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 # 309  

 September 2000




Treaty to Combat Unproven Global Warming Threat Would Hurt Americans' Standard of Living

By John K. Carlisle

 

Engaging in the global warming debate is often akin to a journey into the surreal.

Proponents of the theory that man-made greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, are dangerously heating up the planet urge politicians and the American people to support U.S. Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty signed by the Clinton Administration that would require the U.S. and other developed nations to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

What is surreal, however, is that the Kyoto treaty, which would severely harm the economy by causing major job losses and price increases, addresses a crisis for which there is minimal scientific evidence.

Major predictions of the results of human-induced climate change, such as higher temperatures and severe droughts, have failed to materialize and an accumulating body of scientific evidence strongly suggests that other climate phenomena that environmentalists point to as evidence of global warming can be ascribed to natural causes.

Just recently, environmentalists raised a scare when The New York Times and Associated Press ran stories that "revealed" that open water had been spotted on the North Pole for the first time in 50 million years, a supposed indication of a melting polar ice cap caused by global warming.1 As is usually the case, though, this latest global warming scare has no basis in fact. Climate experts say that open water at the North Pole is quite common. A 1969 Dutch atlas reads: "The North Pole Ice Sea is never completely frozen; 3- to 30-meter-thick ice floes continue moving slowly around the pole." During summer, the temperature often rises to above freezing, thus melting the ice.2

Further confounding global warming theory proponents is that NASA weather satellites, the most accurate barometers of global temperature, show that the Earth has slightly cooled since 1979. This contradicts their long-standing prediction that human-induced warming would cause the temperature to increase 0.6° F between 1979 and 2000.3

Despite this lack of scientific support, environmentalists insist that the American people should take their word for it that global warming is a reality, support ratification of the Kyoto global warming treaty and accept the resulting sacrifices in standard of living. And those sacrifices are great indeed. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, Kyoto would reduce the real gross domestic product by $400 billion, permanently raise the price of gasoline by 66 cents per gallon, increase the price of electricity by 86% and add $1,740 to the typical household's annual energy bill.4 Other economic studies are equally disturbing. WEFA, an economic information and consulting firm, reports that 2.4 million jobs would be lost if Kyoto was ratified and manufacturing wages reduced by 2.1%. Because the economy is so energy dependent, Kyoto would also impose a 14.5% tax increase for basic goods. Grocery bills would increase by 9%, medical bills by 11% and housing costs would rise 21% because of an increase in the cost of materials.5

Minorities would be especially hard-hit. A report commissioned by six African-American and Hispanic organizations, including the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, concludes that the treaty would reduce the earnings of black and Hispanic workers by 10% and throw 864,000 blacks and 511,000 Hispanics out of work. Commenting on the negative impact of Kyoto on minorities, Oscar Sanchez, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, says: "Some people seem to forget the harsh lessons that we learned in the 1970s when an inadequate energy policy resulted in economic devastation for millions within the black and Hispanic communities."6

More astounding than environmentalists' insistence that Americans support Kyoto without providing evidence for man-made warming is that key supporters of the global warming theory are disavowing the Kyoto treaty as unworkable or unnecessary. Dr. James Hansen, the NASA scientist who inaugurated the global warming debate in 1988, said then that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were causing the temperatures to rise and predicted that this would lead to severe climate impacts such as increased drought by the end of the 20th century. In 1998, Hansen candidly admitted that his predictions did not come true. When he made his predictions, Hansen said, he failed to take into account that significant amounts of carbon dioxide are absorbed by forests, the soil and the ocean.7

In August of this year, Hansen announced that carbon dioxide, the target of the onerous Kyoto Protocol, is not even the problem. Hansen, who still subscribes to the global warming theory, says that the potential warming effect of rising carbon dioxide is negated by the cooling effect of human aerosol emissions. Now, he says, "it is the non CO2 [Greenhouse Gases] that have caused most observed global warming."8 So instead of worrying about carbon dioxide emissions from cars and power plants, Hansen says that we should now worry about methane emissions from sources such as cows, rice paddies, leaky natural gas lines and oil drilling sites.9 As for the Kyoto treaty, Hansen says it should be abandoned because it not only targets the wrong greenhouse gas but it is bad for international relations because it "cast the developed and developing worlds as adversaries."10

Given the lack of evidence for man-made warming plus the growing disagreements among global warming theory proponents about the role of carbon dioxide, it is simply unconscionable for environmentalists to demand that the American people support the economically-disastrous Kyoto treaty. In its zeal to push its ideological agenda, the environmental movement seems to forget that it is playing with peoples' lives.



Footnotes:

1 "North Pole Not as Wet As Reported," Associated Press, August 20, 2000.

2 S. Fred Singer, "Sure, the North Pole is Melting. So What?," Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2000.

3 John Carlisle, "Failure to Predict Blizzard Reveal Perils of Global Warming Predictions," National Policy Analysis #277, The National Center For Public Policy Research, Washington, DC, February 2000.

4 "Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on the United States," Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC, October 1998.

5 "Global Climate Change Policy, U.S. Living Standards and Environmental Quality, WEFA, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1997.

6 "Study Says Global Warming Treaty Will Hurt U.S. Minorities," Associated Press, July 6, 2000.

7 "NASA Scientist: Greening Biosphere Stunts Warming," World Climate Report, 1998.

8 David Wojick, "Hansen Plan Jolts Climate Community," Electricity Daily, September 2000.

9 James Hansen, et. al., "Global Warming in the Twenty-First Century: An Alternative Scenario," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 97, Issue 18, 9875-9880, August 29, 2000.

10 Virtual Climate Alert, The Greening Earth Society, Vol. 1, No. 26, Arlington, Virginia, August 17, 2000.



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John K. Carlisle is director of The National Center for Public Policy Research's Environmental Policy Task Force. He can be reached at [email protected].



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