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The Cost of Kyoto

 

DATE: February 14, 2005

BACKGROUND: The international treaty on climate control, known as the Kyoto Protocol, comes into force this Wednesday, February 16. At least 140 nations, not including the United States and Australia, will be legally bound to reduce overall emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" by at least 5 percent under 1990 levels by 2012.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: This week, much of the world's developed nations begin the nonsensical process to combat global warming.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Many economic studies predicted Kyoto would have resulted in massive economic losses for the U.S. economy. A Clinton Administration report estimated that stabilizing emissions at 1990 levels would cost 900,000 U.S. jobs in 2005.  As staggering as the price tag is, Kyoto also disappoints as a sound strategy for limiting global warming.

DISCUSSION:

This week, much of the world's developed nations begin the nonsensical process to combat global warming.

The international treaty on climate control, known as the Kyoto Protocol, finally comes into force this Wednesday. At least 140 nations,1 not including the United States and Australia, will be legally bound to reduce overall emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" by at least 5 percent under 1990 levels by 2012.2 Though it is widely debated in scientific circles,3 proponents argue that the earth's atmosphere traps gases burned from fossil fuels, resulting in a human-induced "warming" effect.4

At Kyoto's signing in 1997, Vice-President Al Gore pledged for the U.S. to cut its greenhouse emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. However, the Senate refused to ratify the protocol, voting 95 to 0 that year not to accept a treaty that harms the U.S. economy and does not require developing nations, such as big-polluters China and India, to likewise reduce their carbon dioxide outputs.5 

President Bush recognized that Kyoto was fatally flawed and rightly pulled the United States out of the treaty in 2001. Australia soon followed in 2002, agreeing that Kyoto's regulations would cost jobs and would have a devastating impact on its economy.6 Although the treaty now has the support of the required 55 percent of the world's so-called greenhouse gas emitters, count the United States and Australia on the side of good fortune.

Many economic studies predicted Kyoto would have resulted in massive economic losses for the U.S. economy. A Clinton Administration report estimated that stabilizing emissions at 1990 levels would cost 900,000 U.S. jobs in 2005.7 This figure rises to 1.1 million annually from 2008-2112, according to DRI/McGraw-Hill.8 Of course, extending emission caps to Kyoto's demands of 7 percent below 1990 levels would have an even greater impact on employment losses.9

Moreover, economic data from The Department of Energy predict that U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) would shrink $397 billion by 2010.10 The regulatory and tax costs of complying could be as high as $338 billion (1992 dollars) annually from 2008 to 2012.11 Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, finds that Kyoto would cost the world economy as much as $274 trillion by 2100.12 Consumers would also feel the pinch as housing, gas, medical, and food costs would skyrocket, as demand for these increase.13          

As staggering as the price tag is, Kyoto also disappoints as a sound strategy for limiting global warming. Under Kyoto's emissions ceilings, Dr. Lomborg estimates a temperature change of 0.15°C less by 2100 than if nothing had been done.14 Extend the study to year 2300, and Kyoto reduces warming a mere 1.2° C-7.3°C to 6.1°C-and averts a rise in sea level of 2.5 cm. (1 in.), or about half the size of your index finger.15 Kyoto may be so much as a fantasy that Dr. Jerry Mahlman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research boldly stated "it might take another 30 Kyotos over the next century" to stem global warming.16

Despite Kyoto's urgent measures, leaders around the globe are increasingly pessimistic of Kyoto's success. In December, British Prime Minister Tony Blair-perhaps the leading advocate on climate change-said Britain is on track to meet only 14 percent of its 20 percent emissions target below 1990 levels by 2010.17 Canada, Japan, as well as much of the EU are expected to miss their intended reductions, unless unused emission "credits" are purchased.18 Italy's Environment Minister even recently announced plans to withdraw from Kyoto when it expires in 2012.19  

With Kyoto's prospects appearing bleak, the United States and Australia should resist the likely stepped-up pressure to save a bad treaty. Instead, any solution for combating global warming needs to account for future technological innovations. Fossil fuel emissions will undoubtedly decline in the coming decades, as energy efficiency advances and people switch to more renewable sources of energy.20

If the case for Kyoto is to be made, supporters need to explain how spending untold amounts of money on a treaty that will have little impact on global warming are worth the carnage it is sure to generate today.


by Ryan Balis

Contact the author at: 202-543-4110

The National Center for Public Policy Research
501 Capitol Court, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002



Footnotes:

1 David Ignatius, "A Climate of Disdain," Washington Post, February 9, 2005, pg. A23, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9444-2005Feb8.html as of Feb. 13, 2005.

