from the Congress Action newsletter

Kyoto: a global tax on American prosperity

by: Kim Weissman
July 29, 2001

The Conference of the Parties that was held at the Hague last year, designed to implement the Kyoto Climate Change treaty, collapsed at just about the same time that Al Gore's dreams of getting America enmeshed in Kyoto collapsed. But the Kyoto agreement was not yet dead, and was saved from well deserved oblivion by the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-6) held July 16 through 27, 2001, in Bonn, Germany.

According to an analysis by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, "The Hague talks collapsed upon EU insistence that specific greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions not remain the key objective, but instead how any developed country – particularly the U.S. – achieves reductions. That is, would countries be given credit for land use practices actually pulling GHGs from the atmosphere ("sinks"), and paying other countries such as Russia whose economic downturn left them emission "credits" to sell? Or, must most reductions come through actual lifestyle changes, that is, in all probability dramatic energy use reductions, by the end of this decade? … EU arrogance here can be summed up as: only they can channel the sole solution, to a theory that they refuse to entertain might not be a problem, which is exacerbated by the U.S. refusing to live the more spartan EU lifestyle."

It is not the intention of this newsletter to go over once again, in detail, the fundamental issue of global warming. In summary it can be said, without dispute, that the expectation of human caused (anthropogenic) global warming is produced solely by computer models predicting such an occurrence, models that their own designers and users admit are far from comprehensive, analyzing physical processes that are, at best, imperfectly understood. It can also be said, without dispute, that hundreds of thousands of years of data demonstrate quite clearly that our planet has undergone periodic temperature shifts far more extreme than those predicted by those computer models, with absolutely no human influence whatsoever.

It is true that of the scientists dealing with climate science and other related disciplines, of those who have expressed an opinion on the subject far more have expressed serious doubts about the existence of anthropogenic global warming than have accepted the issue as proven; many believe that even if the warming were to occur as predicted, it would be far more of a benefit than a catastrophe for mankind; and most of those scientists also believe that the specific mechanism of the Kyoto Treaty is "ill-advised, premature, wrought with economic danger, and likely to be counterproductive" (The Leipzig Declaration).

Many scientists worry about "the emergence of an irrational ideology which is opposed to scientific and industrial progress and impedes economic and social development" (The Heidelberg Appeal).

It is scientifically beyond dispute that atmospheric carbon dioxide, which the Kyoto Agreement aims to cut (through massive and economically catastrophic worldwide reductions in energy use), contributes less than 2% to the total greenhouse effect that keeps our planet livable, and that all human activity contributes about 4% of that 2% of atmospheric carbon dioxide. And the goal of the Kyoto agreement is to cut that human contribution of carbon dioxide (cut the 4% of 2%) by 5.2% below 1990 levels. U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide are expected to be 55% above 1990 levels by 2010.

Finally, 30 years ago, the same scientific community that is now doom-saying about global warming was apoplectic about another climate catastrophe just around the corner — global cooling. They were just as certain, 30 years ago, that the entire human race was about to be obliterated by an impending ice age. According to them, at that time, if we didn't immediately accept their draconian "solutions" (we didn't) we would all be dead and in a solid deep freeze by now (we aren't).

From the beginning it has been clear that the particular mechanisms of the Kyoto Treaty were not designed to alter the global climate in any meaningful way (even if that were possible), but was rather a manifestation of the hatred of economic progress in general, and American prosperity in particular. Kyoto was, and unfortunately still is, basically a global tax on American prosperity, aimed at redistributing much of the wealth generated by the American free market system to those countries whose own predilections for socialism have stifled their own economic prosperity.

After eleven days of wrangling over the Kyoto agreement at COP-6 in Bonn, the major backers of the agreement accepted a number of modifications of the agreement that they had previously declared "unacceptable" (which declarations led to the collapse of the Hague conference). The agreement now allows countries whose emissions exceed the allowable levels, to buy "emissions credits" from underdeveloped nations whose emissions are below allowable levels, a direct wealth transfer from rich to poor nations.

Thus will wealthy, free market economies be forced to subsidize — and perpetuate to the continuing detriment of their poverty-stricken and oppressed populations — failing socialist economies; and Kyoto establishes a "least developed countries fund" and a Kyoto "adaptation fund" to help facilitate wealth transfer.

The agreement also allows countries to take credit for activities and national attributes that, while not reducing energy use, still result in the actual elimination of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as extensive forests that absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, otherwise known as "carbon sinks".

This latter provision could prove to be a classic demonstration of the law of unintended consequences. Environmentalists love to babble about preserving "old growth" forests, those containing trees that are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years old. The only problem is that such mature trees don't absorb a lot of carbon dioxide. Young, growing plants do that much better. So perhaps one result of the Kyoto agreement will be a mad dash by wealthy industrialized nations to cut down their "old growth" forests and replace them with — how about golf courses, with lush acres of growing grass and new trees and shrubs? In fact, idiotically, Kyoto actually encourages cutting old forests, by refusing to allow forests existing prior to 1990 to be included in the carbon sink accounting. Now won't that make environmentalists happy?

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1 aug 2001