The Collapse of the Kyoto Protocol and the Struggle to Slow Global Warming

Princeton University Press
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Even as the evidence of global warming mounts, the international response to this serious threat is coming unraveled. The United States has formally withdrawn from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol; other key nations are facing difficulty in meeting their Kyoto commitments; and developing countries face no limit on their emissions of the gases that cause global warming. In this clear and cogent book-reissued in paperback with an afterword that comments on recent events--David Victor explains why the Kyoto Protocol was never likely to become an effective legal instrument. He explores how its collapse offers opportunities to establish a more realistic alternative.

Global warming continues to dominate environmental news as legislatures worldwide grapple with the process of ratification of the December 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The collapse of the November 2000 conference at the Hague showed clearly how difficult it will be to bring the Kyoto treaty into force. Yet most politicians, policymakers, and analysts hailed it as a vital first step in slowing greenhouse warming. David Victor was not among them.

Kyoto's fatal flaw, Victor argues, is that it can work only if emissions trading works. The Protocol requires industrialized nations to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases to specific targets. Crucially, the Protocol also provides for so-called "emissions trading," whereby nations could offset the need for rapid cuts in their own emissions by buying emissions credits from other countries. But starting this trading system would require creating emission permits worth two trillion dollars--the largest single invention of assets by voluntary international treaty in world history. Even if it were politically possible to distribute such astronomical sums, the Protocol does not provide for adequate monitoring and enforcement of these new property rights. Nor does it offer an achievable plan for allocating new permits, which would be essential if the system were expanded to include developing countries.

The collapse of the Kyoto Protocol--which Victor views as inevitable--will provide the political space to rethink strategy. Better alternatives would focus on policies that control emissions, such as emission taxes. Though economically sensible, however, a pure tax approach is impossible to monitor in practice. Thus, the author proposes a hybrid in which governments set targets for both emission quantities and tax levels. This offers the important advantages of both emission trading and taxes without the debilitating drawbacks of each.

Individuals at all levels of environmental science, economics, public policy, and politics-from students to professionals--and anyone else hoping to participate in the debate over how to slow global warming will want to read this book.

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About the author

David G. Victor is Director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
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Additional Information

Princeton University Press
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Published on
Oct 12, 2011
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Best For
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Nature / Environmental Conservation & Protection
Political Science / International Relations / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
Political Science / Public Policy / Environmental Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.

In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.

In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.

Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.
It’s December 1997, and a man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East. The tiger isn’t just killing people, it’s annihilating them, and a team of men and their dogs must hunt it on foot through the forest in the brutal cold. As the trackers sift through the gruesome remains of the victims, they discover that these attacks aren’t random: the tiger is apparently engaged in a vendetta. Injured, starving, and extremely dangerous, the tiger must be found before it strikes again.

As he re-creates these extraordinary events, John Vaillant gives us an unforgettable portrait of this spectacularly beautiful and mysterious region. We meet the native tribes who for centuries have worshipped and lived alongside tigers, even sharing their kills with them. We witness the arrival of Russian settlers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, soldiers and hunters who greatly diminished the tiger populations. And we come to know their descendants, who, crushed by poverty, have turned to poaching and further upset the natural balance of the region.

This ancient, tenuous relationship between man and predator is at the very heart of this remarkable book. Throughout we encounter surprising theories of how humans and tigers may have evolved to coexist, how we may have developed as scavengers rather than hunters, and how early Homo sapiens may have fit seamlessly into the tiger’s ecosystem. Above all, we come to understand the endangered Siberian tiger, a highly intelligent super-predator that can grow to ten feet long, weigh more than six hundred pounds, and range daily over vast territories of forest and mountain.

Beautifully written and deeply informative, The Tiger circles around three main characters: Vladimir Markov, a poacher killed by the tiger; Yuri Trush, the lead tracker; and the tiger himself. It is an absolutely gripping tale of man and nature that leads inexorably to a final showdown in a clearing deep in the taiga.

From the Hardcover edition.
This book proposes a simple framework for understanding the political economy of subsidy reform and applies it to four in-depth country studies covering more than 30 distinct episodes of reform. Five key lessons emerge. First, energy subsidies often follow a life cycle, beginning as a way to stabilize prices and reduce exposure to price volatility for low-income consumers. However, as they grow in size and political power, they become entrenched. Second, subsidy reform strategies vary because the underlying political economy problems vary. When benefits are concentrated, satisfying (or isolating) interest groups with alternative policies is an important condition for effective reform. When benefits are diffuse, it can be much harder to identify and manage the political coalition needed for reform. Third, governments vary in their administrative and political capacities to implement difficult energy subsidy reforms. Fourth, improvements in social protection systems are often critical to the success of reforms because they make it possible to target assistance to those most in need. Finally, the most interesting cases involve governments that take a strategic approach to the challenges of political economy. In these settings, fixing energy subsidies is central to the governments’ missions of retaining political power and reorganizing how the government delivers benefits to the population. These cases are examples of “reform engineering,†? where governments actively seek to create the capacity to implement alternative policies, depoliticize tariffs, and build credibility around alternative policies. The most successful reforms involve active efforts by policy leaders to identify the political forces supporting energy subsidies and redirect or inoculate them.
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