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Five things every Canadian should know about Kyoto: It ain't just a city in Japan

A version of the piece below will appear in the Canadian Taxpayers Federation magazine, The Taxpayer, shortly. However, since this information seems particularly timely, I thought those of you on my e-mail list might like a copy now, as a sort of primer on the science behind the Kyoto accord. [— Lorne Gunter]

Five things every Canadian should know about Kyoto: It ain't just a city in Japan

By Lorne Gunter
2002 09 05

It should be enough to turn Canadians against the Kyoto accord to know it will kill tens of thousands of existing jobs, prevent the creation of as many as a quarter-million new jobs over the next decade, and in the end do little or nothing to save the environment. Ratification is a bad idea – all pain, no gain. Ottawa mustn’t proceed. End of story. But in case you won’t take my word for it, here are five things you should know about Kyoto:


1. The Earth isn’t warming

Or, at least it hasn’t warmed much in the past 25 to 60 years.

It warmed a bit more than half a degree Celsius between the late 19th Century and the 1960s, mostly before the large-scale industrialization and emissions that are supposed to be responsible for global warming, or GW.

Surface temperature readings taken with thermometers indicate more warming since the 1970s, perhaps an additional half degree. However, such readings are taken over less than half of the Earth’s surface. A disproportionate number are taken at weather stations in the midst of major cities and thus are subject to artificial warming from the “urban heat island effect.” There are also concerns (or should be) about the reliability of the humans who take some of the 7,000 daily readings around the globe. And it’s possible some of the thermometers being used are as much as half-a-degree off the mark.

By contrast, NASA’s eight geosynchronous weather satellites have been taking over 300,000 readings each day since 1979, covering the entire Earth’s surface, in the middle of oceans and jungles as easily as downtown Toronto and the Fraser Valley. And these satellites have recorded no appreciable warming in all that time.

About two years ago, environmentalists crowed that the satellites’ data was illegitimate. Not enough adjustment had been made, they clucked, to account for the way “the birds’” orbits decay a few millimetres each year. But even after the necessary recalculations, these sophisticated and highly accurate weather satellites still showed no significant warming.


2. If the Earth is warming, it is not necessarily a bad thing

Since about 1860, the Earth has been emerging from what is known as the Little Ice Age, a 500-year-long epoch of especially cold climate. Just as no one frets when his hometown warms in springtime, following an especially bitter winter, it would be irrational to worry too much about a warming that follows a prolonged period of cold. The warming of the past 140 years may just be a return to normal.

Moreover, a millennium ago the Earth was four degrees warmer, on average, than it is today. That’s just as warm as environmentalists claim it will become if we don’t stop driving our SUVs and start ratifying Kyoto

Yet this era of much warmer weather was hardly a time of agricultural or human catastrophe. In fact, before the thought of a warming climate became politically incorrect, the period from about 900 AD to 1300 AD was known as the Medieval Optimal. Crops flourished in Europe and Asia. During this time of plenty there were relatively few wars and most of the major Gothic cathedrals were built. The coasts of Greenland were habitable. Southern England boasted lush vineyards.

The great plagues, the disappearance of ancient Central American cultures did not occur until after the Little Ice Age replaced this medieval warm period.

Yet say the satellites are wrong, and the Earth is warming, so what? A little warming might well be a boon.


3. Even if warming is real, there’s a good chance humans are not the cause

The Earth has warmed before. Of the last 19 periods of great and (relatively) sudden warming, 17 have corresponded precisely to periods of increased solar activity – solar flares, sun spots, cosmic winds, and so on. Increased solar activity in the past 100 years could, by itself, easily account for all of the warming alleged to have taken place so far. Increased cosmic radiation, as an example, reduced cloud cover by seven per cent during the 20th Century. More heat and energy from the sun is making it to the Earth’s surface, something that would go a long way to explaining any warming.

Try to prevent a natural and beneficial warming by curtailing human activity would go beyond the futile. It would the modern equivalent of sitting on a throne in the surf and commanding the tide to stop.


