Part 3: 2007: Global Warming Alarmism Reaches A Tipping Point
October 26, 2007
Floor Speech Coninued...
(For Selected Highlights of Speech Click Here:)
ENERGY RATIONING CAN’T WORK - EVEN IF ALARMISTS WERE RIGHT
I would like now to address a question that I’m asked repeatedly. “Senator Inhofe, what if you’re wrong and the alarmists are right? Isn’t it better to adopt carbon restrictions to stop carbon dioxide emissions just in case?” My answer is always the same: what if I am right? They never seem prepared for that question.
But let me address their question. Let’s assume for a moment that the alarmists are right, which or course they are not, but let’s assume they are for the sake of discussion. It still makes absolutely no sense to join Kyoto or any successor treaty or to adopt climate restrictions on our own. Not only does it not make economic sense, it does not make environmental sense. Let me explain.
CARBON MANDATES DON’T REDUCE TEMPERATURES
First, going on a carbon diet would do nothing to avert climate change. After the U.S. signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Al Gore’s own scientist, Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, calculated that Kyoto would reduce emissions by only 0.07 degrees Celsius by the year 2050. That’s all. 0.07 degrees. And that’s if the United States had ratified Kyoto and the other signatories met their targets.
But we didn’t and they won’t. Of the 15 original EU countries, only two are on track to meet their targets. And even one of those, Britain, has started increasing its emissions again, not decreasing.
Similar calculations have been done to estimate other climate bills. The Climate Change Stewardship Act that was defeated 38-60 last year would have only reduced temperatures by 0.029 degrees Celsius, and another bill modeled on the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) report would have only reduced temperatures by 0.008 degrees Celsius. That’s right – 0.008 degrees Celsius, or less than one percent of one degree.
A LESSON IN ECONOMICS
The high costs that would be borne under carbon constraints are unjustifiable to achieve miniscule temperature reductions – and that’s if the alarmists are right about the science. How much more unjustifiable would they be if I and the growing number of skeptical scientists are right?
The fear-mongering about global warming has turned commonsense on its head. In its December 7th, 1998 issue, Time magazine named Henry Ford one of the 20th Century’s 100 most influential builders. Yet just this month, Time named the 1909 Model-T car the worst environmental product of the century. Time acknowledges that the car supercharged the American economy and put it on wheels, but states “That’s just the problem, isn’t it?” The consequences keep piling up, it says. In short, Time now endorses the view that our world would be better off if we had never advanced technologically – if we were still dependent on the horse and cart as we were in 1909.
Now, most people don’t agree with such extremist views. But at the core of the question, “shouldn’t we do something just in case,” the same calculus is at work. What if Henry Ford had not created the Model T out of fear of unknown consequences… just in case?
It isn’t just that our major cities don’t each have to deal with the sanitation and disposal issues of tens of millions of pounds of horse manure – one of many real environmental problems a century ago that the automobile eliminated. It extended to every aspect of life.
When the Model T first rolled off the assembly lines near the beginning of the 20th Century, the average American’s life expectancy was 53 years. Today the average American can expect to live 78 years, or 25 more than a century ago. And we’re not just living longer lives, but healthier, more secure lives. The average American’s real standard of living climbed from $5,300 a year in 1913 to $32,000 a year in 2005. That’s an enormous jump.
And the carbon-based society is responsible for that. Advances in medicine, food production, building construction, services and the manufacture of clothing, furniture and other goods have all been made possible by the mobility brought about by the transportation sector and the electricity provided by power plants.
The advances over the last Century are not simply interesting historical facts. They show us not only why we are a prosperous nation, but a roadmap to a prosperous future. Threats to prosperity have real consequences for how well and how long Americans will live. Whatever actions we take today, we must also safeguard the well-being of America’s families now and into the future.
The United States Senate has acknowledged this when it passed two similar resolutions establishing a standard for passing global warming legislation. In 1997, the Byrd-Hagel Sense of the Senate, which passed 95 – 0, resolved that the U.S. should not be a signatory to any international agreement that would result in serious harm to the U.S. economy or did not mandate reductions from the developing world. Similarly, the Bingaman Sense of the Senate, passed in 2005, resolved that the U.S. should address global warming as long as it will not significantly harm the United States economy and encourages comparable action by other nations that are major trading partners and key contributors to global emissions.
Neither the Kyoto Protocol nor a single bill before Congress meets these criteria – not one. They range from costly to ruinous. But they all fail to meet the requirements of Byrd-Hagel or Bingaman.
