Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Good on you, Australia

Australia received a minute-long standing ovation at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali (which runs for 12 days, starting today) when it was announced that newly installed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had, within hours of his accession to office, moved to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. (In a rebuke to former PM John Howard--and in recognition of the new political reality--the new leader of the opposition immediately endorsed the decision.) 175 nations have now accepted the treaty. George Bush's Coalition of the Unwilling now consists pretty much of the US and the glorious nation of Kazakhstan. (Despite what the NY Times writes, Liechtenstein ratified the treaty in 2005.)

The real impact of Australia's decision is that its delegation has now been granted status as full participant in the negotiations at Bali to begin writing the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012. It is largely a symbolic gesture on Rudd's part, since it is widely expected that signatory nations will not be assessed fines for exceeding their treaty obligations on carbon emissions anyway--it seems to be understood, tacitly at least, that the formulas require revision and renegotiation to be workable.

Still, in a morning of surprising good news--Hugo Chavez' "reforms" were rejected by the electorate, and the British schoolteacher in Sudan jailed for allowing her students to name a teddy bear 'Muhammad' (I'm not making this up!) has now been pardoned, due to strong efforts of the British Muslim Council and the British government--this news stands out.


The Law Talking Guy said...

Thank God for Liechtenstein... What does Kyoto require them to do, remove a car from the road?

Anonymous said...

That's a pathetic response, LTG. It's the sort of thing the rest of the world has come to expect from US Citizens. Denis Leary's song "Asshole" comes to mind now.

Spotted Handfish

Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. S. Yes, the new Australian government is to be congratulated and I certainly hope our government follows their lead some day.

Spotted Handfish,

Have you looked at Lichtenstein on a map? The country was threatened with non-existence when the Duke suggested he might sell his house. It has little manufacturing (what there is is electronics and so relatively clean) and a population of 34,000 or so. That means there isn't much volume regardless of how dirty their economy might be. They also import 90% of their energy from Switzerland. Power plants are a major source of green house gas emmissions. Not having to maintain your own power plant is a big advantage for Kyoto compliance.

Taking a car off the road might be a little exagerated but compared to what Australia will have to do, LTG's not far off. I think that the spirit of LTG's comment was that some countries have tiny symbolic requirements imposed upon them. It is perhaps a little flippant but generally based on fact.

Besides, I don't think it was intended as a "response" pathetic or otherwise. I think you owe LTG an apology.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Hey, I thought LTG's comment was funny! I don't know what got into you, Spotted H... but I think an apology might be in order.

Raised By Republicans said...

A funny thing happened when I looked up what Australia just agreed to do. The Kyoto Protocols work by imposing reductions in green house gas emmissions on the signatories. Now, obviously, some countries will get bigger reductions imposed on them than others and some will even be allowed to continue to increase their emmissions for some time.

Kyoto measures this by authorizing a percentage of 1990 level emmissions. So for example, according to Annex B of the Treaty (which is easy enough to find with the "googles"), if the US were to ratify, we'd have to bring our emissions levels down to 93% of the 1990 levels by the dealine (2010 I believe). Lichtenstein will have to reduce down to 92% of 1990 levels.

Guess what the countrymen of our oh so outraged and anti-American visitor will have to do. They'll have to find a way - somehow - to keep their emissions from rising to more than 108% of their 1990 levels. Yes, that's right. Australia's new government just committed itself to increasing GHG emissions, but only a little. Hurray for them! Of the countries listed in Annex B (these are the ones thought to be in the best position to reduce GHG emissions), only Iceland is allowed to increase their emissions at a faster rate than Australia.

Now, I understand the nuances of this kind of thing and I still think that the actions of the Australian government are commendable by the low standard set by the US Senate. But I wanted to point this out so that Spotted Handfish would think a little next time before he gets on his knee-jerk anti-American/personal insult soap box.

Dr. Strangelove said...

It should be noted that, by the time the Kyoto Protocols were finalized in 1997, Australia had one the highest per capita emissions of any industrialized nation to their reliance on coal power. Australia was already more or less at the threshold when it was negotiated, and emissions were projected to grow much higher. And indeed, emissions grew quite a bit under the Howard government, so to get back to 108% of 1990 levels represents a real commitment to decrease emissions.

Raised By Republicans said...

Of course, and for that matter, just reducing the rate of increase can be a problem for some governments.

Still, it's not like Australia is going to be making any revolutionary changes here. They are getting a relatively easy share of the burden regardless of what reasons they may have to justify it.

Pombat said...

Hmmm, I feel I should jump in the middle here a little...

Ok, Spotted Handfish's comment was a bit OTT (the Denis Leary comparison was unnecessary), and I'm sure he'll apologise for the phrasing once he's back online.

Buuuut, I must admit I kind of agree with the sentiment, and I didn't really find LTG's comment funny (it was the "Thank God for Lichtenstein" that did it). If America had already signed Kyoto, if America were committed to reducing emissions, reducing consumption, if America wasn't one of the biggest consumerist nations in the entire world, with the cheapest prices (especially on incredibly environmentally friendly things like petrol/gasoline) in the English speaking world, if America was actually DOING something, yeah, maybe then I'd've found it funny.

