing sprawl, etc which is really about making urban environments cleaner and more livable. That's win-win. Good for the local economy (higher property values, less health problems, less wasted energy, etc) and good for the global environment. That's the spirit of think global, act local - Just because you can't completely solve a problem doesn't mean you should do your part. This is not the total solution, but it is moving in the right direction.
Have we "passed through the smokestack phase," Grezone? The West's trade deficit with China seems to mean that we have simply moved a lot of smokestacks over there. From a global viewpoint, that's no progress at all. In fact, the WalMarting of our retail economy represents a regression back into the smokestack phase for the sake of cheap T-shirts and hairdriers. We're not just exploiting China's cheap labor but also its lousy environmental standards.
From China or India's standpoint, why shouldn't they be allowed to increase their emissions?  The US and other industrialized nations put out so much more per capita.  

The end state of the globe that I think we could all be happy with would be to bring China and India and Africa up to a living standard comparable to the US. Obviously doing that by bringing their emissions up to the industrial world's standard (a factor of 5 or 10 per capita higher) would be disastrous for global warming. But what that really illustrates is that the industrialized world's emissions are far, far too high, much more so than is usually recognized.  And they're even higher if you take account of the offshoring of CO2 as others have pointed out.  

In that context, I think it's politically unhelpful to place much burden on the poor states at the start.  The rich states HAVE to start reducing their emissions, and the burden should be on them at the start.  We in the US are after all far and away the biggest current and historical source of the problem, particularly on a per capita basis.

Certainly there's a lot that could be done to help China and India reduce their carbon burden, like aiding in building efficient factories and power plants.  In addition I'd particularly like it if the US helped them ameliorate their "smokestack" phase by giving away pollution-control technology, so they could minimize the public health risk of all of those new coal plants.  

In the end what we'll need is a Kyoto replacement that effectively controls CO2 on a per capita basis.  Easy to do approximately on a per-nation basis. Not so easy to do the accounting really accurately, particularly with globalized manufacturing.  

But the current step of having industrialized nations trying to slow their emissions under Kyoto, with developing nations exempted, doesn't strike me as fundamentally unfair, or even incomplete when viewed as the first step everyone agrees it is, and with industrialized nations busily exporting their consumer CO2 use.

Well, except for the fact that the US has exempted itself. But even ignoring that, Kyoto was always doomed to fail in the sense that it was never intended to be a full step to combat climate change.  I considered it a victory just to have an agreement at all, however flawed.

No, you have to address all of them at once. If you let the developing nations go free then the problem they are about to create will be roughly twice as big as the existing problem.

Certainly the US and other industrial nations must reduce emissions. I never said otherwise. What I said was that excluding the developing nations ensures that global warming emissions will end up being worse than what they are now, probably by at least a factor of two.

We all need to reduce emissions. And it is in the best interests of the developed nations to teach the developing nations how to do it cleaner, and to loan them the money to do it cleaner than we did it.

Failure to address both the industrial nations and the developing nations will result in global warming going unchecked at all, because by the time China and India fully industrialize, every unit of emissions eliminated from the first world nations will have been replaced manyfold by emissions from the developing world.

This is the most sensible post in this thread.  

However, Kyoto, if implemented, wasn't doomed to fail in goal of showing developing nations that the industrialized nations are acting in good faith.  Per-capita accounting wouldn't be  that hard to do if the accounting is left to the countries, i.e., a countries emissions goals is set to be proportional to its population.

Offshoring shouldn't be an accounting problem either.  If China. for instance, had signed an agreement to limit its CO2 emissions and offshored production threatened to put it over its limit then they would have to incorporate that into the price they charged for the production.  This would have the effect of discouraging the offshoring.

Certainly, we could help China and India limit their emissions through technology transfer.  But more importantly we need to do is change our lifestyle.  It would be far easier for the Chinese and Indian governments to convince their people that they shouldn't expect to drive around in private cars if we weren't doing it.

What it all boils down to is that our emissions are far, far, far to high.  What we should be focusing on is reducing our emissions to the point that we can ask for the rest of the world's cooperation.  To do otherwise is acting in bad faith.

