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Academician Izrael: Kyoto Protocol economically hazardous to Russia

The Kyoto Protocol is scientifically ungrounded and economically hazardous to Russia, well-known Russian scholar Academician Yuri Izrael opines in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He heads the Global Climate and Ecology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and conducts the academic seminar Ways to Prevent Climatic Changes and Possible Negative Effects; Problems of the Kyoto Protocol.

Many take the Kyoto Protocol for granted, he writes. However, many climatologists and economists doubt its scientific reasons. After the international climatic conference, which was held on President Vladimir Putin's initiative in Moscow last autumn and gathered over 2,000 specialists, this issue has assumed a greater edge, the Russian academician notes.

Taking the floor, Russian President Vladimir Putin said we would tackle the problem of possible joining the Kyoto Protocol and its ratification but only with reliance on Russia's national interest. The president has instructed a number of ministries and the national Academy of Sciences to inquire into the matter. Since last January, a special council has been at work - the Academy's seminar made up of 26 prominent scientists and specialists from the Academy. Over six months, the council held 12 sessions and heard over 20 scientific reports. On May 14, the seminar drew the following conclusion:

First, the Kyoto Protocol is scientifically ungrounded and does not indicate the road towards the end set. The economically inefficient protocol leads to only an insignificant cutting of the hothouse emissions. Currently, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air is 370 millionths. In the next ten years, it will increase by 20 millionths. Observance of the Kyoto Protocol will contain the increase by only one or two millionth in ten years. Swedish Professor, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Bert Bolin has already expressed similar opinion in Kyoto. Therefore, it is our opinion that the Kyoto Protocol is inefficient.

Second, the economic aspect of the Kyoto Protocol holds no water. We are told: the 1990s economic decline forced Russia to axe hothouse emissions and now it has a reserve. Sell it, earn money until you reach the 1990 level. They promise us to gain $30-40 billion. But, this "reserve" is rapidly dwindling because the Russian industrial growth is underway. Certain calculations show that the 1990 level will be reached in five to six years. Even if Russia sells quotas, it can earn from them about 200 million euros, as estimated by specialists from the European Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Reaching the 1990 level, Russia will have to pay from $160-600 for preventing the emission of one metric ton of carbon dioxide. Today Russia will sell the quotas on carbon dioxide for only $4-5.

The recent seminar, held by the Russian Academy of Sciences with the involvement of foreign specialists, was very useful. It's worth noting that foreign scientists share Russia's doubts, concerning the efficiency of the Kyoto Protocol.

Its realisation contains another vague element. If a country of the European Union produces several extra metric tons of carbon dioxide exceeding the 1990 level, it is to downsize it either by a new technology or buying a quota from somebody. Quotas can be bought from countries, which do not produce the quantity fixed by the protocol. It is nonsense from the point of view of the idea of the protocol: emissions are not cut and, hence, there is no climatic gain.

Incidentally, two crucial questions remain unsolved. Firstly, how grave the harm would be from possible climatic changes. Very much depends on it for taking collective steps. Prevention of climatic changes can be too costly - trillions, dozens of trillions of dollars. Still, it has not yet been determined what harm we expect. It may be less what the Kyoto Protocol intends. Secondly, a limit for global warming which would not affect the climatic system has not yet been set. Without answering these two questions it is hard to talk of the value of the Kyoto Protocol for mankind.

Finally, in his recent article (Nezavisimaya Gazeta of July 8, 2004) David King, chief scientific counsellor for the British government, wrote that Academician Yuri Izrael notes the negative role for the Kyoto Protocol ratification of the G-7 plus China group of countries. "I have not said that," Academician Izrael stresses, "but believe that it would be easier to combat the negative effects of climatic modification by all the possible efforts of various countries."