The Relief Report ®


A newsletter covering regulatory reform efforts in Washington and across America, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research

501 Capitol Court, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 543-4110 * Fax (202) 543-5975
E-mail [email protected]
Web http://www.nationalcenter.org


Issue #87 * December 29, 2000 * David A. Ridenour, Editor

SPECIAL KYOTO ISSUE

Contents:

The Kyoto Global Warming Treaty is Dead

With the Kyoto Treaty Dead, Environmentalists Take Incremental Approach

 

The Kyoto Global Warming Treaty is Dead

Negotiated by the Clinton Administration in December 1997, the Kyoto treaty would have required the United States and other major industrialized nations to make economically-drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions to combat the alleged threat of man-made global warming.

From November 13-24, the U.S. and most of the world's nations met at a United Nations meeting in The Hague, Netherlands ostensibly to finalize the details about how nations are supposed to implement the terms of the treaty.

Instead, the delegates presided over a virtual wake.

After more than two years of fighting adamant U.S. Senate opposition to the treaty and growing scientific skepticism about the validity of the global warming theory, it is now clear that the Kyoto treaty is going nowhere, domestically or internationally.

Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Climate Change, one of the treaty's most vocal advocates, says Kyoto's unrealistic carbon dioxide reduction targets for the U.S., a 30-40% reduction in emissions by 2010, make it "very difficult, if not impossible" to overcome opponents' opposition. Claussen calls for a correction in "the flaws in the Kyoto framework." Likewise, Roger Pielke of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research says Kyoto will fail because of "political and technical realities."

That political reality is the unacceptable sacrifices Kyoto would require of the American people. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the Kyoto treaty would cost the U.S. economy $400 billion per year, raise electric utility bills by 86% and impose a permanent "Kyoto gasoline tax" of 66 cents per gallon. Black Americans and other minorities would pay an especially steep price. Independent econometric studies conclude that the treaty would result in the loss of 1.4 million jobs, 100,000 fewer businesses and a $2,500 cut in the average annual family incomes of black and Hispanic families.

As if the shocking economic costs were not enough of an argument against the Kyoto treaty, the mounting scientific evidence questioning the impact of human behavior on climate change has increasingly robbed global warming theorists of their veneer of scientific credibility. Pielke admitted as much when he said, "Each new scientific finding only raises new questions" about the truth of the global warming theory and that climate science, instead of being a pillar for theory advocates, can "turn around and bite you."

Probably the biggest bite climate science has taken out of the global warming theory is that NASA weather satellites, the most accurate measurement of global temperature, indicate that the Earth stopped warming more than 20 years ago. This contradicts the prediction of global warming theory proponents that global warming would cause the temperature to increase by 0.6°F between 1979 and 2000.6 Casting further doubt on the prognostications of global warming theorists is that satellite data show that, during 1999 and 2000, the lower atmosphere over the tropics was cooler than at any other time in the past 22 years. Noted climate scientist Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville says, "This is curious. According to the climate models used to calculate the enhanced greenhouse effect, the warming should have been particularly rapid in the air over the tropics."

But it turns out that whatever global warming or cooling may occur, Man is not to blame. Many scientists believe that the main factor influencing changes in the Earth's temperature is the Sun. Several European and American scientists say that data from the European Space Agency's Soho satellite and other astronomical data show that the Sun, not Man's burning of fossil fuels, is the main cause of the global warming that occurred between 1850 and the mid-20th century. Scientists specializing in solar research say earlier computer models that were used to make dramatic claims about theorized human-induced warming severely underestimated the increase in the amount of energy radiated by the Sun over the last 150 years. They conclude that it is pointless to impose taxes on fuels in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Paul Brekke, Soho's deputy project scientist, says that whatever other merits there may be in taxing fuel, "our evidence suggests it will not be much help in keeping the Earth cool."

It is also not apparent that rising carbon dioxide levels necessarily cause the temperature to increase. An article that appeared this year in the science magazine Nature shows that, in numerous instances throughout Earth's geological history, increases and decreases in carbon dioxide were not followed by respective increases or decreases in global temperature. For example, 60 million years ago, the atmosphere had a carbon dioxide concentration of 3600 parts per million (ppm), far more than today's ratio of about 360 ppm. Thirteen million years later, the carbon dioxide concentration dramatically fell to 500 ppm. But instead of causing global cooling, the reduced carbon dioxide concentration coincided with a temperature increase. Several million years later, the carbon dioxide level jumped all the way up to 2400 ppm. And the temperature? There was a slight decrease in global temperature, contradicting the assumption that rising carbon dioxide levels automatically trigger global warming.