By the way, can we stop with this Jevon's paradox crap?  Jevon's paradox does not apply to the peak oil situation.  Coal wasn't scarce in the 1830s and nobody had any reason to conserve it.  What peak oil people are calling Jevon's paradox is really just acting in bad faith.  We should just call it that.

America is an exporter of capital goods. Boeing is probably the biggest.
I was in Montreal this weekend and gave a presentation entitled "Peak Oil and Climate Change". My initial impression is that NGO's have yet to make the connection that when oil peaks, in a business as usual scenario, we will transition to energy that uses alot more carbon. Using a 1 trillion barrel of EUR assumption, that is just over 5,000 quads of BTUs, Natural Gas reserves are about 6,000 quads of BTUS globally, but COAL IS OVER 20,000 BTUS left. Vs Nat gas, coal has double the carbon emissions. We can clean it of course, but that takes away energy.

Regarding Kyoto, A University of Vermont student wrote a paper in Nature [] discussing that Kyoto in US is not an 'all-or-none' situation and in fact a large % of american localities and regions are pursuing some version of the protocol

i wouldn't dismiss china's effort's at dealing with kyoto protocol emmissions. here's an interview with william mc donough of "cradle to cradle" fame ,talking about his effort's in conjuntion with the chinese to build seven new green communities:

a quote:

  "...We've been asked to do master planning and conceptual master planning for seven communities, some of which are really large, 50 square kilometers. It will involve millions of people. And we're basing it on cradle-to-cradle philosophy, the idea that everything goes back to soil or back to industry forever. And the communities are being developed around transportation systems that will be run for the elders. We're moving all the farms up onto the roofs so that there's farming going on and we don't lose our soil...."

It's really tough to beat the underlying economic realities given that oil is a world market. There is no world government to regulate the world price of oil, or to force everyone in the world to adopt your favorite policies to encourage conservation.

If not everyone participates, then you again get bit by Jevon. Europe has taxed their oil through the roof for decades, but the U.S. luxuriates in cheaper oil because of Europe's reduced demand. No actual conservation occurs, the U.S. just gets fat off Europe's self-denial.

If the U.S. goes on a conservation diet then other countries will take advantage in that same way. When one country conserves, it lowers the global price for oil, sending an economic signal that encourages increased consumption.

The bottom line is that you're trying to fight against the law of supply and demand rather than working with it. What could the U.S. do to conserve oil in such a way that it sends the right signals to the rest of the world?

The most obvious would be to reduce domestic production of oil, as we did after the hurricanes. We would in effect decide to keep our oil in the ground, so that it will still be around in the future, when it is worth more. This will reduce global supply and cause oil prices to rise. The rise in prices will cause demand to fall both domestically and around the world. Hence you have conservation that does not cause Jevon's paradox to kick in.

Anything else that would raise world oil prices would help. If the U.S. government announced that its latest data predicted a worldwide oil shortage starting in a few years, and that oil prices would go above $100 and then $200/bbl within the next decade, this might spur an international oil panic that would cause prices today to rise as speculators try to get in on the ground floor. Again, this rise in prices would cause demand to drop, postponing oil consumption into the future.

Of course, this is all assuming that markets today are failing to recognize the reality of a near-term Peak Oil scenario and that some government intervention is needed. It takes a certain amount of arrogance for Peak Oilers to claim that their crystal ball is so much clearer than that of the rest of the world. If the facts were really so obvious, the effects in the previous paragraph would already be happening and demand would be falling. To the extent that oil markets do not foresee Peak Oil, enthusiasts should perhaps have the humility to admit that they might be wrong and that it is perhaps inoptimal to change the course of the entire world's energy use based on their speculations.

If not everyone participates, then you again get bit by Jevon. Europe has taxed their oil through the roof for decades, but the U.S. luxuriates in cheaper oil because of Europe's reduced demand. No actual conservation occurs, the U.S. just gets fat off Europe's self-denial.

Well, the Europeans get decent health care out of the deal.  Ours is slowly falling to pieces.

