Sensenbrenner: Global Warming Treaty Doomed

Published September 1, 1999

Last October, NASA scientist James Hansen, whose dire warnings more than a decade ago about global warming have resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, completely reversed himself.

In the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences, Hansen acknowledged that using computer models to predict temperature changes was virtually impossible. “The forces that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change,” he said.

Concurring in his backpedaling was Professor Bert Bolin, chairman emeritus of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who told U.S. negotiators in Kyoto that the science of climate change has “considerable uncertainties” and that the climate system is “only partly predictable.”

Bolin later published a study in Science magazine, concluding that at best the Kyoto Protocol would lower the projected temperature increase during the next century by as little as 0.1 degrees C.

Sacrificing Science to Politics

While science grows increasingly uncertain about even the existence of dangerous global warming, the Clinton-Gore administration and Kyoto Protocol advocates proceed as if the threat were real and dire.

“It’s become clear to me that Vice President Gore is determined to implement this flawed treaty,” said Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisconsin), chairman of the House Committee on Science. “To be perfectly blunt, the Kyoto Protocol is seriously flawed–so flawed, in fact, that it cannot be salvaged.

“The Kyoto treaty is based on immature science, costs too much, leaves too many procedural questions unanswered, is grossly unfair because developing countries are not required to participate, and will do nothing to solve the speculative problem it is intended to solve.”

Sensenbrenner made his remarks May 26 before the Global Change Roundtable, hosted by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers and the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute.

Sensenbrenner’s Committee on Science oversees civilian research and development activities funded by the federal government. Among its responsibilities is the annual $1.8 billion U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the Clinton-Gore administration’s Climate Change Technology Initiative (CCTI) proposal for fiscal 2000.

Economic Impact Would Be Severe

The Clinton administration, according to Sensenbrenner, continues to ignore a growing number of independent studies showing that the standard of living enjoyed by many Americans would disintegrate in the wake of Kyoto-induced increases in energy costs and loss of manufacturing jobs. Even the President’s own Energy Information Administration warns of economic consequences far more serious than the rosy picture painted by Janet Yellen, who chairs Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors.

“Dr Yellen’s analysis assumes that the U.S. will not decrease its greenhouse emissions by the 30-plus percent called for by the treaty, but by only 3 percent–making up the rest by paying other countries to reduce their emissions through a system of tradable emissions credits,” Sensenbrenner said. “Her analysis also assumes that:

“there are vast amounts of cheap emissions credits to be had–particularly in the developing world–and that there will be enough of them to be had–particularly in the developing world–and that there will be enough of them to satisfy European, Japanese, and American demand; and

“that the trading system will work with near-perfect efficiency.”

But, Sensenbrenner notes, the emissions credit system is doomed because of the European Union’s (EU) recent demand that such “flexible mechanisms” aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions be capped at 50 percent. If EU gets it way, the U.S. would be permitted to rely far less heavily on emissions trading to “reduce” its emissions. The less trading the U.S. is permitted to do, the more serious the economic impact of Kyoto will be.

“So, administration assurances notwithstanding, it is clear that meeting the terms of the Kyoto Protocol would require a sharp rise in energy prices and, among other things, boost energy costs so that many Americans would be unable to afford even the luxury of air conditioning.

“Perhaps the administration could lead on this issue by voluntarily cutting off the AC at the White House and the Vice President’s residence,” Sensenbrenner proposed. “I think this dose of reality would work wonders.”

Technology Research Not the Answer

Sensenbrenner also takes issue with the administration’s CCTI package. Despite its $4.1 billion budget, Sensenbrenner says, the program would not be able to meet its stated goal of making the transition to Kyoto easier for the American people.

The protocol would require the U.S. to reduce its carbon emissions by about 500 million metric tons by 2010. Last April, the Energy Information Administration analyzed the Clinton-Gore CTTI package and predicted it would result in a reduction of just 3.1 million tons, making it practically useless in meeting Kyoto’s mandates.

“The administration tries hard to gloss over the fatal flaws in the treaty, but it cannot sugarcoat the bitter realities that Kyoto would inevitably bring to our economy and our way of life,” Sensenbrenner warned. “Perhaps these realities are why the administration–18 months after the Kyoto meetings–still has yet to submit Kyoto for Senate ratification. Regardless, if submission does occur, I remain confident that the American people and Congress will reject the treaty as it stands now.”