SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT & PUBLIC WORKS
STATEMENT OF U.S. SENATOR HARRY REID
July 17, 1997
Global Climate Change

Good Morning. I want to share a few thoughts on the science and economics of the global climate change debate. Although the Committee has wisely chosen to hold two separate hearings on this subject this summer, one on science and economics, which was held last week and today's on the on-going international treaty negotiations, my comments cannot be so easily separated.

There is a discernible human influence on global climate. Since the dawn of the industrial age, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 30 percent. Most experts now agree that the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to the combustion of fossil fuels and other human activities is happening. To many this is a troubling phenomenon. Although we are not sure what the exact adverse consequences of this build-up will be, mere common sense dictates that we, at a minimum, begin preparing to deal with it.

The Senate approved the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1993, which called for all signatory nations to adopt policies and programs to limit their greenhouse gas emissions on a voluntary basis. The United States had hoped to stabilize emissions in the year 2000 at 1990 levels. Unfortunately, we have fallen well short of that mark.

The United States is, at the moment, the world's biggest consumer of fossil fuels and producer of greenhouse gas emissions. As such, it is important that we must show international leadership in terms of analysis, research, and, if necessary, in reducing these emissions.

As part of the on-going international treaty negotiations, the Administration has moved towards supporting mandatory, legally binding limitations on greenhouse gases for the nations of the World. Within limits, I am supportive of these efforts.

Unfortunately, I share the concern of many of my colleagues that the current negotiations do not seem to require a firm time table for reductions from the nations of the developing world.

The U.S. currently emits more greenhouse gases than developing nations, such as China and India. However, this will not be the case for much longer, especially if the U.S. begins to curb our emissions. While I am not eager to perpetuate the poverty in these nations by mandating that they participate equally and immediately in making reductions, I have economic and competitive concerns about requiring nothing from them.

I cannot, in good faith, ask the citizens of Nevada and the rest of the Nation, who have worked very hard to develop and accommodate environmentally friendly transportation policies and clean industries, to now make more sacrifices without some guarantee that the developing nations will not make similar efforts soon.

In a global economy, we are often forced to compete with other nations that have different labor laws and practices than our own, different rules of resource protection, and yes, often weaker environmental laws. Unfortunately, cheap labor, wasteful resource use, and weak environmental laws often add up to a mighty competitive retail price.

On an issue of such wide-ranging economic impact and consequence, it is unfair to our citizens to let other nations do nothing while we make the necessary sacrifices.

Again, I absolutely acknowledge that the United States must do its part to try to avert any adverse climate change. We are a part of the problem and we will be an important part of the solution.

would prefer that Senator Byrd's resolution recognize that the nations of the developing world will need some extra time, perhaps as much as 10 years, to put their binding reductions in place. I am hopeful that a compromise can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction

However, given a choice between sending U.S. negotiators to Kyoto offering unilateral economic disarmament on this subject, and sending them into final negotiations with a stance that demands world-wide equality of treatment now, must choose to protect the best interests of the United States.

Thank you.