By RYAN BALIS and AMY RIDENOUR
WASHINGTON -- Most of the world's developed nations formally begin a process this week to deal with the threat of global warming as the international treaty on climate control -- a.k.a. the Kyoto Protocol -- takes effect.
More than two dozen industrialized nations -- with the prominent exception of the United States and Australia -- now will be legally bound to reduce overall emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by at least 5 percent under 1990 levels by 2012.
Though the accuracy of the global warming theory and its ramifications is debated, its advocates contend that the Earth's atmosphere is trapping gases burned from fossil fuels, resulting in a human-induced warming effect.
At Kyoto's signing in 1997, then-Vice President Al Gore pledged the United States would cut its greenhouse emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels.
The Senate, however, voted 95 to 0 that year to not ratify any global warming treaty that harmed the U.S. economy and did not require rapidly developing nations, such as China and India, to likewise reduce their carbon-dioxide outputs.
The Kyoto Protocol failed both tests then and continues to do so. Not coincidentally, President Clinton -- to the chagrin of Gore -- never sent the treaty to the Senate for required ratification.
President Bush also determined that Kyoto was fatally flawed and in 2001 announced that he, too, would not seek Senate ratification. Australia soon made a similar decision, also finding that Kyoto's regulations would cost thousands of jobs and cripple its economy.
Although the treaty now has the support of the required 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emitters -- the United States and Australia wisely lined up on the side of good fortune.
Ratification of Kyoto and adherence to its provisions by the United States would cause massive economic losses to the United States -- particularly to blue-collar workers.
Lost economic output
Testifying before the House of Representatives, Richard Trumka, the president of the United Mine Workers, predicted ratification would cost the United States "hundreds of billions of dollars of lost economic output, and over a million-and-a-half lost American jobs."
Economic data developed by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration during the Clinton administration predicted that ratification would cause U.S. gross domestic product to shrink by $397 billion by 2010. The regulatory and tax costs of complying could be as high as $338 billion -- in 1992 dollars -- annually from 2008 to 2012.
Consumers would feel the pinch as increased energy prices drove up housing, gas, medical and food costs.
Despite its staggering price tag, Kyoto would do virtually nothing to limit the slight, almost immeasurable amount of global warming that may be occurring.
Citing data from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, H. Sterling Burnett of the National Center for Policy Analysis says that even if all Kyoto signatories met their greenhouse gas reduction targets, the Earth would be only 0.07 to 0.19 degrees Celsius cooler.
Greenhouse gases, he notes, would continue to increase because Kyoto exempts such robust economies as China, India, South Korea, Brazil and Indonesia, which will account for up to 85 percent of the emissions increase over the next two decades.
We'll never know for sure, however, because greenhouse gas reduction targets are not being met in the nation's that have ratified the treaty.
The European Environment Agency reported in December that Denmark, Italy, Portugal and Spain are not on course for meeting their Kyoto emission reduction targets -- "some by a wide margin" -- while Germany is "in danger" of missing its target.
Canada is expected to miss its emissions targets, unless new, restrictive policies are soon put into place. To meet its target, Japan is supposed to cut emissions by 6 percent at a time when they have expanded by 8 percent above 1990 levels.
With Kyoto's prospects for influencing world climate appearing bleak, the United States and Australia should resist what may be stepped-up pressure. Signing such a treaty is not worth one American job, let alone hundreds of thousands.
X Ryan Balis is a policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research. Amy Ridenour is the president at the conservative think-tank. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.