Open Letter from Grassroots Leaders Concerned About Global Warming Policies

by William Yeatman on January 15, 1998

in Blog

Following is a letter sent by grassroots leaders concerned about the implications of global warming policies to state level policy makers. Many people are concerned that the Clinton Administration, the EPA, and state-level government agencies will attempt to implement the treaty without the approval of Congress.

January 16, 1998

Dear Colleague:

We are writing to enlist your aid in preventing the sblackth implementation of an international climate change treaty by the Clinton White House; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), the national association of state environmental agencies.

On January 21-22, ECOS will hold a conference in Baltimore, Maryland, to make plans for implementing the Kyoto Protocol to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as the Rio Treaty. The conference, funded in part by the Federal EPA, smacks of bureaucratic arrogance and presumption, since the Kyoto Protocol has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

In its conference brochure, ECOS declares that, the Kyoto Protocol having set mandatory targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the United States “must now begin designing policies and programs to meet this goal.” Says who? Since when “must” the United States carry out a treaty that has not ratified by the Senate? By what authority do non-elected bureaucrats decide for the American people, and their elected representatives, which proposed treaty shall, or shall not, be the law of the land?

The ECOS conference brochure continues, “The U.S., a strong proponent of the emissions trading language included in the Protocol, will pursue a package of options that will include the establishment of a domestic and international trading system to move us in the right direction.” ECOS confuses the position of the Clinton Administration with the policy of “the U.S.” The United States is not a proponent of emissions trading or any other element of the Kyoto Protocol, and cannot be until and unless the Senate ratifies the agreement. And the Senate has already expressed its overwhelming disapproval of the kind of agreement negotiated in Kyoto.

Last July, the Senate, by a vote of 95 to 0, adopted a resolution (S. Res. 98) that the U.S. should not be a party to any agreement which would (a) exempt developing countries from similar emissions reduction requirements or (b) do serious harm to the U.S. economy. The Kyoto Protocol fails on both counts. Developing countries are completely exempt, and the agreement would compel Americans to cut their energy use by about one-third.

Asserting that “States and localities will be affected both environmentally and economically by climate change,” the ECOS brochure says the conference will help state environmental agencies develop “cost-effective” “compliance strategies” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But this begs all of the serious questions at issue.

Is the world actually getting warmer? The satellite record of global temperature, spanning nearly twenty years, shows no global warming – much less one of the magnitude predicted by the computer models on which the climate treaty is based.

Would warming be catastrophic? A modest warming that occurs mostly during winter, at night, and in the higher latitudes (as greenhouse theory predicts) would likely produce positive net benefits – greater agricultural productivity, a reduction in severe storms, even a slowing down of sea level rise (a warmer, wetter atmosphere would increase snowfall in the polar regions, transferring water from the oceans to the ice sheets).

Is energy rationing a sensible way to deal with the potential problems of climate change? Thousands of America’s senior citizens adapt to climate change every year when they move from relatively cold places like Chicago and St. Paul to warmer places like Miami and Phoenix. Since the wealth and creativity of a dynamic market economy are the mainstays of public health and safety, a policy of adaptation to climate change should be the preferred option, not coercive restrictions on people’s access to affordable energy.

The ECOS brochure completely ignores the Kyoto Protocol’s risks and costs. Giving government coercive power over private resources and business decisions is always a risky proposition. The Kyoto Protocol would give participating governments the power to control the energy budgets of countries, industries, perhaps even households. How possibly could that make the world a safer place? Putting government in charge of energy production and consumption would create vast new opportunities for wasteful spending, special-interest regulation, and political mischief.

A related problem is what role the UN would play in monitoring and enforcing compliance with the agreement. Logic suggests that the UN would have to assume massive new powers and responsibilities. Whereas the benefits of emissions reduction are distant, speculative, and diffuse, the costs are immediate, real, and concentrated. Hence every party to the Kyoto Protocol will have strong incentives to cheat. Without an international authority to conduct surprise inspections, keep the books on emissions trades, and punish emissions violators, the whole Kyoto edifice would quickly come crashing down. The bureaucrats at ECOS may feel at home in a new world order of ‘global governance’ under UN auspices. But we believe the potential surrender of American sovereignty implicit in the Kyoto accord is both dangerous and unacceptable.

At a minimum, the Kyoto Protocol would reduce average American household income $2,000 a year by 2010, while increasing energy prices 30% to 55% percent above baseline projections, according to WEFA (formerly Wharton Economic Forecasters Associates). For low-income families and persons (such as seniors) on fixed incomes, the costs of Kyoto would be devastating.

ECOS may claim they are only trying to do what government planners are supposed to do – anticipate the future and plan for it. But the conference transparently has another purpose – to lay the groundwork for implementing a treaty which has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate. The game plan is to make eventual ratification of the Kyoto Protocol more likely, or even unavoidable, by putting in place, beneath the Senate’s radar scope, the policies required to implement that agreement. This strategy is clever – but it is an abuse of taxpayer dollars; it is wrong.

In public policy controversies, it is often helpful to have a motto which sums up what you are fighting for. In the debate over the Kyoto Protocol, our rock-bottom, absolute minimum demand must be, “No Implementation without Ratification!” This is a position both Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, should be proud to support. For it is the position of the U.S. Constitution, as well as being a self-evident requisite of good government.

We urge you to take all appropriate action to ensure that costly and controversial climate change policies are not adopted by stealth and bureaucratic fiat. To that end, we encourage you to ask hard questions of your state’s environmental agency head. Is ECOS going to consider all sides of the climate change debate, or is it going to act as a lobbyist for the Clinton Administration, the UN, and the apocalypse industry? What state law, program, or authority justifies efforts to implement a treaty which has not been ratified?


Fred L. Smith, President
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Karen Kerrigan, President
Small Business Survival Committee

Grover G. Norquist, President 
Americans for Tax Reform

Thair Phillips, CEO
The Seniors Coalition

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