June 6, 2007

June 6, 2007 | Commentary on

Warming: U.S. can't fall for cap-and-trade risks

At the forthcoming Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, America will face intense pressure to agree to a post-Kyoto deal on climate change that includes far-reaching mandatory targets to cut carbon emissions. G-8 President and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has endorsed increasing pressure on the Bush administration to reverse its current environmental policies, despite the United States' superior performance in emissions reduction so far.

President Bush's May 31 remarks on the G-8 and climate change have led to speculation that he may reverse course and agree to binding targets on greenhouse gas emissions. This would be a mistake. The administration should actively reject entreaties from fellow G-8 nations to agree to growth-sapping controls on energy use and instead continue its successful model in favor of economic development. It must also encourage the G-8 to live up to the themes developed at the 2005 Gleneagles summit, where the administration placed the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions firmly within the context of economic growth and poverty eradication in the developing world.

Contrary to the Gleneagles agreement, however, Europe has failed to concentrate on policies other than Kyoto's cap-and-trade approach. The European Union has arbitrarily capped member states' emission levels and then forced companies and groups to buy carbon credits elsewhere. Europe not only remains firmly committed to this approach for a Kyoto II deal but also is increasing pressure on the United States to sign up as well.

The big problem is that the EU's environmental policy-making is based on doomsday scenarios of global warming, rather than sound science. Most scientists agree that mankind's emissions of carbon dioxide have had a marginal warming effect, but there is no scientific consensus that global warming will cause catastrophic climate change.

There are risks to global warming, but there are also risks to global warming policies, and the latter could easily outweigh the former. If the United States takes ill-conceived actions, many U.S. jobs will wind up in Kyoto-exempt nations such as China and India that will continue to emit greenhouse gases at higher rates per GDP than the United States.

Rather than ratcheting down emissions via energy-rationing caps, the United States has embarked on research efforts to develop new technologies that are more carbon friendly and reached out to both developed and developing nations to coordinate the creation and deployment of these technologies. The current global warming hysteria cannot last much longer, because it is unsupported by the scientific facts. In the interim, the United States must resist cap-and-trade measures, which would be costly and difficult to reverse.

Sally McNamara is senior policy analyst in European affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, and Ben Lieberman is senior policy analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Sally McNamara Senior Policy Analyst, European Affairs

Ben Lieberman Senior Policy Analyst, Energy and Environment
Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

First appeared in  AJC.com