Hypocrisy in Buenos Aires: Millions of Gallons of Fuel to Be Burned By Those Seeking Curbs on Fuel Use

Next month, the American people will witness an extraordinary act of hypocrisy: Millions of gallons of fuel will be burned as a direct result of an international conference convened to curb fossil fuel use.

On November 2, the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the latest round of international negotiations intended to reduce world greenhouse gas emissions (ghgs) and the “threat” of global warming, will begin in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The central mission of the COP-4 meeting will be to hammer out further details of the global warming accord reached last December in Kyoto, Japan. Under that agreement, the United States agreed to reduce its ghgs by seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012 – a real cut of 30% below what they would naturally be once population and economic growth are factored in. This means that the U.S. will be required to reduce its fossil fuel use by roughly the same amount – 30% – as ghgs are produced when fossil fuels are burned.

With over 9,000 diplomats, journalists, environmentalists and other observers likely to attend the COP-4 meeting, millions of gallons of fuel will be burned as a direct result of the conference – a fact that doesn’t seem to bother proponents of the global warming theory who will take part in the event.

An environmentalist flying from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires to participate in the COP-4 meeting, for example, will burn 195 gallons of jet fuel1 to make the 12,240-mile2 round-trip journey. This figure assumes travel on a Boeing-747-400 flight at full capacity with the total fuel consumption spread evenly among passengers. The Boeing 747 is one of the few aircraft capable of making the flight to Buenos Aires without multiple fuel stops.

Other aircraft would require even greater fuel consumption. The same Los Angeles to Buenos Aires trip would require 258 gallons of jet fuel per passenger on a L-1011-500 and 215 gallons per passenger on a MD-11.3

But some participants in the COP-4 meeting will require even more fuel to attend. A diplomat from Tokyo, for example, will burn 364 gallons of jet fuel for his or her 22,800-mile round-trip journey (assuming travel by Boeing 747-400). Meanwhile, observers from Berlin (14,760 miles), Moscow (16,760 miles), and Peking (23,940 miles) will burn 235, 267 and 380 gallons of fuel, respectively. Assuming that the average COP-4 participant travels just 12,000 miles, over 1.7 million gallons of fuel will be burned for the conference.4 And this is only the tip of the iceberg: Many more gallons of fuel will be burned for the taxicabs, lighting, air-conditioning and security needed at the event.

The spectacle of millions of gallons of fuel being burned so that diplomats, politicians and environmentalists can attend a conference to lecture people on how they must make sacrifices to reduce fossil fuel use is incongruous, to say the least. But its not the first time global warming theory proponents have been inconsistent.

For example, President Clinton and other western leaders have regularly argued that reducing greenhouse gases emissions – while inconvenient – would have negligible effects on western economies. Yet, these same leaders gave developing nations a free pass at last year’s conference in Kyoto, Japan, allowing these nations’ greenhouse gas emissions to grow unabated because they feared that limits on developing nations’ emissions could hinder economic progress.

President Clinton and other western leaders have also told us that greenhouse gas emissions must be stabilized soon if we are to avert catastrophic global warming. Yet, by signing a treaty in Kyoto that exempts developing nations from any emissions reductions whatsoever, these officials guaranteed that such emissions will not be stabilized by 2012 or any other year in the foreseeable future. Even before industrialized nations agreed to substantially reduce their emissions last December, developing nations were expected to experience the greatest growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Between 1990 and 1995 alone, Brazil’s emissions grew by 20%, India’s by 28%, Indonesia’s by 40% and China’s by 27%.5 Over the next two decades, developing nations will be responsible as much as 60% of all greenhouse emissions.6

Perhaps the greatest contradiction, however, is that global warming theory advocates’ dire warnings about the dangers of global warming have simply not matched reality. Newly-calculated satellite data indicates that the planet has not been warming at all, but cooling slightly since 1979.7

If world leaders are to assume the moral high ground in calling on people to make the sacrifices necessary to reduce world fossil fuel use, they must first lead by example. To begin with, they can stop holding multi-million dollar junkets, like the upcoming meeting in Buenos Aires, that needlessly contribute to overall greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps by doing so, greenhouse gases wouldn’t be the only hot air curbed.


David A. Ridenour is Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank, where he oversees the group’s environmental programs. Comments may be sent to [email protected].



1 “Aircraft Operating Statistics – 1996,” supplied by the Air Transport Association, December, 1997.
2 “Air Distances Between Selected World Cities,” InfoHighway (Rocky Mountain Internet).
3 “Aircraft Operating Statistics – 1996,” supplied by the Air Transport Association, December, 1997.
4 Ibid.
5 “Vital Signs 1997,” Worldwatch Institute, 1997.
6 “AFL-CIO Breaks With Administration on Climate Treaty,” Environment News, June 1997.
7 Dr. Roy Spencer, “Measuring the Temperature of Earth From Space,” NASA Space Science News, August 14, 1998.

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