Two down, one to go: can Harper withstand Kyoto Konformism?

Australian PM John Howard just got murdered in his country’s general election, losing both his seat and his job. His opponent and PM-elect, Kevin Rudd (any relation to AC/DC’s Phil?), has announced his first act will be to bring Australia into the Kyoto Klub.

Where does that leave Canada’s prime minister? Stephen Harper’s only remaining anti-Kyoto counterpart, U.S. president George Bush, won’t be president after January 20 2009 (and will be a lame duck starting next summer).

Canadian Kyotophiles have had a bad five months. In September 2006, P-Rod (Pablo Rodriguez, a Liberal MP) wrote a pro-Kyoto bill that attracted a lot of interest. The bill passed the House in June 2007; see article. This has translated into zero Parliamentary advantage. Meanwhile, Harper et al have touted the Asia-Pacific partnership—an alternative to Kyoto that has, in my opinion, far more potential of actually reducing emissions than Kyoto ever did or ever will—with impunity.

But a new wave of pious pro-Kyoto platitudes from world leaders, together with Howard’s demise and the imminent beginning of Bush’s long, slow exit, have given Kyotophiles new hope. I said it a year ago, and it is worth repeating: nothing is more important to this crowd than talking the talk (see article).

What’s the half-life of the current round of lip service? Rich countries have promised poor countries more than $1 billion to fight climate change. As I have pointed out, the only investments that will actually reduce emissions in the third world are those that develop emission-free power systems (see article). This means nuclear power must go to the third world. If history is any guide, those who most ardently support Kyoto will also remain ardently opposed to the spread of civilian nuclear technology.

So, even if that $1 billion materializes—and the Guardian’s David Adam is sure it won’t; see article—it is doubtful the money will be well spent.

In Canada, the big near-term political question is: can Stephen Harper, sitting atop a precarious minority government, hold out against the current round of Kyoto lip service?

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Randal Leavitt
16 years ago

I think Harper will stay in without too much worry. His opponents will occupy themselves with fighting each other for the next decade.

The global heating phenomena is happening much faster than predicted. Slow processes like Kyoto will go out of fashion quickly. The irony will get really intense when the heat hits with force and it makes a lot of people happy. After all, there are also advantages that result from a warmer world. It is going to be wild.