Happy Birthday, Kyoto

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:34 AM GMT on February 20, 2006

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect on February 16, 2005. The world's industrialized countries that signed the Protocol are legally obligated to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 by a total of 5.2% (compared to 1990 emissions) by 2012. The U.S. and Australia did not participate, and developing countries were not asked to. About 50% of world's emissions of greenhouse gases come from Kyoto nations, so if the treaty were successful, global emissions would fall by about 2.6%.

How are the signatory nations doing so far?
Not very well, according to both critics and supporters. It seems unlikely that Kyoto's goal will be met by 2012. For example, the European Environment Agency warned in November that the European Union was likely to cut its emission by only 2.5% by 2012, not the 8% they promised under the Kyoto Protocol. It now appears that the only EU members that might meet their targeted reductions are Sweden and the UK.

Below I've tablulated recent estimates (usually from 2003 or 2004) of how the various countries are doing, percentagewise, in terms of slashing their emissions compared to the 1990 benchmark.

Greenhouse gas emission increases, by nation, since 1990

EU countries (15% of world's total emissions)
------------------------------------------------- -----------
Germany -18%
Britain -13%
Luxembourg -11%
Sweden -2%
France -2%
Belgium +1%
Netherlands +1%
Denmark +6%
Italy +12%
Austria +17%
Finland +21%
Greece +23%
Ireland +25%
Portugal +37%
Spain +41%

Other Kyoto protocol countries:
Russia -35% (6% of world's total emissions)
Japan +19% (5% of world's total emissions)
Canada +24% (2% of world's total emissions)
Czech Republic -23%
Estonia -51%
Hungary -31%
Latvia -58%
Lithuania -66%
Poland -32%
Slovakia -28%
Slovenia -3%

Non-signatory countries
U.S. +16% (25% of world's total emissions)
India +80% (5% of world's total emissions)
China +46% (15% of world's total emissions)
Australia +31% (2% of world's total emissions)

Britain, Germany, and the former Soviet bloc countries have made big reductions. However, their cuts have had litte to do with Kyoto. Germany and some Soviet bloc countries got big one-time savings by closing inefficient coal-fired plants in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Economic hard times have also contributed to the emissions reductions in some of these countries. In the UK, electric utilities in the 1990s shifted from burning coal, which has high CO2 emissions, to cleaner-burning natural gas. Now that the price of natural gas has risen relative to coal, more UK utilities are burning coal. CO2 emissions are increasing once more, and were up over 1% in 2004 compared to 2003. The UK was slated to make a 12% cut in emissions under the Kyoto pact, and the government announced last week that this was unlikely to happen.

What can countries who are failing to meet Kyoto targets do?
Under the U.N.'s "clean development mechanism," developed countries are allowed to exceed their emissions allowance by investing in emissions projects in less-developed nations, trading the emission reduction abroad for emissions output at home. It is likely that many nations will resort to this trick in the coming years in order to meet the Kyoto requirements.

What happens if a country misses its Kyoto Protocol target in 2012?
Then they have to pay back at a penalty rate (130%) in the years after 2012, when there will presumably be a new agreement for the 2013-2018 period. Negotiations to hammer out a successor agreement are set to begin in May 2006 in Bonn, Germany. It is possible that countries that are failing to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets for 2012 will choose not to sign successor agreement, to avoid the penalty. Also, any nation that signed the Kyoto Protocol is allowed to drop out after three years--on February 16, 2008. Some nations may take this route to avoid the penalty.

Is Kyoto having a significant impact?
The Kyoto Protocol's target of a 5.2% reduction in emissions is tiny compared to what is needed in order to prevent substantial warming. Critics say this proves the worthlessness of the treaty, while supporters say it is a neccesary first step. In order to achieve a maximum 2�C temperature rise, some studies project global CO2 cuts of 50% by 2050 are required. Industrialized countries would have to cut their CO2 emissions by 80%. Considering that the world's nations that are trying to reduce emissions via the Kyoto Protocol are unlikely to meet even a 5% reduction, it looks pretty likely that we'll be seeing a much warmer world by the end of the century.