2 "Kyoto Protocol to the United States Framework Convention on Climate Change," 1-10 December 1997, available at http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1997/global.warming/stories/treaty/ as of Feb. 13, 2005.

3 "Just Say 'No' to Kyoto," TSAugust, available at http://www.tsaugust.org/images/No%20to%20Kyoto%20Web%20Site%20Version.pdf as of Feb. 13, 2005; See also "Petition Project" on Global Warming at http://zwr.oism.org/pproject/.

4 Alexander F. Annett, "The Department of Energy's Report On the Impact of Kyoto: More Bad News For Americans," Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder No. 1229, October 23, 1998, available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/BG1229.cfm as of Feb. 15, 2005.

5 "Quixotic Climate Vote In Senate," Associated Press (CBS), Oct. 30, 2003, available from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/30/tech/main580915.shtml as of Feb. 13 2005; United States Senate Res. 98 IS, "Expressing the Sense of the Senate Regarding the Conditions for the United States Becoming a Signatory to Any International Agreement on Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the United Nations," 105th Congress, 1st Session, available at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c105:2:./temp/~c1051SJ3IR:: as of Feb. 13, 2005.

6 "Australia Rejects Kyoto Pact," BBC News (UK), June 5, 2002, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2026446.stm as of Feb. 13, 2005; John Heilprin, "Bush Stands by Rejection of Kyoto Treaty," Associated Press (Independent Media TV), Nov. 06, 2004, available at http://www.independent-media.tv/item.cfm?fmedia_id=9714&fcategory_desc=Bush%20Environmental%20Impact as of Feb. 13, 2005.

7 Statement by Cecil E. Roberts, President United Mine Workers of America, "Economic Effects of Climate Change Policies," United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, Committee on Science, Oct. 9, 1997, available at http://www.house.gov/science/roberts_10-9.htm as of Feb. 13, 2005.

8 Roy Cordato and James Carter, "Fatalities of Kyoto," Journal of Commerce, June 15, 1999, available at http://www.mises.org/fullstory.aspx?control=242&id=77 as of Feb. 13, 2005.

9 Steven Martinovich, "Enforcing the Kyoto Protocol," Washington Times, Nov. 24, 2004, available at http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20041123-080536-6648r.htm as of Feb. 13, 2005.

10 Energy Information Administration, "What Does the Kyoto Protocol Mean to U.S. Energy Markets and the U.S. Economy?," Department of Energy, October 1998, available at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/kyoto/kyotobtxt.html as of Feb. 13, 2005; Cited in Alexander F. Annett, "The Department of Energy's Report On the Impact of Kyoto: More Bad News For Americans," Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder No. 1229, October 23, 1998, available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/BG1229.cfm as of Feb. 15, 2005.

11 Energy Information Administration, "What Does the Kyoto Protocol Mean to U.S. Energy Markets and the U.S. Economy?," Department of Energy, October 1998, available at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/kyoto/kyotobtxt.html as of Feb. 13, 2005.

12 Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pg. 324.

13 Cited in Alexander F. Annett, "The Department of Energy's Report On the Impact of Kyoto: More Bad News For Americans," Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder No. 1229, October 23, 1998, available at http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/BG1229.cfm as of Feb. 15, 2005.

14 Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, pg. 302.

15 William R. Cline, "Climate Change," Global Crises, Global Solutions, ed. Bjorn Lomborg (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pg. 29; Ibid., 302.

16 David Malakoff, "Thirty Kyotos Needed to Control Global Warming," Science, 278, no.2, December 19, 1997, pg. 2048.

17 Joe Churcher, "Britain on Track to Miss Climate Target-Blair," Scotsman (UK), Dec. 8, 2004, available at http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=3858361 as of Feb. 13, 2005.

18 Andrew Osborn, "EU Nowhere Near Meeting Kyoto Targets," Guardian (UK), December 3, 2003, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,1098635,00.html as of Feb. 13, 2005; "Russia Ratifies Kyoto Treaty," TSAugust.org, December 26, 2004, available at http://www.tsaugust.org/kyoto%20Protocol%20Articles.htm as of Feb. 13, 2005

19 "Summary of COP 10," TSAugust.org, December 26, 2004, available at http://www.tsaugust.org/kyoto%20Protocol%20Articles.htm as of Feb. 13, 2005; Environmentalists Blast Minister's Anti-Kyoto Stance," ANSA English Media Service, December 15, 2004.

20 Patrick J. Michaels, "The Consequences of Kyoto," CATO Policy Analysis No. 307, available at http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-307.html as of Feb. 13, 2005.


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