The Kyoto Protocol was adopted by all but a few countries on this day in 1997, entering into force in 2005. Over the past decade, many countries have expressed doubts about or just failed to heed the Protocol’s guidelines on greenhouse gas emissions. Like many modern environmental scientists, Columbia University’s James Hansen says that the Kyoto plan was flawed from the start, and that the planet is in desperate need of a workable replacement. Unfortunately, says Hansen in his Preface to Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, our politicians are unlikely to overcome “the undue sway of special interests” and deliver what’s needed:
I am sorry to say that most of what politicians are doing on the climate front is greenwashing — their proposals sound good, but they are deceiving you and themselves at the same time. Politicians think that if matters look difficult, compromise is a good approach. Unfortunately, nature and the laws of physics cannot compromise — they are what they are.
With nature unable to compromise and politicians greenwashing their hands, Hansen sees only one viable, urgent option:
Citizens with a special interest — in their loved ones — need to become familiar with the science, exercise their democratic rights, and pay attention to politicians’ decisions. Otherwise, it seems, short-term special interests will hold sway in capitals around the world — and we are running out of time.
Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.