Both the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates analyzed the costs of Kyoto when it was signed, and the costs were staggering. For instance, EIA found the annual cost would be up to $283 billion a year, and that’s in 1992 constant dollars. Wharton put the cost even higher, at more than $300 billion annually, or more than $2,700 per family of four each year.
The estimated costs to comply with carbon legislative proposals in the U.S. would also be unreasonable. The NCEP approach would do nothing to lessen global warming even according to the alarmists, but according to EIA, it would still cost more than 118,000 American jobs simply to make a symbolic gesture.
And according to an MIT study, the Sanders-Boxer bill would cost energy sector consumers an amount equal to $4,500 per American family of four. The same study found the Lieberman-McCain bill would cost consumers $3,500 per family of four. Similarly, EIA found that it would have cost 1.3 million jobs. A new EPA analysis shows the Lieberman – McCain bill would cost up to half a trillion dollars by 2030 and $1.3 trillion by 2050.
Now environmentalists will tell you that’s okay. Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council says that EPA’s analysis of the Lieberman-McCain bill show “it is affordable.” Although EPA finds that fuel costs will increase by 22 percent, he calls fuel impacts “pretty modest” – Now activists inside the Beltway may think big jumps in gas prices are no big deal, but I doubt the people living in the real America would agree.
THE POOR BEAR THE BIGGEST COSTS
What few Americans realize is that the impact of these policies would not be evenly distributed. The Congressional Budget Office recently looked at the approach taken by most global warming proposals in Congress – known as cap and trade – that would place a cap on carbon emissions, allocate how much everyone could emit, and then let them trade those emissions. Let me quote from the CBO report:
"Regardless of how the allowances were distributed, most of the cost of meeting a cap on CO2 emissions would be borne by consumers, who would face persistently higher prices for products such as electricity and gasoline. Those price increases would be regressive in that poorer households would bear a larger burden relative to their income than wealthier households would."
Think about that. Even relatively modest bills would put enormous burdens on the poor.
The poor already face energy costs much higher as a percentage of their income than wealthier Americans. While most Americans spend about 4 percent of their monthly budget on heating their homes or other energy needs, the poorest fifth of Americans spend 19 percent of their budget on energy. Why would we adopt policies which disproportionately force the poor and working class to shoulder the heaviest burdens through even higher energy costs?
PERVERSE EFFECTS: THE CEMENT EXAMPLE
Carbon caps would also fundamentally alter the way we live. Take the case of the cement industry and its relation to our daily lives. Cement is experiencing tremendous growth in demand, and with that demand, new jobs are being created. Cement is essential to the maintaining and revitalizing of our aging infrastructure. Highways, bridges, and water and sewage systems are all built with cement. Already our ability to meet our infrastructure needs is under tremendous stress due to the high costs and sheer number of these necessary projects across the nation.
Cement is not only an energy efficient building material, the making of cement has become efficient as energy consumption used in manufacturing cement has dropped by one-third. But the fact remains that CO2 emissions are an inherent part of the cement manufacturing process. Currently, there is no feasible means to separate the CO2 emissions from the remainder of the cement process exhaust gases and sequester it – nor will there be for the foreseeable future.
Putting a cap on carbon emissions would drive cement manufacturing overseas. Because manufacturing processes are far less efficient in developing countries, more energy is used and more carbon dioxide emissions are emitted – so ironically, shifting needed production off-shore through imposition of a carbon cap on our nation will cause emissions to significantly increase, not decrease.
And with the price increases in cost of obtaining cement, how will we maintain our highways? Which highway and bridge maintenance projects will remain undone? Finding the funding for necessary projects is always a difficult task, and advocates of a carbon mandate would make us unable to meet our needs. That would be bad enough if we actually reduced emissions globally, but it is unconscionable to cripple our nation in this way when the policy will actually increase global carbon emissions.
EMISSION GROWTH CHALLENGE: THE DEVELOPING WORLD
Many times I have heard that America is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and thus is the problem. But that is no longer true. Earlier this year, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of carbon. Only 6 years ago, it was estimated that China’s emissions would still lag those of the United States in 2040. China’s emissions growth is explosive and climbing upward.
Just to put things in perspective, the United States did not build a single new coal-fired power plant in the last 15 years up to 2006, although there are now some efforts underway to change that. In comparison, according to the New York Times, “China last year built 117 government-approved coal-fired power plants – a rate of roughly one every three days, according to official figures.” We won’t complete that many in the next decade.
India’s emission increases are not far behind China, and Brazil is not far behind them.
