Just as the American approach to climate change is winning support around the world, a group of Northeast governors, including
In 2001, Bush acknowledged that climate change was a serious potential threat. But instead of plunging headlong into a regulatory regime that would drastically increase the cost of electricity and reduce economic growth by what the Clinton administration estimated would be 3 percent a year, Bush advocated more research and encouraged businesses to explore voluntary measures and to help developing nations.
In the past two years, the
In April, Pataki asked governors of
In early June, state attorneys general from
The Northeastern states, in their latest efforts, have stolen a page from the Europeans' playbook. Most of them rely very little on coal, which generates more CO2 than fuels like natural gas and nuclear power. If they can force emissions caps on the entire nation, they will benefit handsomely from their competitive energy position.
example, coal generates more than half the electricity in states
nationwide, but it generates only 8 percent of the electricity in
the windfall for the Northeast from a cap-and-trade emissions policy
that favors natural gas and nuclear. And imagine the costs to such
Even if the cap-and-trade deal applied only to the Northeastern states,
Let's assume, however, that the Pataki approach isn't cynical, but merely misguided. Let's assume that the effort to spread Kyoto-style reductions in CO2 emissions throughout the country fails. At the very least, the price of electricity in these states -- where it is already well above the national average -- will rise sharply.
And what are the benefits?
No one has the slightest idea, and that is the real problem. This uncertainty is the reason that President Bush wisely rejected the Kyoto Protocol.
Scientific research so far has failed to show whether the earth's warming (1 degree Fahrenheit during the 20th century) will continue, accelerate or decline; whether the warming, if it persists, is largely the result of human factors or natural circumstances beyond our control; and whether other "no-regrets" (that is, costless or low-cost) approaches to mitigation will work better than drastically cutting the use of fossil fuels and harming the economy.
But consider one simple fact: Between 1990 and 2010, "developing countries like
It would appear that the CO2-reducing efforts of
Precipitous action, moreover, is unnecessary. Economic forces alone are producing an evolution toward new fuels and the more efficient use of current fuels. Climate change, if it does indeed arrive, is not coming overnight.
Sadly, alarmism is spreading. An article on "The Future of Energy Policy" in the current issue of Foreign Affairs by Tim Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, C. Boyden Gray, former counsel to President George H. W. Bush, and John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton, takes dire view of climate change -- including an inflammatory and distorted chart of temperature increases.
But the article does make this point: "The lack of access by the world's poor to modern energy services, agricultural opportunities, and other basics for economic advancement is a deep concern."
It is more than that. It should be the primary concern.
Wealth makes health. "Poverty," as Indira Gandhi said, "is the worst polluter." We know these things from history.
can the governors of the Northeastern states truly help improve the
world's environment? Not by devastating their economies, but by
improving them. By keeping
Instead of going Euro, the Northeast governors should understand that the best hope for both the economy and the environment, in their own states and worldwide, lies with the policies that President Bush has been advancing, with success, over the past two years.