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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253. Inyo
8:19 AM GMT on February 22, 2006

Also, a weak layer of above normal temperatures is now present at the surface along the South American Coast, a feature typical of a mature La Nina.

hmm, i did not remember seeing that before.. very interesting. it did look like the layer was shallow although the depth/temperature reading was a week old so it was hard to say. Obviously we have only been watching la nina in depth for a few decades at most, so we don't really know how things like this work.

I hope the US stays a superpower for a while, since i have a lot of friends here, and since poverty is bad for my mountains. However, i feel like we have reached our peak and won't be nearly as much a force in the future. Only time will tell.. i do believe that from a purely economic standpoint, even if global warming is no facter, getting out of our reliance on oil and the middle east will help us a lot. Also, keeping the edge technologically which typically has been achieved largely by government funded research :)

Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 931
252. Califonia
6:41 AM GMT on February 22, 2006

So what is the last month in which we didn't have a TD or a named storm of some kind in the Atlantic Basin somewhere...?

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249. theboldman
10:29 PM PST on February 21, 2006
sure thing chaser no hard feelings i was just pointing out what you said thats great that you accepted that it was wrong and all i do say personal attacks are not the kind of thing to be doing.
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248. Skyepony (Mod)
5:46 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Here's a link to an article that talks about europe's plans for the next 15 years. They are just recovering from Russia shutting Ukraine off natural gas during January when it was bitter cold, over a price dispute, resulting in 1000's freezing to death.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 397 Comments: 43358
247. snowboy
5:51 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Sweden is working on the economy of the future. Any guesses who will be stuck with the economy of the past?
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2556
246. Fshhead
5:14 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Pony that second link really good article. I like the sound of it.
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245. Skyepony (Mod)
4:46 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Sweden is the country that will pull this off~ Sweden's energy policy. I read the other day where their political people had announced ~ they hoped to be off oil by 2020.~

"We want to be both mentally and technically prepared" for a world without oil, said Martin Larsson, a senior administrative officer in the Ministry of Sustainable Development.

Persson has said the target will be reached by boosting research on alternative fuels, giving financial incentives for people switching to "green alternatives," and increasing the annual electricity production from renewable sources by 15 terawatt hours by 2016 -- that figure equals nearly one-third of all the electricity used by Swedish industries in 2004. Some tax breaks have already been introduced, while Persson has formed a special commission tasked with finding other ways to create a society independent of oil. The commission will present its first proposals this summer.

"Many countries are setting renewable energy targets. The difference with Sweden is that the targets are achievable rather than aspirational," McGlade said. "This is because government departments across sectors in Sweden have built renewable energy into their long-term policies."

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 397 Comments: 43358
244. Fshhead
5:05 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Chaser, PLEASE stop using boldmans first name LOL'
I keep thinking u talking to me.
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243. Fshhead
5:01 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Posted By: Inyo at 4:16 AM GMT on February 22, 2006.
guys, getting back to weather/climate...

someone posted last week that they thought La Nina was weakening and everyone else, myself included, had our doubts.

but this GIF below seems to lend credence to that. it may just be a temporary anomaly but water temperatures in the far eastern Pacific have taken an upward trend in the ENSO region

Man, I really like the looks of that. Hopefully the La-nina will weaken for hurricane season.
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241. hurricanechaser
4:55 AM GMT on February 22, 2006

We finally agree and I had walked out of my little girls room after checking on her and thinking what a terrible example I am being by getting into personal attacks so to speak myself when I was complaining about them myself.

So, I greatly appreciate you making that last post and even if you don't think my apologies are sincere, I still owe you one and was wrong in saying what I said to you as Jeff pointed out on my last post.

Honestly, I don't see a problem discussing global warming and I initially felt is was too political in the same frame of mind that most think discussions of Faith aren't appropriate here.

Now, I can better appreciate the conversation and I have certainly made my opinion known regarding my take on global warming so I won't spend much time reiterating the same sentiments.

In short, thanks for being so respectful and I respect you more than you know by how you responded with your last post.:)


240. FtWaltonBch2Tucson
5:01 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Inyo, right after the pictures in the last post the ENSO advisory was quoted by F5. One line in particular stuck out at me:

Also, a weak layer of above normal temperatures is now present at the surface along the South American Coast, a feature typical of a mature La Nina.

