While I admire Mr. Montpellier for having a lot of hope, I worry about it when the effect is to encourage people to adopt truly unwise measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Let us, as they say, consider the facts. In 1992, there was an international agreement among developed countries on a voluntary target of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2005. It failed. In the true spirit of vacuous optimism, in 1997 about 150 countries committed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce GHG emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels by the 2010 to 2012 period. It failed miserably. Since the 1990’s, eighteen Conferences of the Parties have been held in efforts to broker a deal. These negotiations have floundered on the unwillingness of less developed countries to commit to emission-reduction targets that will harm their economic growth, on the increasing efforts of those countries to wring from developed countries huge financial commitments, and on the refusal of the developed countries to give in to this type of blackmail.
At the U.N. climate talks in Doha in December 2012, countries failed to agree again. The conference collapsed in frustration and chaos. Recently, most countries have acknowledged that no new climate agreement will be reached before 2016 at the earliest, and even if it were negotiated by then, it probably would not come into force until 2020. This assumes that agreement can be reached at all.
So what is the future world emission outlook? The most recent expert forecast is that of the United States Energy Information Administration, which released its International Energy Outlook in July, 2013. This report addresses only the emissions from energy consumption, not other sources. According to the base case forecast, world energy consumption will grow from 524 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2010 to 820 Btu in 2040, or 56%. Fossil fuels, which for many decades have dominated world energy consumption, will continue to supply nearly 80% of world energy use through 2040. Coal is the fastest growing source of emissions; annual coal-related emissions are forecast to grow from14 billion metric tons in 2010 to over 20 billion metric tons by 2040. Virtually all of the growth in GHG emissions is projected to occur in the non-OECD area, and mainly in non-OECD Asia. In other words, the less developed countries will grow in income and will consume more energy and have higher emissions as they do so.
So, it appears that there are essentially unresolvable political differences blocking any international agreement. This matters little in the OECD countries like Canada which have already slowed emissions growth significantly. The growth of emissions in the non-OECD will be large and driven by the people’s desire for better incomes and higher living standards.
Given these facts, why should Canadians accept the need for more costly measures here to reduce emissions? Why are advocates of ever more climate change measures optimisti