Book Reviews: Crucial Issues in Climate change and the Kyoto protocol: Asia & the World

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Climate change is generally acknowledged as one of the world's great human, economic and ecological threats. Yet as Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh notes in his foreword to this book, in much of Asia, recognition of these threats is only now 'slowly dawning', and has not affected public opinion. The majority of Ambassador Koh's friends 'do not understand the problem'. There is scepticism about climate change per se and many in Asia treat the IPCC reports on science as 'just one point of view'. Others acknowledge that global warming is real, but regard it as a problem caused by the developed nations, who should therefore take primary responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Asia, however, is the world's most peopled continent and will be severely affected by global climate change. Furthermore, it is a growing emitter of greenhouse gases. Policy-makers, politicians, lawyers and scholars in Asia must therefore address how Asian nations will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

This book is an important effort to explain climate change and the issues Asia faces. It can help build capacity to enable Asian nations effectively to participate in market-based mechanisms and realistically contribute to fashioning a post-Kyoto climate change legal regime. It is also a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the legal structure and operation of emerging market-based schemes. The book is aimed at policy-makers in Asia, but it is also an important resource for lawyers, scholars and policy-makers who seek to understand how the diverse nations of Asia are responding to climate change. It is unfortunate, however, that the title refers to the role of the Kyoto Protocol, which makes the book sound dated, because the substance of the text extends well beyond the confines of Kyoto; it aims at post-Kyoto law and policy.

The book begins by setting the stage legally, institutionally, and scientifically Professor Nicholas Robinson (Pace University Law School) opens with an overview of the inadequate climate-related law and governance in Southeast Asia: few nations have a high government official empowered to address climate change; instead the issue is relegated to low-level officials who have minimal influence over new policy. Robinson provides an international law context by comparing the worlds relatively urgent response to the global threat from the depletion of stratospheric ozone by chlorofluorocarbons with the world's tepid response to global warming. This legal review is reinforced by Scott Valentine's (National University of Singapore) analysis of the need for national climate planning in the region - a governance paradigm shift that will require a significant catalyst to happen. The introductory section concludes with Jeff Obbard's (National University of Singapore) cogent, accessible review of climate science and the relationship between science and policy.

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