A Climate Change Policy For Our Nation
By now, we have all heard about the 1997 Kyoto treaty on climate change – although I’m sure some wish they hadn’t. Believing that man-made gases are causing global warming, the Kyoto treaty requires severe – and costly – restrictions on man-made emissions into the atmosphere. However, the Kyoto treaty is seriously flawed.
Initial debate of the treaty basically suggested that if climate change is human-caused, the only way to save the climate is to turn the lights out on large economies like ours. It doesn’t allow for the economic growth that is critically necessary to a rising standard of living. That is one reason the Senate and our President pushed back and said no, we would not ratify Kyoto.
President Bush has consistently acknowledged that human activity can affect our climate, and that climate variability does not recognize national borders. The key issue is not whether there is any human-influenced effect. Instead, there are several issues: how large any human influence may be, as compared to natural variability; how costly and how effective human intervention may be in reversing climate variability; and how and what technology may be required now and in the long term.
Several countries and organizations still press the United States to approve Kyoto. If we did, the onerous and costly restrictions would be felt by every Idahoan, and every American, as we would be forced to drastically cut our energy use as part of a global plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet, developing countries, not subject to emission reductions, would suddenly occupy an uneven economic playing field. Their cheap energy costs would result in high-paying U.S. jobs in manufacturing, mining, transportation and other sectors moving overseas. Under Kyoto, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates gasoline prices would rise 14 to 66 cents per gallon by the year 2010, and electricity prices would go up 20 to 86 percent.
Important questions about climate change remain unanswered. Current climate change advocates blame mankind for producing greenhouse gases. But highly accurate and scrutinized satellite data do not show the warming they predict. There has only been surface warming of slightly more than one degree Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, well within the customary, natural swings in surface temperatures.
More than 4,000 scientists, including 70 Nobel Prize winners, signed the Heidelberg Appeal, stating there is no firm evidence that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. A survey of state climatologists revealed serious doubts that man-made greenhouse gases present a serious threat to climate stability.
Serious scientific study could determine whether the earth is in a natural cycle of temperature change, or whether man-made greenhouse gases are actually changing our climate. As good stewards of the environment, we must work to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases mankind is releasing into the atmosphere by reducing the greenhouse gas intensity. Greenhouse gas intensity is defined as the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output. This is a far wiser measure of progress for climate change issues because it complements, rather than conflicts with, a nation's goal of growing its economy and meeting the needs of its people.
To promote and encourage scientific and reliable reduction of greenhouse gases, Senators Alexander (R-TN), Dole (R-SC) and I cosponsored Senator Hagel’s (R-NE) Climate Change Comprehensive Legislative Reform Act of 2005. Above all, this legislation is a true acknowledgment that climate variability and change is a top priority as an issue for the United States and for all nations. It offers a comprehensive, voluntary approach to addressing climate change by connecting domestic and international economic, environmental, and energy policies.
The act contains three bills: an international bill (S.386), a domestic bill (S.388), and a tax incentive bill (S.387). S.386 promotes adoption of technologies that reduce greenhouse gas intensity in developing countries, while S.388 promotes adoption of these technologies domestically. The third bill provides tax incentives for reducing greenhouse gas intensity here and overseas. This legislation will help our nation get its arms around this issue and show that we are sensitive to it.
There is a legitimate debate about whether more can be done while meeting our nation's economic objectives. I, for one, support doing more in the areas of technological development to help lift developing countries from the depths of poverty, and to advance their cause as we advance ours. That is why I am proud to be working with my colleagues in the Senate on this legislation. I look to our Idaho educational institutions, Idaho private business, and the Idaho National Laboratory to develop and deploy the technologies that reduce greenhouse gas intensity.