Fact is, even though Lichtenstein don't have to actually do much as compared to some other countries, they have still had the balls to stand up with most of the rest of the world and say that they WILL DO what is necessary. And Australia are also now committed to doing what is deemed necessary. America are not. When is that going to change?

Raised By Republicans said...


The United States has signed Kyoto. President Clinton signed it. The problem has been that our constitution requires that the Senate ratify all treaties and when Clinton was in office, the Republicans had a majority in the Senate (so forget ratification then). Now, there is a very very slim Democratic majority in the Senate but Bush is not only not asking for the issue to be revisited, he is famously hostile to the idea. This gives the opponents in the Senate cover. And while most Democrats favor ratification, enough oppose it so that a one seat majority won't do the trick.

To answer your stated question - things will change when the Democrats get a really workable majority in the Senate.

What really angers people like us is when left leaning people outside the United States ASSUME that ALL Americans are somehow to blame for what our government does or doesn't do. It's really quite a childish view of the world.

Trust me, all of the participants in this blog have been working to reverse many of the trends you object to. What you and Spotted Handfish are doing is lumping everyone in one country together based on their government's current position. Do you really think everyone in Lichtenstein supported signing Kyoto? For that matter, I bet there are large segments (gee, maybe about 43% or so?) of Australian society that still oppose the ratification of Kyoto.

Imagine if we all started saying things like "Australians are racists" because of how Howard dealt with that ship load of refugees. Or if we said that "Brits are warmongers" because Blair deployed troops to Iraq too.

Bush has never won more than 50-51% of the vote here and is currently experience approval ratings in the low 30s. The reason that hasn't resulted in instant change is because our institutions are designed to prevent radical change. They do this by granting minority opinion groups various means of vetoing change. In the case of the Iraq War and the Environment, this has been a great annoyance to many of us.

But we can only speculate (in our nightmares) about how much worse it would have been, for us and the world, had our sane 49% had not been imposing even the minimal checks on Bush's agenda that we've been able to for the last 6 years.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I didn't read Pombat or Spotted Fish as assuming all Americans are to blame for what our government fails to do. I am sure they both know that, if we had the choice, the US would have ratified Kyoto long ago.

The point Pombat was making is that we should not dismiss the efforts of countries like Liechtenstein just because they are so much smaller. Yes, it is true that Liechtenstein's emissions alone won't mean peanuts to the atmosphere... But it means a real cost to Liechtenstein. As a group, Liechtensteiners have, as a group, committed themselves to accept the same sort of real costs per capita that Americans have, as a group, so far refused to accept. (A small cost overall, but a similar sacrifice per person.)

I still enjoy a good laugh at Liechtenstein (who doesn't?) but all kidding aside, their effort deserves respect.

Oh, and I say "as a group" because that's what it takes to move the political process along. Most Australians wanted to accept Kyoto long ago, just not strongly enough to shove out the party that opposed it. Likewise, I suspect a majority of Americans would have approved of Kyoto, but a sufficient number of them continue to vote for Republicans who call climate change a hoax. Maybe that will change in 2008. I hope so!

Dr. Strangelove said...

I should add that "as a group" some Americans actually are doing something. I forgot that California has imposed its own emissions controls on greenhouse gases, and ten New England/Mid-Atlantic states have adopted the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system. Several other states and neighboring Canandian provinces are watching the initiative as observers to see how it progresses before they consider joining. So thanks to our Federal system, 85 million Americans have--as a group--decided to accept Kyoto. It's a good start, and I'm proud to be part of it.

Dr. Strangelove said...

OK, not really "accept Kyoto" since the carbon caps are obviously going to be different for CA and RGGI than under Kyoto, but you get the idea.

Raised By Republicans said...

I disagree. Spotted Handfishes comment was clearly directed as an insult to LTG in particular and Americans in general. The tone of Pombat's comment clearly emphasized a criticism of America as a whole and Americans as an undifferentiated group.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Ah, knee-jerk anti-Americanism and no sense of humor. This is what kills progressives' chances with the public in this country.

Liechtenstein is governed by a prince. The prince recently got the legislative assembly to effectively reinstate him as an absolute monarch. Liechtenstein does not have any industry to speak of. It makes its money as a tax haven, allowing corporations to shelter themselves from contributing to the social welfare. Bully for Liechtenstein. The point is that Liechtenstein's "commitment" to Kyoto is all about moral superiority, and is basically free. Carbon emissions are measured in millions of metric tons of carbon per year (USA and Canada do 1600million metric tons). Liechtenstein reports just 0.27 of a metric ton of emissions.

Frankly, its "commitment" to Kyoto is just Prince Eurotrash making sure he can fit in with his aristocatic friends and join in their trendy anti-Americanism that GWBush has made so darned easy and fun. The fact that Liechtenstein is even considered a sovereign country is a result of aristocratic silliness. It should be just a small part of Vorarlberg in Austria. According to the Liechtenstein official website, its princes didn't even live there until 1938 (they lived in Vienna). (btw, you could all try spelling it Liechtenstein properly before you claim the high and mighty ground for being so massively sensitive. The country is "Liechtenstein", the (American) artist is Roy Lichtenstein).

