Let’s take a moment, shall we, and dig through the layers of conservative talking points on the Kyoto Protocol.
The main claim is that it’s "unfair" because it requires emissions reductions in developed countries, but not in developing countries (especially China and India) — a commonly cited rationale when senators refused to vote for it under Clinton.
This is, as many others have pointed out, a morally troglodytic argument. The developed countries put the CO2 up there. That’s how they got developed. That’s how they got rich. Of course they have an obligation to act first and do more to solve the problem. If you spend years crapping in your house, and then take a homeless person in as a roommate, you don’t quibble with your new roommate over who cleans up the shit. You clean it up. It’s your shit.
But then you have another argument which, instead of insulting the intelligence and moral standing of those in the developing world, adopts an unctuous tone of concern for their wellbeing. Consider this bit from Inhofe’s goofball speech:
The Kyoto Protocol’s post 2012 agenda, which mandates that the developing world be subjected to restrictions on greenhouse gases, could have the potential to severely restrict development in regions of the world like Africa, Asia and South America — where some of the Earth’s most energy-deprived people currently reside.
If we allow scientifically unfounded fears of global warming to influence policy makers to restrict future energy production and the creation of basic infrastructure in the developing world — billions of people will continue to suffer. …
… I have made many trips to Africa, and once you see the devastating poverty that has a grip on that continent, you quickly realize that fears about global warming are severely misguided.
Well that’s my gut reaction to African poverty!
Add to all this conservative insistence that Kyoto won’t solve the problem (as though anyone ever claimed it would), and you come up with:
Kyoto’s not enough to solve global warming, we shouldn’t sign it until the developing countries sign it, and the developing countries shouldn’t sign it because it will consign them to poverty.
Or to summarize: too little is too much to ask.
Behind the flurry of rhetoric, then, is simple defeatism: This is not a problem we can solve. So let’s do nothing.