The Candidates’ Views on Kyoto
As a resource to our readers, the Cooler Heads newsletter is providing the views of the presidential candidates regarding the Kyoto Protocol and global warming. Some candidates are not on the public record about this issue. Some, however, have expressed support for policies that are linked to the Kyoto Protocol.
Vice President Al Gore is clearly in favor of the Kyoto Protocol. Other public pronouncements suggest that he supports reductions in energy use far greater than required under Kyoto.
Regarding the Kyoto Protocol, Gore stated in a speech: "…It is strong and comprehensive, covering all six significant greenhouse gases. It recognizes the link between the air and the land, including both sources and sinks. It provides the tools to ensure that targets can be met – offering emissions trading, joint implementation and research as powerful engines of technology development and transfer. It further reduces emissions – below 1990 levels – in the years 2012 and beyond. It provides the means to ensure that all nations can join us on their own terms in meeting this common challenge. It is also economically sound. And, with strict monitoring and accountability, it ensures that we will keep our bond with one another…" (www.algore2000.com ).
Former Senator Bill Bradley has not expressed any views regarding the Kyoto Protocol. He is, however, on record as supporting the Green agenda. "The environment is an incredibly important issue because it’s our future in a very fundamental sense. Preserving the natural environment for our children to experience is one of the obligations we have to future generations…Through the years I also worked hard on what I call natural resource issues to try to do the first thing I said, which is to preserve the natural environment for future generations to experience (www.billbradley.com ).
George W. Bush
Governor George W. Bush has publicly stated that he is opposed to the Kyoto Protocol. He has also stated, however, that he thinks global warming is real. Bush has said that he believes environmental standards must be based on sound science, solutions based on market driven technologies…He has said that global warming must be taken seriously but will require any decisions to be based on sound science and a cost-benefit analysis, (www.georgewbush.com ).
Former Vice President Dan Quayle opposes the Kyoto Protocol and has serious reservations regarding the soundness of the science behind global warming claims. In a speech at CEI’s Warren Brookes Dinner, Quayle argued that, "The Kyoto protocol [to reduce global warming] would have a disastrous effect on our economy – especially energy-intensive sectors like agriculture – without doing anything to reduce the global volume of so-called ‘greenhouse gases.’ The Department of Energy estimates that the Kyoto Protocol could put a 4% drag on our GDP, enough wealth to hand every currently unemployed worker a check for $56,000. The Labor Department concludes that 1.2 million Americans will lose their jobs due to the Kyoto Protocol" (www.issues2000.org ).
Steve Forbes strongly opposes the Kyoto Protocol. An article in the Agence France Press (October 22, 1997) reported: "Forbes…said U.S. President Bill Clinton’s global warming plan would ‘raise the gasoline taxes the equivalent of $0.50 to a dollar. We should not be a part of the Kyoto treaty,’ he said, noting that developing nations like China and Brazil ‘will be exempted from the so-called anti-pollution rules.’" Forbes website is at www.forbes2000.com .
Orrin Hatch, like Dole, has not made public his views about the Kyoto Protocol. Hatch, however, supports several government programs that would aid the administration in their quest to implement the Kyoto Protocol.
Hatch once said, "The Alternative Fuels Promotion Act will help to solve one of our nation's most expensive problems – air pollution." Hatch believes that the U.S. can convert to alternative fuels through economic incentives, such as various tax incentives for alternative fuels, alternative fuel vehicles and the construction of alternative fuel filling stations (www.issues2000.org ).
Pat Buchanan opposes the Kyoto Protocol on both economic and sovereignty grounds. On his website, Buchanan takes the administration to task for its part in the Kyoto negotiations. "The Kyoto cave-in is conclusive proof that Clinton and Al Gore cannot be trusted to defend U.S. vital interests…At Kyoto, Clinton faced a failed summit if he did not surrender a position he had promised to hold – no treaty on global warming without the signature of big third world polluters like China…Clinton accepted cuts in U.S. energy consumption that would mean America’s end as the world’s greatest industrial power" (theamericancause.org/pjb-971218.html ).
Elizabeth Dole has not said anything specific regarding global warming or the Kyoto Protocol. However, she supports government promotion of ethanol as an alternative fuel. She also supports paying farmers to stop farming environmentally sensitive lands (www.issues2000.org ).
John McCain also supports encouraging the development of alternative fuels to reduce pollution. He is also an advocate of tightening emission controls on all gasoline or diesel powered engines, including cars and trucks. He has said, however, that the ethanol subsidy should be eliminated (www.issues2000.org ).
Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer and Warren Beatty are not on record regarding global warming issues.
EU May Fall Short
The European Union has had some difficulty in reaching an agreement about how to meet its Kyoto targets. The EU agreed to reduce its energy emissions to 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. But an agreement that everyone can agree upon has proven elusive. Most recently Germany offered a compromise that is being pursued by the Finnish government. The compromise would implement a harmonized energy tax administered by the EU. Spain and Ireland are opposed to the tax.
The EU’s new environment commissioner, Margot Wallstrom is also dissatisfied with the compromise, contending that it will fail to meet the emission reduction goals set in Kyoto. "In trying to get unanimous [EU] support, this last compromise implies a considerable watering [down] of the proposal’s environmental value," said Wallstrom (BNA Daily Environment Report, August 30, 1999).
