First Step to What?

Published March 1, 2003

It was a treaty even Bill Clinton was afraid to submit to the Senate for approval.

Clinton’s own Department of Energy figured it would lower GDP by $397 billion and double the cost of energy. WEFA Inc., a respected economic consulting firm, projected it would result in the loss of 2.4 million jobs.

The Kyoto Protocol would have caused California to lose 278,000 jobs, New York to lose 140,000 jobs, and unemployment rates to reach 10 percent in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Montana. State tax revenues would have plummeted as companies struggled to turn profits and fewer people were working, and for less money. Federal and state governments would have been forced to drastically cut existing social welfare programs or raise taxes dramatically.

And this is just the beginning, said Kyoto’s supporters.

It’s Climate, Stupid

Kyoto, according to its supporters, would prevent 0.14ºC of global warming over the next century. Essentially, whatever global warming would have occurred by 2100 would occur by 2106 under the new program. For this, we are asked to lose a full month’s take-home pay every year, sentence our economy to a deep recession with no foreseeable end, and kick 2.4 million hard-working Americans into the unemployment line.

All this came to mind recently with news that Canada had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, meaning only Russia’s procrastination prevents the treaty from going into effect. (Russia’s act will mean countries representing 55 percent or more of emissions will have ratified the treaty, the trigger for its implementation. The U.S. has not ratified it, will not, and is not bound by its provisions.)

Incredibly, not all Americans are thrilled that we weren’t snookered by radical environmentalists and United Nations bureaucrats into signing so ridiculous a treaty.

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Arizona Senator John McCain have introduced legislation to achieve Kyoto’s destructive goals through the back door. Moore than two dozen states are considering legislation to do the same. The New York Times, always a voice of calm reason on environmental issues, congratulated Lieberman and McCain, saying their bill is “the best hope for getting a start on the problem.”

A start?!

Well, of course it’s only a start. Will the alarmists be content to see their global warming nightmare fade by a mere fraction of a degree over the next century? Is there any price they won’t pay (or, rather, is there any price they won’t make the rest of us pay) to address their alarmist vision of the future?

Warming Not a Threat

Fortunately, we really don’t have to choose between baking our planet and returning to the economic stone age. More than 17,000 scientists have signed a petition saying, in part, “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” The petition is being circulated by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, an independent research organization that receives no funding from industry.

Every time you hear a news story about the current year being “the hottest year yet” or “one of the 10 hottest years in history,” it is important to remember just what numbers are being reported. The warming indicated by surface temperature measures is unlikely to actually exist. As most urban dwellers know, cities produce artificial heat islands that warm the immediate vicinity of the city relative to the surrounding region. During the past century, cities have grown around weather stations (which are typically located at city airports), skewing the temperature readings to indicate a false rise in temperatures.

Empirical data support this common-sense observation. A recent study in the Australian Meteorological Magazine studied urban heat island effects in Australia, Europe, and North America. The authors detected urban heat island effects even in small towns of roughly 1,000 people. Importantly, the heat island effect grew more pronounced as city population increased.

Satellite readings of temperatures in the lower atmosphere (an area scientists predict would immediately reflect any global warming) are unaffected by heat island effects, and are thought to be accurate within 0.01ºC. They show no warming since readings were begun more than 20 years ago.

The simple fact is the Kyoto Protocol and similar legislation are entirely unnecessary: the political equivalent of Chicken Little screaming about the sky falling. We’ve seen this before. The same medicine was prescribed 30 years ago … to avert the next ice age. Remember that? Where would we all be now if we had heeded the “better safe than sorry” alarmists?

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.