It appears that that warm water is a sign that La Nina is no longer "developing" but is instead in full force.
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239. DenverMark
4:54 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
I'm calling it a night. May we all have a peaceful day tomorrow.
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
238. TPaul
11:33 PM EST on February 21, 2006
hurricanechaser, make you a deal if you want to talk religion I am willing to go to your blog and discuss it there, though you would probably find that we would agree more then you think, it is just not what I came to this blog to discuss. But if you are willing to talk only weather here, that is cool by me. Also, I will not counter your last remark and will go no further with this if this ends here, even willing to say lets get back to talking about hurricanes and leave global warming off the table.

We have barely 3 months till the start of hurricane season so we probably should start looking at the precursors to what kind of season everyone thinks we will have.
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237. Fshhead
4:44 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
oh man my pic did not come out earlier

Like I said before the pic pretty much sums it up!!!!
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236. hurricanechaser
4:42 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Jeff,

Thanks for correcting me but I have now done that twice..first challenging them to make these rude and incorrect comments about me to my face and a second time right there.

Shows how imperfect I am naturally.:)

Your friend,

235. hurricanechaser
4:39 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Thanks Jeff,

Finally someone who can understand why I have so many posts on here.

I am having to correct not just one persons incorrect comments about what I personally think anmd why I am doing it but having to respond to like 10 people.

It is easy to see I want it to stop because I am not enjoy this ongoing nonsense either for obvious reasons. However, I will not be intimadated by anyone, so if you want this t go on and on, so be it.


225. TPaul
11:14 PM EST on February 21, 2006
hurricanechaser, if you are burned out on the Global warming debate why don't you go to your blog so the rest of us can actually have a debate about it.

Hey Michael,

I couldn't agree more, I'm way past burned out on the Global warming debate myself.:)

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224. Inyo
4:16 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
guys, getting back to weather/climate...

someone posted last week that they thought La Nina was weakening and everyone else, myself included, had our doubts.

but this GIF below seems to lend credence to that. it may just be a temporary anomaly but water temperatures in the far eastern Pacific have taken an upward trend in the ENSO region

Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 931
223. hurricanechaser
4:14 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Hey Jeff,

Thanks and I appreciate the posts.:)

Your friend,
219. phelp
3:59 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
correction: than=then
216. snowboy
3:51 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Interestingly a huge chunk of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions (and in particular the increases shown by Dr. Masters) are due to the oil sands projects in Western Canada, which are rapidly becoming a major source of oil for the US.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2556
211. DenverMark
3:07 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Skyepony -thanks for the link. Good reading.
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
209. taco2me61
2:02 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
You are so right we all need a storm to track and you have the Perfect one to do so...

Now for my post will be Weather related and I hope that will be all, although it took me a long time to read all of it but I did... :0)

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2:31 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Californa, I mis-spoke about the oil exec's, my statement which I addressed in the 2nd post was relating to the billion's in tax credits to the oil industry not the individual executive CEO type or owners. It's just hard to believe them when while watching CSPAN Congress dragged them in to a hearing and then refused to sware them in.
First, you may be echoing what you have heard or read from others (usually with political motive), who state that as fact, knowing that people will blindly believe it. I don't, in fact I pride my self on reading and thinking for myself, not what others like Fox News, CNN, Joe Libermann, Jack Abermoff, Karl Rove or Ted Kennedy tell me what to think.
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204. jeffB
2:32 AM GMT on February 22, 2006
Perhaps we should all agree that if hurricanechaser stops preaching in a weather blog, we won't go to his church and start shouting about climate change in the middle of a service. :-)

Chaser, here's a suggestion that I think might let you make your points without offending everybody else: make your posts in your own blog, as you have in the past. When someone says something here that you feel you have to respond to, just make a post that says

Please find my reply on my blog.

...substituting, of course, a link to your actual reply.

That way, all of us who would like to let the subject drop can just skip to the next post, and those who want to continue the discussion with you can do it in your blog -- or, for that matter, in their own.

Does this sound like a reasonable approach?
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 49
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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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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