4. Even if it’s real and bad and humans are causing it, Kyoto won’t halt warming

Never mind that Kyoto seeks to limit carbon dioxide emissions and that even James Hansen, the NASA scientist who is the godfather of GW alarmists, now believes methane, nitrous oxide and soot -- the last of which isn't even covered by Kyoto -- are more likely than CO2 to be causing GW. And never mind that there have been times in the climatic past when carbon dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere have been 10 times greater than they are today, without temperatures soaring. Or that after the most exhaustive study ever of the alleged link between historic CO2 levels and temperature records, Canadian researcher Jan Veizer concluded in 2000 that “carbon dioxide concentrations are not the principal driver of climate variability,” indeed CO2 levels seem to rise AFTER temperatures have risen.

Forget all this scientific evidence that Kyoto’s CO2 limits amount to barking up the wrong pollutant’s tree. Let’s pretend CO2 is driving climate change. Even if we make that assumption, fully implementing Kyoto won’t halt GW. It can’t.

At least 95 per cent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and more likely 99 per cent – comes not from man, but from nature. Decomposing trees and plants, gas released from the oceans, and so on, swamps human CO2 production.

Kyoto does not seek to reduce human production of CO2, but rather merely to slow its rate of increase. Were Kyoto to be fully implemented, over the next 10 to 15 years, anthropogenic (manmade) CO2 levels would increase by 25 per cent, instead of by 35 per cent, if Kyoto is not implemented.

In a nutshell, with Kyoto, human CO2 might be limited to 3.75 per cent of the total in the atmosphere. Without Kyoto, it might – MIGHT – rise to four per cent. If this reduction had any impact at all (and it seems highly unlikely that it would), it might mean temperature rise by 2050 would be reduced by 0.02 degrees C — that's 2/100ths of one degree.

Kyoto is at most symbolic and at worse utterly meaningless; certainly not worth putting our economy and standard of living at risk.


5. Kyoto’s targets will not apply to the U.S. or developing countries

Neither the United States nor developing countries will be saddled with Kyoto’s emission restrictions. Kyoto applies only to the developed world, to rich nations – except the U.S., which has refused to ratify.

Even the UN admits emerging economies will not be required to limit their emissions until 2012. Developing nations will be permitted to “catch up” to industrialized nations economically, while the latter’s economies are hobbled by Kyoto’s restrictions. If the architects and supporters of Kyoto were truly desirous of saving the environment, you would think they’d be equally concerned about pollution regardless of the per capita income of the source country. Far from just aiding the environment, though, Kyoto is nothing more than crass, old-fashioned socialist income redistribution. Kyoto is as anti-capitalist as it is pro-environment.

With the Americans refusing to abide by Kyoto, and with nearly 90 per cent of our exports going to the U.S., Canada’s industries will be put at an extreme disadvantage vis-a-vis their American competitors. With both the U.S. and the developing world unhampered by emission targets, where do you think Canadian jobs and plants will relocate?

Finally, just imagine how many bureaucrats and tax dollars will be needed to support a worldwide regulatory regime that will measure emissions, seek to limit their production and somehow punish those nations that fail to comply. Such a vast expansion of government, alone, should worry taxpayers in the developed world. Then there will be the billions governments will spend subsidizing research into “green” technologies and underwriting “sustainable” development at home and in the developing world. Kyoto’s direct and indirect price tag will be measured in the tens of billions, maybe even the hundreds of billions. And for what? An ineffective solution to a non-existent problem? Good luck.

Lorne Gunter is a columnist with the Edmonton Journal and a member of the National Post's editorial board.

Index to some of Lorne Gunter's articles

On global warming

On other issues

See also:

  • Global Warming — A collection of information by reputable scientists from around the world who disagree with the David Suzuki crowd and the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], and who provide irrefutable evidence that debunks the global warming hype.

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Thoughts are Free

Posted 2002 09 05