If the U.S. goes on a conservation diet then other countries will take advantage in that same way. When one country conserves, it lowers the global price for oil, sending an economic signal that encourages increased consumption.

I was thinking along these same lines with regard to the possibility of rationing in an attempt to hold oil prices at a reasonable level and prevent inflation.  If the U.S. were to ration, and the rest of the world didn't, then the oil price would still climb, and nothing would be accomplished.

If you try and freeze current usage with quotas based upon current usage, China and India would most likely refuse to cooperate.

I like the idea of reducing domestic production - or perhaps the big oil companies could do that to make their businesses more sustainable. If just one major producer announced they were intentionally reducing output to make their business more sustainable, that would cause shockwaves through the oil producing world. Producing at full capacity is madness in a PO scenario.
who says this hasn't already happened?..the sudden dropping of ANWR drilling is a case in point. congress dropped the idea supposedly because of " budgetary restraints" i posted before ...this congress??? wouldn't know what a budget was if it crawled up, slow like, and bit it on the butt!....nah , i think it was leaving the stuff in the ground.
I just had a chance to read Revkin's NY Times article linked in by Peak Guy in his story.

I think this is a sad week for humanity and all life on the Planet Earth.
As Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, a proponent of emissions targets, said in a statement on Nov. 1: "The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge."
This is Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons writ large. The "commons" now for the first time in human history is simply everything--Earth's fresh water and oceans, its land and soils and its atmosphere, all of the geochemical cycles (eg. the Carbon, Nitrogen cycles). Not in the ~4.60 billion years that the Earth has existed has there ever been such a large possible disruption for all Earth life in the kind of short timeframe that we are looking at here--merely a hundred years--which on Geological timescales is essentially no time at all.
In his 1968 classic, "Tragedy of the Commons", Garrett Hardin illustrates why the reindeer crashed and why communities everywhere are headed for tragedy--it's because freedom in the commons brings ruin to all....
If all encompassing international agreements like the Montreal Protocol pertaining to ozone depletion can not ever be made regarding the emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2, Methane, N02), then the future of life on this planet is in dire jeopardy. There is little else to say other than that it seems to be the case that Homo sapiens is ill-equipped to deal with the consequences of their actions given the remoteness (in time) of the most severe effects--but this is only a matter some several decades or a century or two. For example, when the global mean surface temperature anomaly reaches +3 degrees C, the meltdown of the entire Greenland ice sheet is almost certainly assured (though this may take a couple centuries). This will increase global sea level rise by about 7 meters during that period. Think about it.

I reiterate--it is a tragic and depressing conclusion for life on Earth that Tony Blair states. I can't say this is unexpected, at least from my point of view, but that doesn't lessen the sadness. It is an admission of defeat.
    Anyone who wants to learn more about global warming should read the web site  If you do so, you certainly won't believe the statement in the US mayors climate protection agreement that the IPCC is the international community's most respected assemblage of scientists. It isn't. It is an organisation with an axe to grind.
    The IPCC has endorsed very strongly the so-called Hockey Stick, a diagram showing the earth's temperature as a function of time. This diagram purports to show that temperatures have risen sharply in the twentieth century. The authors of this particular work refused to share their data and programs with other scientists, who wished to check the work,  until a US Congressman intervened.  When the data and computer programs became available, other people then found that there were fundamental flaws in the way the Hockey Stick was derived. This criticism of the Hockey Stick was published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union, an eminent scientific society. This paper was described as a Research Highlight of the journal.
    Other criticisms of the Hockey Stick are that it
does not show the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age. The former occurred during the period when the temperature was warm enough for the  Vikings to survive on Greenland and the latter caused crops to fail in Europe and North America.
    Furthermore the Hockey Stick results do not agree with temperature measurements made with satellites.
See also "Myth vs. Fact Regarding the "Hockey Stick"" at Real Climate, for a debunking of the debunkers.
Can we stop with this Jevon's paradox crap?  Jevon's paradox does not apply to the peak oil situation.  Coal wasn't scarce in the 1830s and nobody had any reason to conserve it.  What peak oil people are calling Jevon's paradox is really just acting in bad faith.  We should just call it that.