If you're going to call fellow bloggers assholes, guys, find another blog. There's plenty of them.

The Law Talking Guy said...

That's 270,000 metric tons (.27 of a million), not .27 of a ton. Sorry.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Ah, knee-jerk pro-Americanism and no sense of humor. This is what makes us so popular around the world.

Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. S. I'm sorry, but I hardly think that Spotted Handfish was engaging in a little friendly teasing. He flat out called LTG a pathetic American asshole.

If that passes for humor in some circles it does not in this one.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I'm sorry, RbR, but I already made clear that I disapproved of what Spotted Handfish said. I will repeat it: I'd like to see Spotted Handfish apologize for his language.

In several comments, however, I tried to steer the discussion to a valid point Pombat made: that Liechtenstein's efforts should not be dismissed. (In subsequent comments, no doubt peeved by being called an asshole, LTG unfortunately ignored the per capita issue. LTG's figures show Leichtensteiners emit about 60% of what we do per capita. Making cuts still involves real sacrifice for them, as it will for us.) I also believe it is clear that our (and I include myself) tendency to dismiss the efforts of smaller nations is part of what does not endear Americans to the rest of the world.

And LTG, I hope you can forgive RbR and Pombat for misspelling Liechtenstein. It's an easy mistake. And we've never been too picky about spelling on this blog.

The Law Talking Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Law Talking Guy said...

"LTG's figures show Leichtensteiners [sic] emit about 60% of what we do per capita."

No, Liechtenstein as a whole does this. We have no data on the emissions of individuals there. The presence or absence of a single manufacturing plant could make the entire difference in a place so small. I've been there, and so have you, Dr.S. It's not much more than a hillside with a whole bunch of car dealerships by the river (no sales taxes, so people buy luxury goods there). Also, the number of "residents" is exaggerated for the same reason, people claiming residency in Liechtenstein but not living there or contributing to global warming. It's important to look behind stats to see what is actually driving them. Liechtenstein will probably meet Kyoto through little more than accounting tricks.

Liechtenstein isn't "sacrificing" in all likelihood, nor was this about shared sacrifice. It's all about claiming moral superiority, which is cheap and easy.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"We have no data on the emissions of individuals [in L.]"

I see. So without data, you are happy to assert that L. has radically different emissions patterns from their neighbors, such that the residents of L. can curtail their little state's emissions without sacrifice.

Fortunately, I found some data. Here's a news release from earlier this year. The key facts:

1. L. must reduce emissions by over 20% to reach Kyoto goals by 2012. They consider this "impossible" in the short term (!) and so will participate in carbon trading markets as part of their strategy to meet the goal.

2. Emissions break down like so:
25% for transportation
40% household emissions, largely due to heating
27% for industrial emissions
8% from agriculture (methane)

Industry and manufacturing employ 44% of the workforce and represent 40% of GDP. You can see that if they tried to reduce emissions by "closing a factory" as LTG suggests with a sneer, om fact L. would need to shut down almost all of its industrial capacity to achieve the required 20% reduction in emissions, which would cause massive unemployment in that little state.

Anonymous said...

My apologies firstly for leaving this response so long, due to a long boring list of circumstances that is not worth going into (internet access, work etc).

I would also apologise for any unintended implication that LTG is an "asshole". My comment at the time was that I was reminded of the song, of a don't-care-about-the-rest-of-the-world
attitude, and I did not think through the implications of including the song title. That was not my intent and I apologise again.

Let me be clear though. I understood that LTG was making a joke. Blame it on cultural differences, but I just didn't find it funny. I also understood the other more literal reading of what he was saying. That to me overrode any humour the statement had.

Spotted Handfish

Pombat said...


Okay, so criticising the US for things it actually does/does not do is anti-American - it's just a short step from there to not supporting the troops y'know guys.

For the record, Spotted H & I are well aware that the people on this blog are ones who would change things if they were important enough to be able to. You're the kind of people we're referring to when we defend Americans to others as not all being Hummer-driving redneck creationists. It's a disturbingly hard defence to push though, unfortunately.

As far as my earlier comments defending Liechtenstein, an addition to think about - the point has been made here that Liechtenstein have very little industry, and thus won't have to do much to cut their emissions. Looking at it the other way, Liechtenstein have done very little to contribute to global warming, so is it not fair that they only have to do a little to help with it?...

But the real reason I'm posting now is because of the Bali talks - this article in The Age (Melbourne newspaper) has what I am resigned to seeing as 'good' news, since it could have been so much worse:
(sorry for the bad formatting, don't know how to get the link in nicely).

I can only hope that your new Democratic Government (obviously, I'm hoping that happens!!!) has a totally different view on things, and is as efficient as the new government down here in Oz at making all the necessary changes (seriously, Rudd's been doing tons - we're all amazed. But then they've had 11-12yrs to plan for it ;-p).