Copenhagen Consequences: What You Need to Know

November 2, 2009
Copenhagen Consequences: What You Need To Know
Fact Sheet #44

The Next Kyoto?

U.S. Policy: In 1997 the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Byrd–Hagel Resolution, which warned President Clinton not to enter into any global warming treaty that leaves out developing nations or hurts the American economy. This is still U.S. policy today and should serve as the overarching guidelines for the December global warming conference in Copenhagen.

An Expiring Kyoto: The Kyoto Protocol is the major global warming treaty currently in place, and it expires in 2012. The Copenhagen conference has long been seen by Kyoto proponents as critical for extending the provisions into the decades ahead.

Kyoto Not Ratified: After Vice President Al Gore agreed to the protocol, President Clinton failed to even submit it to the Senate, knowing there wasn’t support for a treaty that so obviously violated the Byrd–Hagel Resolution.

Massive Kyoto Costs: The U.S. didn’t ratify the Kyoto protocol for good reason. Its provisions would have been economically disastrous and environmentally inconsequential. Kyoto failed to reduce emissions, and the developing world—especially China which now out-emits the U.S.—was completely exempt. An Energy Information Administration study at the time projected costs of U.S. compliance to be between $100 billion and $397 billion annually.

Kyoto a Failure

Increasing Emissions: As expected, emissions from exempted developing nations skyrocketed since 1997, but surprisingly, so have emissions from most developed nation signatories. Many Western European nations, and even Japan and Canada, have experienced faster emission increases than those of the U.S. The fact that the U.S. is doing better as a Kyoto outsider than many Kyoto insiders is a lesson that ought not to be lost at Copenhagen.

An Overstated Problem: There has been little or no global warming since the Kyoto Protocol was signed, despite increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Countdown to Copenhagen

Developing Nations: The need to include developing nations is even greater today. Developing-world emissions began to outpace developed nations in 2005, and they are projected to continue increasing seven times faster. China’s emissions growth is projected to be nine times higher than the U.S.’s through 2030.

Copenhagen Likely Worse Than Kyoto: As economically damaging as Kyoto would have been, Copenhagen would likely be worse. Even proponents of Kyoto described its 5% target as a modest first step toward reducing emissions. One analysis showed that Kyoto would reduce the Earth’s temperature by no more than 0.07 degrees Celsius by 2050. If participants at Copenhagen were serious, they would have to be much more economically reckless to meet their own environmental standards.

Waxman–Markey: The U.S. domestic global warming bill, which narrowly passed the House last June, contains far more stringent targets than Kyoto, requiring a 17% reduction in emissions from 2005 baseline levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050. The Heritage Foundation’s analysis showed that this bill would easily qualify as “serious harm” to the U.S. economy, including reductions in GDP of $393 billion annually, total costs to a household of four of nearly $3,000 annually, and over 1 million net job losses.

Copenhagen Would Cost Too Much: In order to actually reduce emissions, similarly onerous targets to those in Waxman–Markey would be necessary in any global warming treaty coming out of Copenhagen, and those would certainly violate Byrd–Hagel and yield America a desperately tragic economic future.

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