The justifications for the Kyoto Protocol are essentially fraudulent. If you and I both were both atmospheric scientists and economists, then perhaps I could prove this to you by discussing the chemistry of carbon dioxide and by providing numerous charts and tables. But I'm not and (probably) you're not, and even if I were, it would be wrong for me to try to convince you by using material that you are not qualified to understand. Furthermore, my point is not that the justifications are false -- I don't know if they are or not -- but that they are almost always fraudulent. I will show they are fraudulent by referring to the statements and claims made by the proponents of the protocols; these statements make it absolutely clear that all the proponents I've ever encountered -- if not ignorant and delusional -- are extraordinarily dishonest.
I will first show that Kyoto was a fraud when the conference first occurred in 1997. Then I will show that it continues to be a fraud to this day.
Proof that Kyoto was a fraud
In 1995 the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued its Second Assessment Report on climate change. This report was often cited as a one of the main justifications for the Kyoto protocol, for example by Greenpeace. This justification is less than compelling since the IPCC is generally acknowledged to be a left-leaning organization. What makes the justification disingenuous, however, is that the IPCC report contained a summary that itself contained a summary about the scientific consensus at the time:
Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of longterm natural variability and the timeevolving pattern of forcing by, and response to, changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and land surface changes. Nevertheless, the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.I've put the five main waffle words in bold face. Notice that the statement doesn't even mention global warming, since presumably the consensus for that would have been even weaker. This summary makes it absolutely clear that the scientific consensus did not in any way whatsoever justify taking any action at all on climate change, let alone enormously expensive action.
Now if anyone had justified Kyoto by saying that the justification was in spite of the IPCC report -- as far as I know, nobody did -- and then went on to argue that the report was right-biased (in fact many of its authors argued that the conclusions were left-biased) or out-dated, then this justification might have been respectable. (As far as I know) no one argued this way.
Proof that Kyoto is a fraud
In 2001 the IPCC released it's third report on climate change. Unlike the earlier report, this one had a conclusion blaming human activity for causing a large amount of global warming. (Let us ignore the fact that these conclusions have been contested by some of the authors of the report.) Perhaps now, Kyoto really is justified. But I have not heard one single person say, "Yes, Kyoto was a fraud that was not justified by the scientific consensus at the time, but, as it turns out, it is now justified by the scientific consensus of the current time." Rather, most supporters pretend that the consensus has always been there, and has merely gotten stronger. I believe that most of them are lying to us. Furthermore, they usually try to ignore the costs altogether, and only refer to them at all when forced to. And most incredibly, they hardly ever talk about the benefits, and when they do, they usually admit that the benefits are insignificant.
Why do it then? The reasons ultimately become rather mystical: it is about "respecting the planet", about "taking the first step", etc. "Ecotheology" anyone? And of course all skeptics are dismissed as being Oil Company Shills or fundamentalists or people-guilty-of-politicizing-science.
The real scientists are the most despicable here. A serious expert who believes that human activity is causing disastrous global warming, and who has studied the economic costs of Kyoto and considers them worthwhile payment in exchange for the benefits, would say something like the following:
Kyoto was a fraud, but now we should do it. I have nothing but disgust for the dishonest, theological, politicizing by the Left that makes it so embarrassing for any serious person to support Kyoto. I respect the arguments of Bjorn Lomborg that the money could best be spent on things other than Kyoto, but I disagree, for reasons that require more space than I have available here. I also respect scientists such as Lindzen and Singer who disagree with me on the science part, but the subject has been so badly politicized that I have no idea which of us better represents the consensus. Al Gore is jerk.Speaking of Gore, I think his support for the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" was a turning point. Most Kyoto people now have so little confidence in their own predictions of global warming that they are preparing an explanation for any eventual global cooling: "It was caused by global warming". And if the weather doesn't seem to be changing much, it will be because the warming and the warming-caused cooling are balancing each other out ... for now. This story points out that the term "global warming" is gradually being replaced by the term "global climate change", and that the nature of the "climate change" in question is endlessly shifting.
Lastly, I refer the reader to Dan's excellent post (one of his best ever) on the subject.
Update: Dan has asked me to be more specific when accusing people of fraud. In reality, there are too many individuals to mention, and they are nasty, scary people. But I will name some organizations: the seventeen national science academies that issued a joint statement supporting Kyoto in the journal Science in May, 2001. The full text of that statement is not available for free online; it is described here, and the complete version is every bit as awful as one might imagine.