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10 years after Kyoto: Winners and losers

American notables discuss what we've accomplished and what's next

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Ross Gelbspan
Author, The Heat is On and Boiling Point
www.heatisonline.org

What is needed is a new Kyoto Protocol that reflects the urgency and magnitude of the challenge: a rapid global transition to non-carbon energy sources in the next 30 years. One approach might involve three elements: In industrial countries, withdraw the roughly $250 billion a year in subsidies for coal and oil and put those same subsidies behind clean-energy sources. Create a fund, estimated at about $300 billion a year, to transfer clean energy to developing countries. All developing countries would love to go solar, but most can't afford it. The fund could be financed by a tax on international air travel, carbon taxes in the north or a tiny tax of a quarter-penny per dollar on international currency transactions. Develop a regulatory mechanism that would require every country, starting at its current baseline, to increase its fossil-fuel efficiency by 5 percent per year. That means every country would produce the same amount next year with 5 percent less carbon fuel or produce 5 percent more with the same amount of carbon fuel. Since few economies grow at 5 percent for very long, emissions reductions would outpace long-term economic growth. (For details, see "Solutions" at www.heatisonline.org.)

To incorporate these mechanisms would generate millions of new jobs, especially in developing countries. It would begin to turn impoverished nations into trading partners. It would jump-start the renewable-energy industry into being a central driving engine of growth for the global economy.

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger
Co-authors, Break Through: From The Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility
www.thebreakthrough.org

Kyoto failed for reasons having nothing to do with the absence of U.S. involvement. The developed nations that ratified the agreement saw their emissions go up, not down, by 4 percent between 2000 and 2004. Even if Kyoto was perfectly implemented, the emissions reduced would be one-seventh the amount of the emissions China alone will produce over the next three decades.

Kyoto was based on the wrong models of past efforts to regulate pollution. A better model is the creation of the European Union after World War II through shared investments in coal and steel. A post-Kyoto effort should bring down the price of clean energy as quickly as possible through massive public-private investments into technology innovation and infrastructure. Together the U.S., Europe and Japan should invest $100 billion-$200 billion per year, which could stimulate $60 billion-$120 billion in private capital. This commitment would bring down the price of clean energy while strengthening economic ties between these countries. To achieve this politically, the next president must sell the agenda as the only way to free ourselves from oil while establishing American leadership and creating jobs in the fast-growing and high-tech clean-energy markets.

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Sarah Susanka
Architect and author, The Not So Big House series and The Not So Big Life
www.notsobig.com

I'm very much aware that things are not what they appear to be. We see the world as something outside ourselves that needs to be fixed. Yet when we listen to the words of mystics and sages of all ages, and when we study the findings of today's scientists, we come to understand that there is in fact no separation between our individual human bodies and the world. We are all interconnected and part of one extraordinary movement of consciousness. What's more, the part and the whole mirror one another. So to change the world, we must truly do what Mahatma Gandhi said: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

As long as we focus on a world separate from ourselves and try to fix it without attending to our own individual imbalance, planetary balance will continue to elude us. So, although I believe that Kyoto signifies a very important recognition of the role we play collectively, we have yet to see that it is our individual role in becoming ever more present and aware in our own lives. That holds the key to the shift we are seeking.

Susanka reads at Quail Ridge Books, 3522 Wade Ave., Raleigh, Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m.

Faiz Shakir
Research Director, Center for American Progress
www.americanprogress.org

In the years since Kyoto, the public cries for taking action to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions are now deafening. To respond to the climate crisis and transform our energy economy, we need presidential leadership to curb this nation's oil usage, cap and cut carbon-dioxide emissions, and increase investment in renewable energy. While the Bush administration dithers and delays, leadership in addressing this looming disaster has emerged from two dozen U.S. states and the European Union.

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg
Senior Editor, Green Options; Founder, Sustainablog
www.greenoptions.com; www.sustainablog.org

It's tempting to focus on the fact that the U.S. government still hasn't signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, and thus conclude that we haven't made much progress. Despite the federal government's very slow movement on the issue, though, I think we've come quite far. Ten years ago, few would have imagined that a Republican governor would sign off on the first greenhouse-gas emissions reduction program for his state, or that companies like Wal-Mart, Duke Energy and General Electric would be lobbying Congress for regulation of carbon emissions.

We've got much further to go, but I'm optimistic that the United States will fully join the international effort to combat global climate change. The general public, the business community and state and local governments "get it." It's hard to imagine that the next U.S. president and Congress will be able to not act decisively without paying a heavy political price.

Alex Steffen
Executive Editor, World Changing
www.worldchanging.com

We have finally come to understand what a peril the climate crisis actually represents. Now we need to understand two more realities. The first is that climate change is only one aspect of a wider sustainability crisis. All good thinking is now holistic thinking. We cannot afford to suffer from "carbon blindness" and ignore the many ways in which our current economic model destroys our planet's natural systems, perpetuates poverty and stifles democracy. The second is that we have the capacity to build a different model of sustainable prosperity, one that can allow many more people to live wealthier, healthier and happier lives, while dramatically reducing our ecological impacts. In order to do that, we need to unleash new technologies and social innovations, bring forward new policies (including a much more aggressive system of carbon pricing), encourage widespread entrepreneurship and begin redesigning our civilization. A bright green future can be ours, if we're ready to change our thinking and act quickly.

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