Kyoto Will Rival Gosplan

Next year the Kyoto Protocol will be an international treaty. For those who heavily lobbied Russia to ratify it, this is cause for celebration. But for most of the world, it is bad news. The Kyoto Protocol is destructive for science and the environment, for public health and safety, for economic growth and for the international fight against hunger and poverty.

Kyoto is scientifically unsubstantiated. Climate change is an inalienable feature of Earth. But it is not proved that concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes changes in global temperature. Variations in energy flow from the sun determine our climate much more than anything else, including emissions of greenhouse gases. Historically, global temperature has fluctuated more than the increase of 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In the past, Earth's climate was warmer, the global temperature rose faster, the sea level was higher, floods were more severe, droughts lasted longer and hurricanes were more devastating than they were in the 20th century. Even during Roman and medieval "climatic optimums," when virtually no fossil fuels were burned, temperatures were higher than today. Climate change is real, but it is caused by forces of nature, not of humankind.

Kyoto harms ecology and health. Propaganda wrongly equates greenhouse gases with air pollutants. Yet none of the six gases referred to in the Kyoto Protocol is considered toxic. The protocol tackles none of the real air pollutants. What is more, modern environmental cleaning processes are based on chemical reactions that create additional carbon dioxide as a by-product. Limiting such emissions means limiting implementation of the most efficient technologies.

A warm climate is better for human health. Hundreds of millions of people holiday in warmer, not colder, places.

In any case, settlement in Siberia is a practical test of the sincerity of those concerned about "global warming."

Higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is associated with stronger growth of plants, because the gas supplies carbon, one of their building blocks. Numerous studies have confirmed that CO2 is conducive to agricultural productivity, irrespective of temperature. Limiting CO2 emissions therefore impedes food production and the fight against famine.

Kyoto is devastating to economic growth. Carbon dioxide is a natural result of the use of fossil fuels that still account for more than 80 percent of energy consumed globally. Since nuclear energy today is the only commercially viable alternative, Kyoto means more nuclear power stations. For green activists and Eurocrats, such an outcome looks desirable.

But even with nuclear energy, there are objective limits to how fast hydrocarbons can be replaced. Therefore, limiting emissions means limiting energy consumption, economic activity and technological progress.

Kyoto's followers are already paying a heavy price. Since 1997, slower emissions growth in 17 pro-Kyoto high-income countries (the 15 pre-enlargement members of the EU, Canada and Japan) than in 11 non-Kyoto countries (including the United States, Australia and South Korea) has been associated with slower growth in gross domestic product (1.9 percent annually against 3.3 percent) and a slower reduction in carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon emitted per unit of GDP. There is no way to cheat economic laws: Those who grow faster invest more and implement more efficient technologies. Europeans must choose which of the Kyoto Protocol and the Lisbon agenda is closer to their hearts and pockets. The aims of the two agreements are incompatible.

The Kyoto Protocol requires a supranational bureaucratic monster in charge of rationing emissions and, therefore, economic activities. The Kyotoist system of quota allocation, mandatory restrictions and harsh penalties will be a sort of international Gosplan, a system to rival the former Soviet Union's.

The majority of humankind does not accept this system, despite claims of worldwide support. Even with Russia's ratification, 75 percent of the world's CO2 is emitted by, 68 percent of the world's GDP is produced in, and 89 percent of the world's population lives in countries that are not handcuffed by Kyoto's restrictions. Like fascism and communism, Kyotoism is an attack on basic human freedoms behind a smoke screen of propaganda. Like those ideologies of human hatred, it will be exposed and defeated.

Andrei Illarionov is economic adviser to the president. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the position of the Russian authorities. This comment first appeared in the Financial Times.