The Kyoto Protocol

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate August 2001

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Executive Summary As per your request, I have compiled the following short literature review on recent developments in the Kyoto Protocol. The topics I have included are a brief introduction on global warming, a chronological development of the Kyoto Protocol, and a discussion of the use of carbon sinks as credit against emissions.

The idea of global warming has become increasingly controversial in recent years. Many scientists attribute increased atmospheric temperatures on Earth to the buildup of greenhouse gasses, while several skeptic groups insist that the research on global warming is not conclusive. At the center of the global warming controversy is the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol was preceded in 1992 by a legally non-binding international agreement that called for voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. These voluntary reductions were not enforced, so the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1997 to form legally binding limitations on greenhouse gas emissions.

Since its inception, the Protocol has faced several issues that made it difficult to resolve. World leaders met annually since 1997 to resolve these issues, but no agreement was ever reached. On March 19, 2001, President Bush announced that the U.S. would no longer support the Kyoto Protocol, but he insisted that efforts to combat global warming would continue. The Bush administration plans to offer alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol when talks continue this July.

Of the issues plaguing the Kyoto Protocol, the idea of using carbon sinks as credit against emissions is the most controversial. Supporters of the use of carbon sinks insist that oceans and forests would absorb more than half of the carbon dioxide that results from burning fossil fuels. Opponents insist that carbon sinks would actually lead to an increase in global emissions by allowing highly industrialized countries to avoid emission cuts altogether.

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