Ryan Interviewed on Copenhagen – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Ryan Interviewed on Copenhagen

Hobart senior Benjamin Ryan was recently featured in a Finger Lakes Times article for his attendance at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen as head of the HWS and Finger Lakes Institute delegation.

“At the conference, he attended some exclusive events held by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” according to the article.

It continued, “From Edenhofer, Ryan said, he gained some perspective on what kind of approach a climate-change policy should use. Rather than proposals like cap and trade or trade rights to pollute, the more practical option might be a carbon tax, where fossil fuel emissions would require payments.”

Ryan is quoted, “I knew a lot going in, but I needed to talk to … people on a similar type of level.”

Currently working with Associate Professor of Economics Tom Drennen on an honors project, titled “Building a Better Kyoto,” Ryan saw firsthand the negotiations among several countries involved in the Kyoto Protocol, as he continued to collect data for his thesis, which is, as he puts it, “a critique of Kyoto Protocol and why it’s failed, and an analysis of which options would be best for the future.”

A Daily Update story about Ryan’s experience in Copenhagen is online.

The full article from the Finger Lakes Times follows.


Finger Lakes Times
Hobart student delves into climate change issues

David Taube • December 31, 2009

GENEVA – A trip this month to Copenhagen, Denmark, gave one Hobart College senior some expert opinions on international policy and lightbulbs.

Benjamin Ryan visited the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference, where delegates hoped to agree on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol environmental treaty that expires in three years.

“It would be great if everyone could stop emissions tomorrow,” Ryan said. “But it’s very unlikely. Cars will pollute, the United States will continue to grow, China will continue to develop. … We have to understand, it’s a tragedy of the commons.”

He was referring to a 1968 essay by Garrett Hardin, which used a common cattle pasture as a metaphor for development. A pasture open to everyone would be ruined if each herdsman added as many animals as possible, rather than restricting it in order to preserve enough grass to sustain the cattle, Hardin wrote.

Ryan’s honor’s thesis, “Building a Better Kyoto,” will explore ways to improve the status quo, using more contemporary examples such as cars and lightbulbs.

The Kyoto Protocol involved 37 countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the United States refused to participate.

“In the Kyoto Protocol, the allocations weren’t fairly distributed, and the U.S. would have taken a huge hit,” Ryan said.

At the conference, he attended some exclusive events held by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That was made possible through his designation as head of delegation from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the Finger Lakes Institute.

From Edenhofer, Ryan said, he gained some perspective on what kind of approach a climate-change policy should use. Rather than proposals like cap and trade or trade rights to pollute, the more practical option might be a carbon tax, where fossil fuel emissions would require payments.

Ryan said Edenhofer suggested that cap-and-trade policy – where carbon dioxide-producing facilities have restrictions on the amount released into the atmosphere – wouldn’t work by itself, but that a multi-pronged approach was necessary for successful climate reform.

The two discussed one-on-one some of those additional approaches, Ryan said, one of which was using compact fluorescent lightbulbs as a way to mandate energy savings.

But although compact fluorescents would generate savings in the long run, people generally avoid buying them because of initial cost, he said. Consumers prefer to use their money today rather than invest and earn savings in the future, he said.

According to Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site, a qualified compact fluorescent light bulb saves $30 over its lifetime and pays for itself in about six months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.

But even though people save in the long run, the loss of immediate purchasing power leads them to fail to take the lifetime payback, Ryan said.

“I knew a lot going in, but I needed to talk to … people on a similar type of level,” Ryan said.

The conference afforded him that opportunity – he met with German delegates, including their energy minister, for a luncheon.

“They knew so much,” he said.