The fact is that if these countries do not curb their rapidly accelerating emissions growth, then embracing a carbon diet and sluggish economic growth by developed countries will accomplish nothing. Moreover, many of the carbon reductions achieved through lost manufacturing jobs in developed countries are simply emitted elsewhere as jobs are created to make the same product in countries that do not ration energy. The U.S. emissions as a measure of productivity are far lower than China’s. Cement manufacturing is a perfect example. Every job sent there will increase emissions, not lower them.
The same is true for Europe, which, while more carbon intensive than the United States, is far less intensive than China. This point was made last year by the European Union's industry commissioner Günter Verheugen, who worries about British competitiveness.
In fact, China is growing at such a rate that even if the United States, Europe and the rest of the developed world were to eliminate every ton of its emissions and become zero emitting countries within a few decades – a clearly ruinous goal – emissions would still be higher than today because of rapidly growing emissions in the developing world. Think about that – even if we shut down our economies completely, emissions would still rise.
Some will say we simply need to educate the developing countries. But the fact is, they understand all too well that there are more important priorities. As Lu Xuedu, Deputy Director General of China’s Office of Global Environmental Affairs, said in October 2006:
“You cannot tell people who are struggling to earn enough to eat that they need to reduce their emissions.”
Prodipto Ghosh, Secretary of India's Environment Ministry, expressed the same sentiment when he said:
"Removal of poverty is the greater immediate imperative [than global warming]."
These views are consistent with the findings of the Copenhagen Consensus. In 2004, a Danish environmentalist who believes global warming is a serious problem brought together eight of the world’s leading economists, including 4 Nobel laureates, and 30 specialists on many of the world’s leading problems. They analyzed the world’s biggest issues and ranked them on the cost-effectiveness of directing societal wealth or resources toward these problems. Of the 17 issues studied, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, malaria, and sanitation topped the list as the best investments, while climate came in last and was ranked as a bad use of resources.
SO WHAT’S THE PATH FORWARD?
So what’s the path forward? I categorically will oppose legislation or initiatives that will devastate our economy as well as those that will cost jobs simply to make symbolic gestures purely to start us down the ruinous economic path of energy rationing.
I believe such measures will be defeated because the approach is politically unsustainable. We are seeing the first signs of that in Europe right now. Even if the alarmists were right on the science – which they are not – their command-and-control approaches sow the seeds of their own failure. As long as their policies put national economies in the cross-hairs, they will stoke the fires of opposition and eventually collapse of their own weight.
Stabilizing emissions can not happen in 20, 40, or even 60 years because our world’s infrastructure is built on fossil fuels and it will continue to be so for a long time to come – the power plants and other facilities being built now and in the future will emit carbon for a half century after they’re completed.
Quite simply, the technology does not exist to cost-effectively power the world without emitting carbon dioxide. And I and many others who reject climate alarmism or ineffective yet expensive solutions will block efforts to implement mandatory carbon restrictions.
I find it unfortunate that so many politicians and climate advocates focus on trying to resurrect a mandatory carbon cap policy in the face of its demonstrated failure in practice in the countries that have adopted it. In the process, they are ignoring the best path forward.
There is only one approach so far that I know of that will work – it is the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. Why? Because this approach serves multiple purposes – it will reduce air pollution, expand our energy supply, increase trade, and along with these other goals, reduce greenhouse gases as a byproduct. Others might put this list together differently in terms of priority, but my point is that the Asia-Pacific Partnership meets the criteria for success – it is a politically and economically sustainable path forward that addresses multiple issues in the context of their relation to other issues. Perhaps other approaches in the future will meet these criteria as well, but the APP is currently the only one that does.
Any international post-Kyoto agreement the United States enters into must make the concepts embodied in the APP a cornerstone of that agreement.
In conclusion, I would simply point out that climate alarmism has become a cottage industry in this country and many others, but a growing number of scientists and the general public are coming around to the idea that climate change is natural and that there is no reason for alarm. It is time to stop pretending that the world around us is headed for certain doom and that Kyoto-style policies will save us – when in fact, the biggest danger lies in these policies themselves. As I have noted, new studies continue to pile up debunking alarm and debunking the very foundation for so called “solutions” to warming.
I know this was a long, long speech, but I just want the real people, not the money driven liberals and the Hollywood elitists, but the real people who are out there raising their families and working hard to know that help is on its way and that all the UN and media driven hype to sell American down the river will fail.
And that truth, as Winston Churchill said, “is incontrovertible, ignorance can deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is."
Why am I willing to subject myself to all the punishment by the rich left extremists? The answer is, for my family. Kay and I have 20 kids and grandkids and we don't want them to have to pay a tax 10 times larger than the largest increase in the history of America. A tax that is based on flawed science. It's for them.
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(For Selected Highlights of Speech Click Here:)
October 2007 Speeches
410 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
456 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175