Is there hope for avoiding a major warming this century?
There is a large amount of uncertainty in both the social and scientific aspects of climate change that leave some hope that we will avoid warming the Earth by 2�C this century. I've composed a list of five possible scenarios that might cause this, and ordered them from most likely to least likely:

Dr. Jeff Masters' top five list of 21st Century scenarios that might keep us from warming 2�C this century:

1) A dramatic climate change disaster or potential disaster will suddenly unfold, spurring the nations of the world to cut emissions drastically (similar to what the emergence of the Antarctic Ozone Hole did for regulating CFCs).

2) We luck out, and climate change turns out to be at the cool end of the scientific uncertainty estimates.

3) The global economy will crash due to war, natural disaster, climate change, or other causes, bringing drastically reduced emissions.

4) A revolutionary low-cost energy technology will emerge to replace fossil fuels.

5) Aliens will land and give us their non-polluting, limitless energy technology.

I'm hoping for scenario #4 or #5, but I think there is a significant chance scenario #1 will happen in the period 15 to 50 years from now. We may well be pushing the climate system too hard and in too many ways to avoid triggering a climate shift that will cause big trouble for a lot of people. I'll expand on the possibilities in future blogs this month.

Next blog (probably on Wednesday): A possible candidate for scenario #1: the bad news from Greenland reported last Friday in Science magazine.

Jeff Masters

Cloud or flying saucer (Grim)
Cloud or flying saucer
Incoming Aliens (Lemurian)
Incoming Aliens

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203. KatrinaRitaWilmaZeta
7:06 PM PST on February 21, 2006
: hurricanechaser you have a vary good night did you have your little boy yet?
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201. Fshhead
3:03 AM GMT on February 22, 2006

Here is another interesting pic of the receding glaciers!!
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198. DenverMark
2:31 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Fshhead - enjoyed the poster of receding glaciers. When it comes to global warming, the melting of glaciers is better evidence of it than our temperature data which is open to questions about accuracy. I think one of the glaciers on that poster is the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies. I've been there three times; in 1965 as a little kid, in 1988, and finally in 2003. The last time I had fun pointing out to my wife where the glacier was on my previous visits. It really is significant. For anyone who hasn't been to that area (Jasper National Park), it is one of the best exhibits of glacier recession anywhere, with signs indicating the maximum advance of the glacier in the mid-1800s and its recession ever since.
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
197. FtWaltonBch2Tucson
11:16 PM GMT on February 21, 2006
Well, I'm back from Estrella War and unfortunately nature did not find 5,000 tents a tempting target.... I'm beginning to think we won't get rain until June......
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194. hurricanechaser
2:51 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Jeff,


We DO agree on the belief that the Earth is indeed warming as you know.:)

Your friend,
193. Fshhead
2:51 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
LOL ahhh girlfriend not daughter
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192. hurricanechaser
2:49 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Honestly Jeff, I am not too sure either except I hear both can be life threatening if untreated.

I'm thankful your daughter got over hers and is better and thanks so very much for asking about how I'm feeling.:)

Your friend,
190. hurricanechaser
2:46 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Jeff,

I just did, thanks for pointing it out for me.:)

We don't agree on the belief that the Earth is indeed warming as you know.:)

I gotta get my little girl to bed.:)

I will be back later,

I hope you and st. simons have a good night in case I miss you two while I'm gone.

Your friend,

189. Fshhead
2:48 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
still not sure what the difference between walking & regular is thoughLOL... both pneumonia
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187. Fshhead
2:46 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Yea my girl has had walkin pneumonia twice. Really takes alot out of you. She was quite weak for a while.
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186. hurricanechaser
2:45 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey st. simons,

That says so much about you personally I for one greatly respect you for it.:)

185. hurricanechaser
2:42 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Jeff,

I am still very sick and am on my last antibiotic pill.

I haven't gotten more than 3 hours sleep a night for the entire week I've been so sick.

