Kyoto Protocol

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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In the mid-1980's, awareness began to increase over the effects of fossil fuels on the environment, particularly climate change, also known as global warming or the greenhouse effect. The warming gases, known as greenhouse gases, are given off when fossil fuels are burnt are increasing in the atmosphere. This increase is leading to rises in global temperature and sea levels. Hare (1998) states that the most important green house gas is carbon dioxide (CO2). Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today are already 30 per cent higher than the levels that existed before the Industrial Revolution. United Nations meetings have discussed controlling CO2 production for years, with marginal success (Cunningham and Cunningham, 2001). The IPCC's first report known as the First Assessment Report was agreed in August 1990, despite heavy pressure to block its publication from oil producing countries and industry. Some of its key conclusions are: " We are certain… emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases… These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface…" In addition, the report found that immediate 60 to 80 per cent cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide would be needed to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at today's levels (Hare, 1998).

At the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, 160 nations finally agreed on a landmark treaty called the Kyoto Protocol. Collectively the industrialized countries pledged to roll back greenhouse gas emissions about 5 per cent below each country's 1990 levels by 2012.

The Protocol highlights the political and social problems of such an agreement in that developed nations were exempted from emission limits at Kyoto because of the fears that restrictions would hold back...