TCS Daily

Read My Lips: No Mini-Kyoto

By Philip Stott - February 14, 2002 12:00 AM

"Though it is in the power of human institutions to make everybody poor, they cannot make everybody rich." (Nassau William Senior, 1790-1864).

Speaking as a European, I am deeply concerned that Mr. Bush's newly announced alternative to the Kyoto Protocol smacks of European appeasement.

Unless Mr. Bush rejoins the Kyoto Protocol precisely on European terms and bows to European blackmail and bluster on this issue, Europe will never be appeased. It is crucial to remember that, for many Europeans, Kyoto is only a means to an end, to an ultimate 60% cut in so-called "greenhouse gas" emissions and, effectively, to the de-industrialization of the world. They see Kyoto as one of their major weapons in the fight, paradoxically not for, but against globalization and free trade.

In contrast, America should be confident and unrepentantly design a policy for energy that suits America and the wider world, one which will help to maintain strong and growing economies that can adapt to climate change, whatever its ultimate direction.

Europe and Kyoto

The European drive for Kyoto has little to do with hard science and economics; it is more about forging a new European political role in the world based on the ecochondria of its people following the debacles of thalidomide, BSE, and foot-and-mouth disease. As Dean Acheson reminded us in 1962, "Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role." Sadly, part of this new role is to castigate America for its economic success and to try to paint the U.S. as the 'Evil Empire'. Painfully, I must report that I have heard Europeans claiming that September 11 was America's due, in part for its rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. Mr. Blair, the British Prime Minister, of course, would reject such moral bankruptcy out-of-hand, but it is important for Americans to recognize how much he, in turn, is pilloried in our media for doing so and for remaining America's strong ally.

It was the American poet, Herbert Agar (1897-1980), who said: "The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear." The basic truth about the Kyoto Protocol is that it will not work. First, it will not work scientifically. If all 180 countries were to ratify the Protocol, and then met their emission targets, we might still only affect temperature by 0.07 to 0.2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. And even this is not guaranteed, because climate is essentially chaotic and governed by millions of factors. Secondly, Kyoto will not work economically. Conservatively, the Kyoto Protocol will cost anything between $100 billion and $1 trillion, with a mean around $350 billion. With the current pressure on employment and economic growth faltering, this is surely no time to burden the world with yet more costs for totally unproven and unverifiable environmental benefits.

Moreover, it is worth pointing out that such an amount of money would settle the debts of the 50 poorest countries in the world and provide clean drinking water for all. Now that really would constitute a 'green' agenda. Finally, Kyoto will not work politically. All that will result is a free-for-all in world carbon trading that will pour billions of dollars into the economic black hole that comprises Russia and the Ukraine, two countries with emissions, for all too obvious reasons, that are now below their 1990 levels.

No Mini-Kyoto

Mr. Bush must not, therefore, opt for a mini-American-style Kyoto, mirroring the mandatory controls demanded by the Europeans. Energy diversification and efficiency are fine economic and political goals in themselves. They do not require specious arguments about controlling the climates and oceans of the world, a human hubris about which King Canute warned us many centuries ago. We should, by contrast, recall the words of Ludwig Max Goldberger (1848-1913): "America, the land of unlimited possibilities." Incentives, growth and dynamism will themselves produce diversification and efficiency, with a natural search for the hydrogen economy, for renewables, and for diversity in energy production and supply.

And it is essential not to be deceived by European rhetoric on this; many Europeans masquerade as 'greens, when their real targets are much more sinister, namely trade itself, growth, industry, development, globalization, and the American economic success. Such activists will use Kyoto in any way they can for their own ends; Mr. Bush must not let them get away with it, especially within America. He must call their bluff.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, declared that "the chief business of the American people is business." This remains just as true today, and, when America, the economic engine house, falters, the whole world judders. As President Bush has himself repeated many times, nothing must be allowed to curb the dynamism of this engine on which we all depend, and especially when the science remains totally unproven and enigmatic. Leadership in this field should be by setting workable goals and aims and then freeing and encouraging people to meet them.

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