In Copenhagen, Focus on Realistic Possibilities
President Clinton failed to send the Kyoto Treaty to the Senate for ratification because the Senate had already indicated by a 95-0 vote that it would not approve a treaty that exempted developing countries and which would damage our economy. The Kyoto construct was fatally flawed in 1997, which has been proven by time, and is fatally flawed now. Time has not been kind to the targets and timetable advocates.
If the parties in Copenhagen stay with the Kyoto model, nothing will happen that can get passed by the Senate. Developing Countries are exempt from Kyoto and it is hard to imagine a set of circumstances that would lead them, especially the major ones -- China and India -- to agree to binding limitations.
Arbitrary emissions reductions are a fiction in a world with a growing population, growing economic aspirations and a world where fossil fuels will remain dominant for decades to come. At best, we can slow the growth of emissions by investing in technology, creating incentives to use energy more efficiently and creating incentives for getting existing and emerging technologies deployed here and in developing countries as quickly as possible.
Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible, so maybe the U.S. delegation and those from the European Union should focus on what is possible and what is consistent with our state of knowledge and economic, energy and technology realities. Climate orthodoxy may give proponents a felling of moral superiority but it won't produce effective agreements.
October 4, 2009; 4:10 PM ET
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