Sunday, December 11, 2005

Yesterday's Men

The new Brit opposition Tory party leader has moved ahead of Blair in the polls. Which is odd, since the new Tory policy support of Kyoto will, if implemented, make the Brits very poor. Even more bizarrely, Blair is right on this issue.

The polls:

The YouGov poll of more than 2,000 people, carried out since Cameron was declared leader of the party on Tuesday, reveals that the Tories have turned a two-point deficit to a one-point lead.

Cameron’s victory has pushed the Tories up to 37% of the vote, two points up on last month, while Labour is down one to 36%. The Liberal Democrats have also been squeezed, down two to 18%.

In another poll, by ICM for The Sunday Telegraph, the Tories have moved into a two-point lead.

The Tory leader's pontifications on Kyoto are here, this is the WSJ's riposte (subscription):

"The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge," says British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He can say that again. India and China, which are exempt from Kyoto's emissions cuts, have no plans to submit to those mandates any time soon, though China is the world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The U.S. has also consistently rejected Kyoto. This has been true throughout the Bush years, but it was equally so during the Clinton ones.

And then there is the performance of Kyoto's signatories in meeting their own targets. Kyoto requires developed nations to bring their total greenhouse-gas emissions to 5% below their 1990 levels by 2012. Yet in 2003, emissions were above the 1990 baseline by more than 10% in Italy and Japan, more than 20% in Ireland and Canada, and more than 40% in Spain.

Germany and Britain have met their Kyoto targets, but this is the result of one-time events: The collapse of British coal and the shuttering of much of the former East Germany's industrial base. Given Germany's anemic economy and Britain's reduced growth forecasts, the appetite in either country for costly environmental virtue is not likely to increase.

The lesson we draw from all of this is that the uncertainties in climate forecasting remain huge. And given the costly and fraudulent scares we have just lived through -- mad-cow disease, genetically modified foods -- the End-Is-Nigh crowd should be held to a higher standard of proof than it has been before. The needs of the world's poor and sick are too pressing to squander limited economic resources on what could be another false alarm.

Fortunately, there's another game in another town. Next month, the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, India and Australia -- collectively accounting for nearly half the world's population -- will meet in Sydney to launch the Asia-Pacific partnership. Unlike Kyoto, which pits developing countries against developed ones, the Partnership is a collaboration to develop cleaner energy resources.

By clinging to the failed Kyoto and not supporting the AsiaPac partnership, the Tories reveal themselves in their traditional guise - Yesterday's Men.