Imagine an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where all the members showed up drunk and with extra cases of wine, beer, and booze to keep them happy. Now imagine that that same group of drunks was empowered to make trillions of dollars worth of economic decisions for everybody in the world. This absurd scenario swiftly summarizes the United Nations Climate Change Conference beginning today, and lasting through December 18, in Copenhagen.
Despite the fact that the entire conference is founded on the belief that human economic activity, especially flying and driving, is emitting levels of greenhouse gasses that will soon kill us all, plutocrats from around the world have marshaled over 1,200 limos and 140 private planes to travel to and around Copenhagen over the next two weeks. When they are not participating in the world’s oldest profession, conferees will be negotiating over a successor treaty to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which obligated most developed nations to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 5 percent below 1990 baseline levels by 2012.
So how did those Kyoto emissions reduction pledges turnout? According to U.N. data, between 2000 and 2006, the 27 European signatories actually increased their emissions by 0.1%. Canada even saw a 21.3% emissions rise. Meanwhile, the U.S., who was not bound by the treaty since the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 not to subject our economy to costly regulations that China and India were specifically exempted from, actually reduced our emissions by 3% over the same time period.
One key reason Europe failed to meet their Kyoto obligations was the tremendous cost of reducing emissions, estimated at $67.75 billion to $170.84 billion through 2008. Because of the high costs of reducing emissions, Copenhagen is seen, especially by Europeans, as an opportunity to force the U.S. to join the other developed countries required to reduce emissions. The economic stakes are huge. Nick Main, global managing partner for climate change and sustainability at the consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, tells the Los Angeles Times: “One of the reasons that this negotiation is difficult is it really does involve issues of competitive and comparative advantage between countries. This is really an economic debate of, ‘How do you pay the costs?’”
And the costs to our economy would be huge. A Heritage Foundation analysis of Waxman-Markey found that this energy tax would have serious implications throughout the economy. For a household of four, energy costs (electric, natural gas, gasoline expenses) would rise by $436 in 2012 and by $1,241 by 2035, averaging $829 over that period. Higher energy costs would increase the cost of many other products and services. Overall, Waxman-Markey would reduce gross domestic product by $393 billion annually and by a total of $9.4 trillion by 2035.
The Obama administration is sadly mistaken if it believes they can unilaterally submit the American people to such an economic disaster. Even Senators within the President’s own party have expressed grave concerns with the administration’s Copenhagen promises. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) recently wrote the President: “Although details have not been made available, recent statements by Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern indicate that negotiators may be intending to commit the United States to a nationwide emission reduction program. As you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country.”
With unemployment still in the double digits, now is not the time to subjecting the U.S. economy to costly new rules, especially rules that are not equally applied to developing countries like India and China.