Kyoto? Nyet!

Published November 21, 2003

Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the European Union and global warming activists by expressing skepticism of global warming theory at the September 29 World Climate Change Conference.

Putin’s comments threatened to derail the Kyoto Protocol, which needs Russian ratification to attain the participation rate necessary to enact the Protocol.

It had been widely anticipated that Putin would use the conference as the stage for announcing Russia’s full and final commitment to Kyoto. What occurred instead was a thunderbolt unexpected by the Protocol’s friends and foes alike.

“This is part of a complex of difficult and unclear problems,” Putin told the conference. Not only is there a lack of scientific evidence suggesting human-induced global warming, Putin stated, but even if such evidence existed, Kyoto would be expensive and ineffective. “Even 100 percent compliance won’t reverse climate change,” said Putin.

Putin’s top economic advisor, Andrei Illariov, rebuffed suggestions Russia might benefit in the short term by selling CO2 credits resulting from a recent decline in the Russian economy. In the long term, said Illariov, “the Kyoto Protocol will stymie economic growth. It will doom Russia to poverty, weakness, and backwardness.”

Global warming alarmists attempted to dismiss the Russian position as a stalling strategy to, in the words of Climate Action Europe’s Jason Anderson, “try to wheedle out every last bit of financial advantage from both pro- and anti-Kyoto governments before they make any decision.”

Doubt Warming Theory

In addition to noting the severe economic costs Kyoto would impose on Russia, Illariov emphasized that scientific evidence raises important doubts about global warming theory.

Among other things, Illariov pointed out that satellite and weather balloon measurements of the Earth’s lower atmosphere show little or no warming; that most of the Earth’s twentieth century warming occurred before significant human CO2 emissions; that the Earth actually cooled during the middle of the twentieth century, when there was the greatest increase in CO2 emissions; and that temperatures today are cooler than global temperatures that existed at the dawn of the last millennium.

The position of Putin and Illariov was bolstered by Yuri Izrael, Putin’s most influential science advisor. Stated Izrael, “All the scientific evidence seems to support the same general conclusions, that the Kyoto Protocol is overly expensive, ineffective, and based on bad science.”

Alarmist global warming theories, added Kirill Kondratiev, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences, “are inaccurate … and contrary to the opinions held by most scientists.”

The ramifications of the Russian stance on Kyoto are potentially enormous. “The whole Kyoto Protocol stands and falls with Russia,” said Boerge Brende, head of the United Nations committee charged with overseeing Kyoto pledges made at last year’s Johannesburg Earth Summit.

Added Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), “This is the most important development in the public debate over global warming since President Bush’s decision” to reject the Kyoto Protocol.

Crumbling “Consensus”

As an initial matter, Russian opposition would mean that countries representing less than 45 percent of human CO2 emissions are supportive of the Kyoto Protocol. That not only would doom the Protocol, but also would serve as a powerful rebuttal to those claiming the U.S. is flouting international consensus and scientific agreement in refusing to sign on to the treaty.

“The Western scientific ‘consensus’ that greenhouse gases are the prime culprit has long brushed these and other scientific questions aside—and branded dissenters as beyond the fringe,” explained CEI climate change specialist Iain Murray.

“However, accomplished Russian scientists don’t need to buy into ‘scientific correctness’ to advance their careers,” he continued. “They have looked at the evidence with the skepticism demanded of careful scientists, and have not been convinced that the case is proven.

“On the conference’s final day, the conference chairman acknowledged that scientists who questioned the ‘consensus’ made about nine out of 10 contributions from the floor. This is why President Putin’s advisors described the Kyoto Protocol as ‘scientifically flawed,’ language far stronger than that used by President Bush.”

“Taken together with a succession of Russian scientists using this conference to cast doubt on the science of global warming, the event is proving something of a nightmare for supporters of worldwide action to combat climate change,” BBC News Online reported on September 30.

“The Bush administration is no longer isolated in the world,” added Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak. “A U.S.-Russian partnership against global-warming zealots opens the way for a new alignment of nations” such as Australia, which has similarly rejected global warming alarmism and the Kyoto Protocol.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist Richard Lindzen praised the Russians for having the courage to stand up to the European Union’s global warming dogma. Global warming alarmism, said Lindzen, is “a symbol of our divorce from nature and its processes … our grandchildren will look back and wonder how we retreated to the Middle Ages, substituting belief for calculation.”

“The important thing is that nobody, including the supporters of Kyoto Protocol ratification, takes issue with the fact that the pursuit of the Kyoto Protocol requirements and [that of] economic growth are opposed directions,” summarized Illariov. “They are incompatible.”

Summarized Kondratiev, “The only people who would be hurt by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol would be several thousand people who make a living attending conferences on global warming.”

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].