It's no wonder that even environmentalists are accepting the fact that the Kyoto treaty is a dead letter. The staggering economic sacrifices are simply not justified by the growing scientific skepticism that human activities are causing the planet to warm and about carbon dioxide's role in climate change. For environmentalists, The Hague meeting is a bitter dose of reality.

by John Carlisle

With the Kyoto Treaty Dead, Environmentalists Take Incremental Approach

For the moment, Americans can breathe a sigh of relief that the Kyoto global warming treaty will not turn their standard of living upside down - but only for a moment.

Negotiated by the Clinton Administration in December 1997, Kyoto would have required the United States and other industrialized nations to make economically-drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions to combat the alleged threat of man-made global warming.

But the U.S. and more than 170 nations, convening at a United Nations meeting in The Hague, Netherlands in November, were unable to agree on terms implementing the treaty. The main disagreement centered on a bitter dispute between the U.S. and the European Union on whether the U.S. could count its forests toward meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets. U.S. negotiators desperately pressed for more economically-friendly ways to meet Kyoto's onerous goals. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Kyoto would cost the U.S. economy $400 billion per year, raise electric utility bills by 80 to 85% and impose a permanent "Kyoto gasoline tax" of 45 to 55 cents per gallon.

Because forests absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide, American negotiators wanted to count its forests and other "carbon sinks" toward its emissions reductions targets. By counting the carbon dioxide absorbed by forests, the U.S. would not have had to rely as much on onerous - and politically unacceptable - carbon taxes and regulations to meet Kyoto's emissions reductions targets. However, European nations objected that the U.S. was trying to dodge its treaty obligations and rejected a last minute compromise that would have allowed the U.S. to include forests.

Commenting on the European refusal to compromise on the "carbon sinks," Frank Loy, the chief U.S. negotiator at The Hague said, "I think it is fair to say that was a pretty important opportunity that was not cashed in on."

The question now is, what next? Even before The Hague debacle, environmentalists knew that the global warming battle was shifting from the international arena to the domestic arena. At a Washington, D.C. conference in April, representatives of major environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense, agreed that while Kyoto is politically unrealistic, incremental policies aimed at regulating carbon dioxide emissions are achievable. That view was echoed by congressional staff members present at The Hague conference. Said one senate staffer, "Regardless of the outcome here, the stage is set in Congress next year to consider addressing this issue in a way that makes economic and environmental sense."

Indeed, environmentalists are already gearing up their lobbying campaign. The Aspen Institute recently published a book, U.S. Policy and the Global Environment: Memos to the President, that will be sent to the new Congress and President. The thrust of the book's essays is that while it is impossible to ratify Kyoto, the U.S. can still take unilateral steps that would eventually bind the U.S. to the treaty in five to ten years. One contributor, John Holdren, says that instead of pressing for carbon taxes of $100 or $200 per ton as required by Kyoto, Congress could implement a less ambitious plan that would get "our toes wet with a tax of $20 per ton." What that translates into is soaking the American people with a $30 billion tax increase.

It never occurs to environmentalists that these costly carbon taxes purport to address a problem that may not exist. Many scientists, including some of those who subscribe to the global warming theory, do not believe that rising carbon dioxide levels are contributing to global warming. Dr. James Hansen, the godfather of the global warming theorists, says that "it is the non-CO2 [Greenhouse Gases] that have caused most observed warming." Other scientists do not even believe humans are responsible for global warming. Several European and American scientists say that data from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Soho satellite show that the Sun, not human burning of fossil fuels, is the main cause of the global warming that occurred between 1850 and the mid-20th century. Paul Brekke, Soho's deputy project scientist, says that whatever other merits there may be in taxing fuel, "our evidence suggests it will not be much help in keeping the Earth cool."

But environmentalists ignore these facts in their single-minded rush to foist costly taxes on the American people. The Kyoto global warming treaty may be a dead letter but its spirit is still very much alive.

by John Carlisle



Editorial correspondence to The Relief Report should be directed to: The National Center for Public Policy Research * 501 Capitol Court, N.E. * Washington, D.C. 20002 * (202) 543-4110 * Fax (202) 543-5975 * E-mail [email protected] * Web http://www.nationalcenter.org. Copyright 2000, The National Center for Public Policy Research. Coverage of meetings, activities or statements in the Relief Report does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints of material in the Relief Report permitted provided source is credited. To receive all National Center newsletters free by e-mail, visit http://www.nationalcenter.org or send an e-mail to: mailing [email protected].


 Search this site.

 Return toRelief Report Index Page  Return to the National Center for Public Policy Research Home Page