WASHINGTON — A new global warming treaty would be all
economic pain and little environmental gain for America even if China and other
fast-developing nations sign on as well. But if developing nations remain
exempted, it would be all economic pain and no environmental gain. Either way,
America should stay out! At the United Nations’ Conference on Climate Change in
Copenhagen in early December proponents of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — which
expires in 2012 — will try to hash out a new international agreement for
lowering carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, a
new global energy tax may be in the works.
The United States did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and for
good reason. Its provisions would have cost American consumers trillions, while
having virtually no impact on world temperatures.
Nonetheless, many in the international community want to
finalize stringent new post-2012 provisions at Copenhagen, or at least initiate
the process that would lead to such measures. They have also expressed optimism
that the Obama Administration would join in such an agreement.
However, the United States should follow the policy set out
in the Senate’s 1997 Byrd-Hagel resolution and not enter into any global
warming treaty that harms the American economy or leaves out major developing
nations. The resolution passed 95-0.
Despite that unanimous — and eminently reasonable —
resolution, then-Vice President Al Gore led the American delegation to Kyoto
and agreed to a treaty that violated both provisions.
President Clinton never submitted it for Senate
ratification, knowing full well that he could not possibly get the two-thirds’
support needed for a treaty that so unambiguously flouted Byrd-Hagel. Neither
did President Bush. Nor, for that matter, has President Obama.
The Byrd-Hagel resolution remains in effect and still
provides sound advice as we head into discussions about a post-Kyoto treaty in
A U.S. Energy Information Administration study projected
costs of U.S. compliance with the Kyoto treaty between $100 billion and $397
billion annually. Any serious attempt to create a new agreement in Copenhagen
would likely be far more expensive.
Proponents of Kyoto described its five percent greenhouse
gas emissions reduction targets as a “modest” step. Now, they say,
much tougher — and costlier — provisions are necessary. Thus the Byrd-Hagel
provision prohibiting economic harm would clearly be violated.
The other provision — that China and other developing
nations must commit to emissions reductions — is also very important. The
Byrd-Hagel resolution warned that “greenhouse gas emissions of developing
country parties are rapidly increasing and are expected to surpass emissions of
the United States and other (developed) countries as early as 2015.” Turns
out, that was a Pollyanna-ish projection. Emerging nations’ emissions began to
outpace the developed world’s emissions in 2005. They are projected to continue
increasing seven times faster than in the developed world.
China alone now out-emits the United States. Its emissions
growth through 2030 is projected to be nine times higher than ours. Yet China
insists on keeping its exemption from emissions reduction obligations,
regardless of what American does.
In effect, any reduction in emissions from the U.S. and
other developed nations would be swamped by growing emissions from developing
nations — even more so if developed-nation constraints shift economic activity
to exempted nations.
With or without America or China, any proposed solution to
global warming makes sense only to the extent global warming is a serious
problem in the first place, and there is growing reason for doubt. Indeed,
since 1997 — the Year of Kyoto — world temperatures have been remarkably flat.
The lack of global warming won’t stop global warming
activists in Copenhagen, but it should stop the U.S. government from embracing
an ineffective solution to an overstated problem.
Ben Lieberman is a senior policy analyst at the Thomas A.
Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. Readers
may write to the author in care of The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts
Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; Web site: www.heritage.org.
Information about Heritage’s funding may be found at http://www.heritage.org/about/reports.cfm.
Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.