I guess I'm just a little more emotional than I might be otherwise. Still no excuse for challenging those like I did.


184. Fshhead
2:43 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Tony did u see the glacier pic I posted earlier here????
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182. Fshhead
2:40 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Fshhead I would find that interesting if you put it on your blog--been reading your climate blog comments (and deciding to ignore hurricanechaser for now)

Hmmmm not sure if I want to do that cause then it takes my global warming blog off the blog page. This is by FAR more important I think than my view of religion, but would not hesitate to share my views elsewhere... Here or maybe Chaser's famous Christian blog
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181. hurricanechaser
2:40 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey st. simons,

Can you please forgive my inappropriate challenge to you and please understand my beliefs are not meant to be personal or discrimatory towards you.


178. hurricanechaser
2:36 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Jeff,

I am not challenging others beliefs but defending my own...please see my posts and responses.

I respect everyones opinion whether we agre or not as long as there are no personal attacks..
YOu set a very good example by us agreeing to disagree without any unnecessary animousity.:)

Your friend,

176. Fshhead
2:37 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
I can even show you "proof" on my beliefs......
Big can of worms to open though LOL
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175. Fshhead
2:29 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Tony,
Hope u feeling a "little" better!!!!
"just a thought", u really should not get so worked up over some of the comments here. We are obviously alot of different people here. Whenever we got into the religion & politics I NEVER got offended by anything u said. Sometimes some comments u just got to laugh off y'know?
Like I said before ALL religions point to a creator,everyone should just focus on that!!!!
Like I also said before I believe all religions kinda correct & all religions kinda wrong.... Don't get ME started on my beliefs LOL It will REALLY go against your style of beliefs.
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173. hurricanechaser
2:33 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
David and everyone else,

I sincerely apologize for that VERY INAPPROPRIATE post challenging those who have made personal attacks on me.

That was the reason why I acted that way but it doesn't excuse the fact it was wrong and I was wrong to act that way.


158. Fshhead
2:04 AM GMT on February 22, 2006

I have spoke of this pic many times in my blog. Before & after pics. The last are the scariest. Just thought everyone should see this!!!!
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157. ForecasterColby
2:02 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
By the way, for those who think we should sign Kyoto: you may want to note that we're doing better than 3/4 of the signitory nations.
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156. Skyepony (Mod)
1:54 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
sorry about that link, here's another out of EPA's news & events~

Energy Imbalance Said to Confirm Greenhouse Gases Contribution to Warming
Precise measurements of temperature within the ocean confirm that the Earth is absorbing more energy from sunlight than it emits back to space, providing perhaps the strongest evidence to date that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases and other pollutants are the primary cause of the current global warming trend. The findings are reported in the April 28, 2005 issue of the journal Science.

The magnitude of the imbalance agrees with what we calculated using known climate forcing agents, which are dominated by increasing human-made greenhouse gases, said lead author James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The average energy imbalance amounts to 0.85 + 0.15 Watts per square meter, largely reflecting the amount of heat soaked up and stored by the worlds oceans. The imbalance implies that the global temperature takes decades to fully respond to changes in greenhouse gases, because the oceans thermal inertia acts as a brake on warming. It also implies that the Earth would warm by about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the course of the current century even if greenhouse gas concentrations were held constant at todays levels, because the oceans will continue to absorb energy, increase in temperature, and warm the atmosphere until the energy coming in from the sun and the energy emitted out to space are in balance. In addition, the new findings imply that sea level rise and the disintegration of ice sheets are likely to increase.

The authors note that the increasing heat storage in the ocean cannot be explained by natural fluctuations. Under natural conditions, the ocean would release its heat more slowly only if its surface cools (if, for example, cool water from the ocean depths rose to the surface). But the oceans surface has been warming, suggesting that the warming climate is the more viable explanation for the phenomenon.

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 345 Comments: 42025
155. ForecasterColby
1:58 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Again, I tell you all - get over to my site and track some fantasy hurricanes, since clearly you're suffering from severe withdrawl.

By the way:

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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