At the forthcoming G-8 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
personally 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.
The 2005 Gleneagles Summit and
When Tony Blair put climate change at the top of the G-8 agenda
in Gleneagles in 2005, he was well aware that a mixed policy
picture would emerge. The Bush Administration walked a public
policy tightrope and agreed to a final communiqué which
addressed environmental policy on a number of fronts, including
technology- and investment-based solutions.
Contrary to the Gleneagles agreement, however, Europe has failed
to concentrate on policies other than Kyoto's cap-and-trade
approach. The EU 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
U.S. to sign up as well.
Chancellor Merkel has said she will offer a post-2012 deal at
this year's G-8 summit whereby Europe would increase its proposed
emissions cuts from 20 percent to 30 percent "if international
partners come on board." In turn President Bush announced at the
White House on May 31, "By the end of next year, America and other
nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse
gases. In addition to this long-term global goal, each country
would establish midterm national targets." These proposals come in
advance of not only the G-8 summit but also the United Nations'
Kyoto II conference scheduled for December.
Science and Policy
The big problem is that the EU's environmental policymaking is
based on doomsday scenarios of global warming, rather than sound
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. For example, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) projects sea-level rise of 7 to 23
inches over the next century, not the 18 to 20 feet
discussed in former Vice President Al Gore's book An
Inconvenient Truth. And suggestions of a facile cause and
effect link between global warming and damaging hurricanes like
Katrina actually contradicts the scientific consensus.
Alarmism is just not the consensus. For example, the 2006 Stern
Review on the Economics of Climate Change which attempted to
measure the effects of global warming on the world economy has been
especially discredited for its multiple analytical weaknesses.
Therefore, the U.S. should take prudent steps to increase the
reliability of global climate predictions before adopting
far-reaching public policies in this area.
The United States must also ensure that any climate change
policies have benefits that outweigh their costs. While the costs
of global warming are often exaggerated and over-politicized,
little consideration has been given to the costs associated with
mandatory targets. Even if the U.S. had ratified the Kyoto
Protocol, and even if Europe and others were in full compliance
with it, the treaty would avert a mere 0.07 degrees of Celsius
temperature increase by 2050, at a cost to the United States of
$100 billion to $400 billion in annual GDP losses. The U.S. must
carefully weigh both the costs and benefits of environmental policy
before embarking on any post-Kyoto deal.
The Way Forward
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel recently stated that
the developing world will only deal with climate change once
"industrial nations do justice to their responsibility." The
United States has already taken the lead. America continues to lead
the world with its development of cleaner technologies and should
continue to insist that investment in new, clean technologies is a
key agenda item at Heiligendamm. Low-emitting energy systems offer
a profound opportunity for the developing world to deliver a lower
carbon footprint without mortgaging their economies.
A technology-based approach also offers the market the
opportunity to find the winners and losers in future alternative
energy sources. The public already trusts private enterprise over
government to take the lead in reducing emissions. In response to
the Stern report, a Populus poll revealed that 69 percent of
British people see businesses as the most effective agents in
combating threats to the environment, and 74 percent agreed that
technological innovation, rather than government intervention, is
the best way of dealing with future environmental challenges.
Indeed, the President's May 31 remarks are consistent with this
course. He emphasized both the need for global involvement and the
importance of technology in creating economically practical means
of reducing future emissions of greenhouse gases. The United States
must insist on policies that utilize the private sector in
technology development and innovation. Government intervention
through subsidies merely presents another recipe for disaster.
Friends and Allies
The European Union would have the world believe that America has
alienated the world over climate change policy. In fact, the
Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is an
agreement by which both developed and developing nations can
coordinate the creation and deployment of clean technologies. It is
a growth-based approach that actively engages the critically
important economies of China and India, and it is far more flexible
and workable than the cap-and-trade approach.
Binding limits for developing countries will limit their
competitiveness, stunt their growth, make compliance less likely in
the long run, and probably send jobs to even less clean countries.
Therefore, an integrated approach is needed to jointly address the
challenges of human development, energy, and emissions cuts. The
Administration must prioritize wealth-creation as a key policy in
combating and adapting to climate change phenomena. A nation with a
strong economy can better deal with whatever challenges the future
brings--global warming-induced or otherwise--than a nation whose
economy has been weakened by decades of growth-inhibiting measures
There are risks to global warming, but there are also risks to
global warming policies, and the latter could easily outweigh the
former. The Kyoto Protocol is proving costly and problematic, and
most of the European signatories are not even on track to meet its
requirements. If the U.S. 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 U.S. Rather than ratcheting down emissions
via energy-rationing caps, the U.S. 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.
2000 to 2004, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.3
percent while EU-25 collective emissions increased by 2.1 percent.
See Kurt Volker, "Post-Kyoto Surprise: America's Quiet Efforts to
Cut Greenhouse Gases are Producing Results," Remarks to the German
Marshall Fund, February 12, 2007.
Murray, "What Every European Should Know About Global Warming,"
Competitive Enterprise Institute, July 20, 2005, at www.cei.org/pdf/4691.pdf.
Energy Information Administration, "What Does
the Kyoto Protocol Mean to U.S. Energy Markets and the U.S.
Economy?" October 1998, p. 22, at /static/reportimages/F624CA7F5702C794E74BBBC4C1C76552.pdf,
and Thomas Wigley, "The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and Climate
Implications," Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 25, No. 13
(1998), pp. 2285-88.
The White House, "President Bush Discusses
United States International Development Agenda."