Warming Up to Kyoto
November 1, 1998
by Dennis T. Avery
Mark Twain once quipped that everybody talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it. Alas, that’s no longer true. Vice President Gore negotiated a global-warming treaty last December in Kyoto, Japan, and his attempt to change the world’s weather is a ticking time bomb. He has not yet presented the treaty to the Senate, and there is a good chance that they’ll reject it. Let’s hope they like Mark Twain.
Kyoto would require First World countries to slash their greenhouse-gas emissions by 45 percent per capita by 2012. This would probably cut First World economic output by at least 3 percent, eliminate millions of jobs, and throw the affluent nations into a deep recession. It would put no constraints on the Third World.
First World farmers would be especially hard-hit: a 75 percent surge in energy costs and radically higher prices for machinery, pesticides, and fertilizer. The treaty would limit crop yields and livestock production, restrict food processing and transport, and increase soil erosion. It would discourage exports from high-yield farmers and encourage Third World farmers to plow more fragile lands. Asia, for example, would have to expand farming further into the tropical forests, home to millions of wild species.
The vice president is volunteering his own nation’s farmers for bankruptcy and much of the world’s wildlife for destruction. Why? Gore has been declaiming that recent temperatures have been "the highest on record," but the records only go back a hundred years, and the nineteenth century was the coldest in ten centuries. The most advanced computer models of global weather patterns have now cut their projections of potential warming from approximately 5 degrees Celsius to less than 2 degrees C.
Even that may not happen. The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine recently circulated a petition reading, "There is no convincing evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will in the foreseeable future cause catastrophic heating of the earth’s atmosphere." More than fifteen-thousand scientists signed it, at least six-thousand of whom are well-qualified to speak on global warming. A contrary petition circulated by Washington-based Ozone Action has gathered only 2,600 supporters, only about 250 of whom are well-qualified.
The computer models now predict at most a mild global warming in the next century—2 degrees Celsius—which would simply return us to the best weather in history. (See my article, "Global Warming: Boon for Mankind?" in the Spring 1998 American Outlook). It would create milder winters, fewer storms, and only a slight increase in daytime summer temperatures, and farmers would get all that plus more carbon dioxide to fertilize crops and pastures.
The current evidence suggests that the Kyoto treaty would cause economic recessions, rural disasters, and widespread destruction of wildlands—while trying to prevent better weather!
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.