Future Vision of Kyoto Protocol and Global Warming

Negotiation of inter-governmental panels for global warming phenomenon has been carried out. In this issue, we have asked Dr. Shukuro Manabe, Program Director of the Global Warming Research and his friend, Dr. Gordon McBean, former Assistant Deputy Minister of the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC), their opinions for the future prospects of the Kyoto Protocol and global warming.

Dr.Gordon McBean (left) and Dr.Manabe,Program Director (right)

Dr. Gordon A. McBean

At present, he is a Professor appointed in the Departments of Geography and Political Science at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He has served as the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Meteorological Service of Canada, and has been involved in planning of various international projects such as GEWEX, ACSyS, CLIVAR. He is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the IARC and Co-chair of the NASDA reviewing committee.
Frontier(F) :Thank you very much for this opportunity today. The important step concerning global warming has just been taken in Bonn with the agreement of many governments on how to move ahead on the Kyoto Protocol. I should like to hear, from two experts who has been dealing with research on global warming, and providing various advises on this issues, your ideas and recommendations on this international activity. May I start by asking you your views on the feasibility of Kyoto Protocol.

McBean(Mc) :In my view, Kyoto Protocol is a step in the right direction. It is important that we take some actions in the direction of stabilization of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We will have to do more than 50% emission reduction for stabilization, which requires many steps beyond the Kyoto Protocol. It is the good place to start because it is, at present, the only existing agreement that many countries support.

Manabe(M):Dick Lindzen always says that even if you do everything the Kyoto Protocol specifies, it has no effect.

Mc:I agree in that the effect of the Kyoto Protocol will not be much on the emissions and especially on the atmospheric concentrations in this century. But if you assume that the Kyoto Protocol is the first step, at least it gets governments to start thinking of taking actions. Then you have to assume there would be Kyoto Protocols 2, 3 and 4, and these will make impact.

F:I have heard the same comments when United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established. If Kyoto Protocol is again the good starting point, is it enough?

M:When you set the target in an international agreement, and people are accustomed to not reaching the goal, it may have a very bad psychological effect. In case of Canada, they have to think about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of which Canada, the United States and Mexico are members. If only Canada is thinking of satisfying Kyoto's obligations, and both U.S. and Mexico aren't, then Canada has a problem.

Mc:The other issue is the relationship of the climate convention to other international agreements. Generally speaking, they are still being addressed separately. Many of environmental issues such as urban smog, loss of biodiversity, and climate change, are interrelated. Broader analysis needs to be done.

F: How do you think Japan and Canada can put this Protocol into action in their own countries?

M:The Japanese government is going to consider various budget requests for different agencies to implement the Kyoto Protocol. But I think the problem is very difficult to come up with end-to-end plans for reducing CO2 emission.It is a gigantic task to estimate the necessary actions, their costs, and the impacts of meeting the target.

Mc:Canada has a national action plan each year. We examine specifics, and make analyses at the macroeconomic level to reduce emissions. The general conclusion is to impose certain governmental controls, such as emission trading regimes within the country to minimize the cost. But it is still not clear how we will actually get federal provincial agreement on how to implement this.

M: The degree of difficulty to meet this target differs among countries. Canada and Japan may find it more difficult than the others. Canada, particularly, I think is in a very difficult position when U.S. is not included.

Mc:The European Union (EU) will meet its Kyoto com mitments by actions that they have taken largely before Kyoto Protocol. It was relatively easy for Germany to reduce the emission with the absorption of the East German economy. Also, the U.K. converted from coal to natural gas even before the climate convention. Meanwhile, the Australian has a Kyoto target of +8%. They think they can meet +8% by managing their forests and agriculture as intermediate steps, then eventually the work on the fossil fuel consumption will be done. That is why Canada also wanted forest sinks as part of the Kyoto Protocol. However, Australia has a target of +8%, while Canada is minus 6%, as is Japan. The U.S. is saying that they are not going to bother, because they are not signing the agreement. Canada and Japan may be two countries that actually have to do anything.

M:In the next meeting to be held in Marrakech, Morocco, they are going to decide on penalties for not meeting the target. If the penalties become very severe, they will probably have to set some more feasible targets. The balance between the adjusting target and then how to make penalties enough to make some sense to have international agreement should be considered.

Mc: I do not think under the climate convention, there is any binding penalty in a sense that there is no legal mechanism under the international law to actually force it. That is why we need to link the climate convention with other organizations such as the World Trade Organization, which actually have some legal basis for imposing, for example, trade sanctions. Alternative plan could be to delay the commitment period.

F: We sometimes hear Ozone Protocol as a successful international agreement. How do you see Kyoto Protocol as compared to the Montreal Protocol?

M: Difficulties in this issue are fundamentally different from depletion of the ozone layer. Everybody knows that ozone layer destruction is harmful. But for global warming, some people think that it is beneficial.

Mc:I think in ozone depletion, the question was easier because the solution involved a few countries that are the producers of very specialized product, and some could see that alternative production would be profitable. Whereas here, we are talking about fundamental basis of most of the world's economic development. Part of the trouble with theClimate Convention is that the much of the thinking process in developing its approach was based on the Montreal Protocol. The whole mentality of the Ozone Protocol, and the science of the Ozone Depleting Potentials, all were quickly transferred, as a success story, to deal with the climate issue. But, global warming is not that simple.

M:If we have better forecasts of future climate change and environmental change, then the people will see who are the winners and who are the losers much more clearly. Probably the immediate consequences from global change are usually negative. However, if you talk about over long-term period, we cannot define that all changes related to global warming would be harmful. But suppose we come up with better and more reliable projections, specifying climate change from region to region, once you know the detailed changes, maybe there will be some countries or groups that will hesitate to sign the agreement. This is one of the points which is different from the problem of ozone layer depletion.

F: Lastly, can I hear from both of you the recommendation or future plan?

M:Whether or not implementation of Kyoto Protocol is successful, we should plan on strategies for development of alternative sources of energy, create efficient technologies and put the major emphasis on that. These efforts will eventually contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. A friend of mine, Dr. Ausbell, who calls himself an industrial physicist, is suggesting to increase the utilization on natural gas, which has relatively less CO2 emissions. In the future, he is also proposing to have a large number of solar batteries and then produce hardware to produce large amounts of electricity during daytime. Then he will use this electricity to produce hydrogen by electrolysis. Since if you change the electrical energy to hydrogen, then you can balance the unevenness of produced energy in daytime and night.

Mc:I think Kyoto agreement has its flaws but it is probably the only thing in the system right now. As Dr. Manabe said, we need to work at technological developments, to have cleaner and less fossil-fuel dependent energy systems regardless of being driven by global warming. I think the climate science community has roles not only in raising these kind of questions and being objective about it, but also to provide better basis for the analysis and its costs. The costing generally of climate change needs more specific details than we have now. FRSGC and other research institutes have a more important role now, in the sense of providing scientific support of analysis of the ideas in the convention, because we are now getting into analysis that needs a higher level of understanding.

M: I think more reliable and more accurate projections will be useful for the participants of international meetings such as Kyoto Protocol. That is probably what our research scientists should do. We see that IPCC is not an international effort to tell decision-makers what they should do. Instead, it should provide reliable information for policy making. This is one of the most important roles for the Frontier Research System for Global Change. Therefore, we have to not only utilize various models to predict global changes related to global warming, but also assess the actual changes occurred using satellite and other observation tools.

F:Thank you very much for your valuable opinions today.

Back Cover Next

English Top