July 28, 2008
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Next month, the greatest athletes in the world will visit
Beijing for the Olympic Games. Undoubtedly they'll set new records
in plenty of sports.
But after the stars go home, China (which has cut back
industrial production in an effort to clear the air ahead of the
Olympics) will go back to setting a dubious record of its own: It's
the greatest emitter of carbon dioxide on earth.
China's CO2 emissions rose 8 percent last year, after jumping
more than 11 percent in each of the two previous years. According
to a Dutch study, China alone accounted for two-thirds of the
growth in global greenhouse-gas emissions in 2007, and its current
lead over the United States in such emissions is only expected to
Contrast that with our environmental record.
The U.S. government estimates that energy-related carbon dioxide
emissions increased by just 1.6 percent in 2007, after dropping 1.5
percent the year before. The growth in our emissions is less than
the growth of our Gross Domestic Product, meaning we've improved
the economy while reducing the growth in our emissions.
And we're doing that without being part of the Kyoto treaty.
That 1997 agreement requires the 37 countries that signed it to
slash emissions by a combined 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by
2012. But the treaty is a pipe dream. Instead of falling, the U.N.
reported that such emissions are nearing "an all-time high."
Greenhouse gas emissions from the Kyoto signers increased 2.6
percent between 2000 and 2005.
Signing Kyoto may allow a country to claim it's a good "global
citizen," but many of those citizens aren't keeping their promises.
The U.N. reports Kyoto signers Austria, New Zealand and Canada have
all increased their emissions over 1990 levels -- by 14, 23 and 54
In fact, the U.N. admits that the only reason the world might
meet Kyoto's goal (a 5 percent reduction from 1990 emissions levels
by 2012) is because the economies of so many Eastern European
economies collapsed when the Iron Curtain fell. In other words,
only a domestic recession will allow the planet to hit Kyoto's
Lawmakers understand this point, too.
The Senate recently considered the Lieberman-Warner
climate-change bill, which would have set a limit on the emissions
of greenhouse gases, mostly CO2 from the burning of coal, oil and
natural gas. The bill would have mandated that emissions freeze at
2005 levels in 2012, then plunge. It demanded an unreasonable --
and probably impossible -- 70 percent reduction by 2050.
As energy analyst Ben Lieberman -- no relation to the author of
the bill -- noted, "It is hard to think of any economic activity
that does not involve energy, and there is not one that would not
be made more expensive by Lieberman-Warner." An assessment of the
bill by Heritage Foundation experts showed it would slash our
national GDP by at least $1.7 trillion by the year 2030.
Killing the economy for an -- at best -- 0.07 degrees Celsius
reduction in global temperatures by 2050 (what Kyoto promises)
makes no sense. Economic growth has lifted millions of people out
of poverty. That's why developing countries, including China and
India, are scrambling to increase their growth rates, not diminish
them. The U.S. can't afford to cut our growth, either.
The United Nations is pressing all countries to approve a new
Kyoto agreement. That pact is supposed to be signed in Denmark next
year. But what's the point of a new Kyoto, when the old one is
Instead of making vague promises, we should focus on proven
We can reduce pollution by generating growth. No one wants to
live on a dirty planet, but only people with high enough standards
of living have the leisure time to worry about the environment. We
also need to build more nuclear power plants, to generate
electricity with zero CO2 emissions.
The world doesn't need a new Kyoto -- the treaty that
accomplished nothing but takes the gold medal for uselessness and
Ed Feulner is
president of The Heritage Foundation.
Next month, the greatest athletes in the world will visit Beijing for the Olympic Games. Undoubtedly they’ll set new records in plenty of sports
Energy & Environment Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
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