Michael Northrop, of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, gives some facts and figures about the benefits industry is deriving from the Kyoto Treaty in a Washington Post op-ed. With the small quibble that alternatives to burning fuels that produce carbon dioxide may have their problems too, this is a good example of the benefits of engagement.
Opponents of the Kyoto Treaty have used extrapolations of current trends to argue that only economic damage can result to the developed countries from the restrictions the treaty imposes. However, for a very basic change in the way business is done, simple extrapolations may not be accurate predictions.
Kyoto regulates carbon dioxide emissions. Before Kyoto, "emissions" usually applied to low-level amounts of dangerous chemicals, like nitrogen oxides from cars or mercury from coal-fired power plants, that were not essential to producing power. The production of carbon dioxide is not an option in combustion, whether the fuel is coal, natural gas, or biomass. It's also the natural product of animal metabolism: what you breathe out is carbon dioxide. The use of the same word for both types of product masks that fundamental difference. Another big carbon dioxide producer is the cement industry, and there too the product is an essential part of the process.
Northrop notes that companies like IBM and DuPont have realized savings from increased energy efficiency and decreased carbon dioxide emissions, motivated by Kyoto. Britain is experiencing improved economic health due to its Kyoto-inspired energy plans.
There has always been a conservative tendency to regard all change as detrimental. But new technologies and new ways to order the world have more often been beneficial. Combustible fuels are finite, and the move away from them will come sooner or later. The signatories of the Kyoto Treaty have decided to make that sooner.
The United States, over the past decade or so, has decided to conservatively avoid such changes, particularly in the area of fossil fuels. The mindset extends to a magnificent isolation that will allow other countries to surpass the US technically and economically. This magnificent isolation diplomatically has the potential for much more damage.