The heat is on

There is tremendous pressure now on the South to meet the greenhouse gas emissions reduction quota of the west

Published: Saturday 31 July 1999

Richard gammon is a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. Recently he led a group of sixty scientists who told the us Congress that it was time politicians in the country got serious about global warming. The scientists warned politicians that there were some in Congress who continue to ignore the very real danger of global warming and object to global efforts towards cutting down greenhouse gas ( ghg) emissions that enhance global warming.

These speakers at Capitol Hill may be justified for putting the heat on politicians and in asking for immediate reductions in ghg emissions. They are scientists, and are probably unaware of how contorted the politics of global warming really is. Each nation, especially industrialised nations, have to reduce their ghg emissions. But they want to do this by trading in permits to pollute.

It is still not clear how much each nation will be entitled to emit, that is release ghg s into the atmosphere. Countries want to continue emitting ghg s as they cannot shut down their production units and power plants. This would mean shutting down their economies. The us , however, is insisting upon trade right away. The European Union (eu ) was supposed to stand for strong domestic action. The complex formula created for trading in permits to pollute allows the eu to meet 50 per cent of its commitments from trade. Or so it seems. However, a close look at these figures has prompted some ngo s to say that the eu can actually meet 65 per cent of its commitment through trade .

The result of this collapse is bad at least for several reasons. The eu will merely buy the right to pollute from Russia, the Ukraine, eastern European countries and developing countries as opposed to real efforts to mitigate domestic ghg emissions. This will mean that the situation will reach a boiling point as the economies grow in the South. Unless the North does not want the South to grow at all.

The November 1997 Kyoto protocol on climate change allows nations a high degree of flexibility in the methods they employ to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and five other gases believed to be responsible for global warming. The decision to do this through trade by the eu was reached despite a last- minute protest by Denmark. This shows that there was a general fear that overuse of flexible mechanisms would undermine the spirit of the international effort to reduce emissions. Countries of the South have been marginalised. Perhaps they have always been. The future is therefore likely to be truly hot. f o e cites studies that show that wild male Roach have been feminised. In other words, eggs have been found in their testes, with the worst effects being seen in the River Aire in Yorkshire. f o e contends the river is heavily polluted with alkylphenols.

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