Al Gore's winning of a Nobel Peace Prize, shared with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for its leadership in global-warming issues, has given new impetus to the debate.
The fourth and final assessment of the IPCC's landmark report was issued in Madrid, Spain, on Nov. 17, warning of "catastrophic consequences" if governments did not control emissions of greenhouse gases.
The draft states that global warming is "unequivocal," leading to "abrupt or irreversible climate changes and impacts." The report ended with the standard bogeyman conclusion: "Those in the weakest economic or political position are frequently the most susceptible to climate change . . . The poor, young children, the elderly and the ill . . . who will face faltering water supplies, damage to crops, new diseases and encroaching oceans."
The report predicted a possible temperature increase of 3.6 degrees F. could place “up to 30 percent of the species of earth at risk of extinction."
Global warming issues had been languishing somewhat since President George W. Bush's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol in February 2007 for presentation to the U.S. Senate for ratification.
With the big money giver (the U.S. taxpayer) out of the picture, the Kyoto Protocol, for all intents and purposes, died on the vine.
The principal objective of the Kyoto Protocol was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 5 percent below the 1990 levels by the year 2012. Countries unable to meet the objectives of Kyoto would be obligated to purchase carbon credits to comply.
The carbon portion of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 was 1,346 million metric tons, according to analysis by the new Energy Information Administration (EIA). U.S. carbon emissions are projected to rise by 26 percent above the 1990 levels by 2012. That 26 percent plus 5 percent would mean the United States would have to purchase carbon credits equal to 31 percent of the total U.S. carbon emissions, or 417.3 million metric tons.
Using an average of EIA figures, or $100 per ton, that comes out to nearly $41.73 trillion to meet Kyoto requirements.
Kyoto may be history, but new uncertainties loom large on the horizon. Congress is involving itself in what ranking Republican member and former chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee James Inhofe of Oklahoma calls "the greatest hoax of the century," referring to global warming.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., has stepped into the lead and has joined forces with two other prominent senators, John Warner, R-Va., and John McCain, R-Ariz.
Lieberman and Warner have introduced America's Climate Security Act. The legislation would cut emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States by 60 percent from the 1990 levels by the year 2050. Carbon credits in a cap and trade system would be introduced to all industries that emit greenhouse gases.
Emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States have already increased more than 18 percent since 1990. Adding the bill’s unrealistic figure of 60 percent reduction from 1990 to the 18 percent increase since 1990 would create a total reduction in emissions, using present figures, to 78 percent with no growth provided for the years up to 2050. The mentality that would propose such a Draconian measure is beyond belief. With no economic growth the entire U.S. economy would be devastated.
The McCain-Lieberman bill doesn't appear as scary as the Lieberman-Warner measure. McCain-Lieberman would cap carbon emissions at 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The 15 percent reduction would carry the comparative emissions figure back to 1990 levels or a little less.
The EIA is analyzing the various legislative acts with respect to carbon mandates. One bill of particular interest was Senate Bill 280 introduced by Lieberman in July 2007. The costs for the fully implemented program, including carbon credits in a cap and trade system, were so exhorbitant that EIA commented “the act would have devastating economic consequences if enacted . . . The overall costs of the bill would be staggering.”
Dr. Anne Smith of Charles River Associates International said the Lieberman bill would cause losses of $4 trillion to $7 trillion between 2010 and 2050.
Analyses show energy costs for consumers and employers will be even more expensive if Congress adopts carbon mandates but fails to enact policies to increase domestic energy supplies such as new nuclear plants and clean coal technology. EIA's analysis assumes the need for 150 new nuclear plants in the next 30 years.
Inhofe fears that imposing limits on carbon emissions without new sources of energy will result in a crushing financial blow to all Americans. He says, “Yet, in hearing after hearing, it has become clear that the environmental community plans to erect barriers to new nuclear power plants — which would be essential in an emissions-constrained world. It is the classic bait and switch. But this study proves how costly it will be to fall into this trap."
The introduction of the climate change issue into Congress is a dangerous course to pursue at this point. Time spent on the gossamer issue of global warming takes away the vital attention that Congress should be devoting to the critical issues such as energy independence and illegal immigration.
Gossamer in the hands of the vacuous mentality of the 110th U.S. Congress could give a new meaning to the term “the dark ages.”
E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and agricultural publisher, also is a national and local award-winning columnist. He welcomes comments by email sent to email@example.com.
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