Second Global Warming Treaty Makes Less Sense Than First

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Published March 23, 2005

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., suggested last week that it’s time for a second global warming treaty (search) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A new study out this week, however, seems to question the point of the existing global warming treaty.

Speaking before the Consumer Federation of America’s annual meeting on March 11, Sen. McCain said U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change (search) might not be a necessary step toward reducing greenhouse gases (search), since the treaty exempted India and China from reducing emissions, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

McCain then suggested, according to Roll Call, a second treaty that would “demand that India and China also join in [the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.]”

McCain also urged greater pressure on U.S. businesses to reduce emissions. “The key to this is to convince business and industry that it's to their economic benefit to bring forward technologies ... to drastically reduce [greenhouse gases],” he said.

I would agree with Sen. McCain that there’s no need for the U.S. to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Our rationales, of course, would differ.

The vast majority of the greenhouse gas effect — perhaps 99.7 percent — is beyond human control. There’s no direct evidence that the minuscule manmade contributions of greenhouse gases to the environment are having any measurable or significant impact on global climate.

In addition to the scientific shortcomings of global warming hysteria, the economic consequences of the Kyoto Protocol can be summed up as “all costs and no benefits.”

The global warming treaty is estimated to cost 100 trillion real dollars for the hypothetical prevention of a 1 degree Centigrade rise in the average global temperature.

In contrast, Sen. McCain’s complaint about the Kyoto Protocol apparently boils down solely to the treaty’s exclusion of developing nations like China and India, the second and sixth biggest greenhouse gas emitters.

Sen. McCain’s call for a new treaty to include China and India is ludicrous. Neither country will be able to develop economically without tremendous increases in energy use — that’s why they didn’t sign on to Kyoto. Keep in mind that one of the major reasons for the rise in gas prices over the last year is the increase in the demand for oil in China.

There’s also no meaningful way to enforce greenhouse gas limits in the developing world — although U.S. environmentalists often take advantage of our easy-access legal system to enforce U.S. environmental laws and regulations, no similar mechanisms exist in countries like China and India.

But all this talk about Kyoto and Son of Kyoto is somewhat beside the point, according to other recent news.

Climatologist Tom Wigley, a global warming disciple from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, reported in the journal Science this week that even if we could somehow magically “freeze” the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases at today’s levels — an unrealistic scenario where greenhouse gases are not added to or removed from the atmosphere — global warming would still occur because of the heat stored in the oceans.

Because the ocean responds relatively slowly to climate change, it will continue to contribute to global warming even if we do stabilize greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, according to Wigley. He estimates the ocean’s “warming commitment” to be 1 degree Centigrade by the year 2400.

Wigley further estimates that, even if we freeze greenhouse gas emissions at current levels — another unrealistic scenario — average global temperatures will rise between 2 degrees Centigrade to 6 degrees Centigrade by 2400.

But then Wigley disingenuously concludes that, “in order to stabilize global mean temperatures, we eventually need to reduce emission of greenhouse gases to well below present levels” — even though his own data purport to show that global warming would still occur even if we completely stopped emitting greenhouse gases.

Moreover, Wigley announced more than two years ago that no treaty was likely to stop climate change and that while renewable energy technologies are a possible solution, they don’t currently exist in any meaningful form and won’t anytime soon.

Though I have no confidence in Wigley and his crystal ball-like projections about our exceedingly complex climate system that neither he nor anyone else is close to understanding, the global warming lobby does believe and parrot Wigley’s predictions of gloom-and-doom.

And if Wigley is their man, then they’re stuck with his conclusions — namely that neither Kyoto nor Son of Kyoto will accomplish anything — other than, of course, driving the world, particularly developing countries, toward economic ruin.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

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