The United Kingdom has announced that it will meet its Kyoto target of a 12.5 percent reduction below 1990 levels in 2008-2012. The UK claims that carbon dioxide emission levels fell by 8 percent between 1990 and 1997 and that the combined emissions of the six greenhouse gases that may be reduced under the Kyoto Protocol fell by 9 percent during the same period. In 1998, however, carbon dioxide emissions rose by one percent, attributed to greater coal use (UK: Environment News, August 25, 1999).
Emission Reduction Efforts Will Fail
The Clinton/Gore Administration claims that through the development of energy efficient technologies we can meet our Kyoto targets at little cost. A new report by the Mobil Corporation, however, argues that economic growth in the developing countries will overwhelm any emission reductions that may be made through technology development.
New advances in technology will be helpful in reducing energy emissions, says the report. But even if those technologies are implemented in both the developed and developing countries it will still be impossible to meet the Kyoto targets. The implementation of hybrid electric and fuel-cell vehicles, for example, could reduce developed country emissions to 1990 levels. Implementing the same technology in the developing countries would reduce their emissions by 8 billion tons per year by 2030. "Still," says the report, "that represents less than 20 percent of the worldwide total for the year."
"Sheer growth in developing countries simply overwhelms the emissions reductions that countries can achieve with advanced technology," said Michael Ramage, chief technology officer at Mobil. "And by the end of the 21st century, developing countries are projected to contribute up to 80 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions," he said (Octane Week, August 30, 1999).
Is Weather Becoming More Extreme?
Those who would like to see massive cuts in energy use associate bad weather with global warming in an effort to promote their cause. One popular doomsayer, Ross Gelbspan, author of The Heat is On, recently wrote a letter to the New York Times (August 28, 1999) claiming that "The most likely cause of the intense downpour on Thursday in New York was global climate change."
But is the weather really changing for the worse? An article in the USA Weekend (August 29, 1999) by two Weather Channel meteorologists, Colin Marquis and Stu Ostro, argues that the weather is pretty much the same as it has always been, only that our perceptions have changed.
One of the reasons why we may think the weather is wilder is the massive growth in media coverage. "Today, real-time multimedia communication means gripping images get beamed instantly from tornado alley into our living rooms – or PCs. It’s as if we’re all experiencing the bad weather, albeit vicariously," say Marquis and Ostro.
The authors admit that it is getting warmer. But the change has been small, only 1 degree Fahrenheit this century. Moreover, they say, "it is important to remember that specific temperature records over land date back only about 120 years, and data over the oceans (70 percent of the globe) was quite sparse until about 25 years ago, when satellites became more versatile." They go on to say, "precise measurements of temperature do not extend far into the past, a mere drop in the bucket when considering the realm of global climate change."
The authors also believe that it is getting wetter. They cite a study by Tom Karl at the National Climate Data Center that found a 20 percent increase in heavy precipitation events for much of the U.S., Canada and Europe in the last century. (The increase may seem large but the paper actually found that there is only one additional day every two years that experiences rainfall of over 2 inches).
The number of land-falling hurricanes has fallen, according to the authors. There were 23 from 1940-69, but there have been only 14 since 1970. Damage from hurricanes has increased dramatically, however, from $36.8 billion from 1940-69 to $74.9 billion from 1970-96. This can be attributed entirely to the "nearly uninhibited growth continuing along the nation’s coasts."
It is uncertain whether there has been an increase in tornadoes, say the authors. A dramatic increase in the number of reported tornadoes doesn’t necessarily mean that there are more tornadoes. The authors believe that the numbers have increased due to more reporting, not more tornadoes. "Simply put," they say, "there are more people to witness tornadoes." Moreover, there are now storm chasers who were nearly nonexistent in the 1950s. There are literally hundreds of people who search out tornadoes and document them with palm-held camcorders.
Finally, Marquis and Ostro discuss the work of Richard Alley from Penn State University. He has shown "that global temperatures and precipitation in the last few thousand years have been as steady as any time during the last 100 millennia." Long before man exerted any influence on the climate there were severe swings in both temperature and precipitation in periods as short as 10 years. "This evidence raises an interesting and provocative idea," say Marquis and Ostro: "Perhaps wilder weather is actually more typical than benign weather. Whether humans are contributing to climate change or not, maybe the pendulum is beginning to swing back – toward the wild side."
More Benefits of CO2
We all learned in grade school that plants need CO2 to survive. Scientific research has confirmed this many times over. A new study by the Greening Earth Society argues that to feed the earth’s growing human population, CO2 must continue to increase. According to the authors, Keith and Craig Idso, at the Center for Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, to meet the dietary demands of the projected world population of 8.9 billion people by 2050, we will need to depend on both enhanced crop production technologies as well as enhanced ambient CO2 levels. The study can be found at www.greeningearthsociety.org .
- The Pew Center on Climate Change is holding a conference on early action crediting on September 13-14 at the Westin Grand Hotel in Washington, D.C. For registration details go to www.pewclimate.org .
- The Pacific Institute has just released a new global warming bibliography on its website at www.pacinst.org/wildlife.html . The bibliography includes both peer-reviewed and gray literature (including journal and newspaper articles, and materials on the Internet).
- The Science and Environmental Policy Project’s booklet on global warming, The Scientific Case Against the Global Climate Treaty, is now available at www.sepp.org .
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