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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Not So Fast

Air Date: Week of

President Clinton says the climate change treaty that his administration expects to negotiate in Kyoto will prove to be pain-free for America's collective pocketbook. But, John Shanahan doesn't believe it. The numbers, he says, just don't add up. Commentator John Shanahan is director of legislation and policy for the American Legislative Exchange Council.


CURWOOD: President Clinton says the climate change treaty his administration expects to negotiate in Kyoto will prove to be pain-free for America's collective pocketbook. But commentator John Shanahan doesn't believe it. The numbers, he says, just don't add up.

SHANAHAN: In his major global warming address in October, the President said that, quote, "protecting the climate will yield not costs, but profits," unquote. But if cutting carbon emissions would boost world economies, why is a binding treaty necessary? Countries would leap at the chance to reduce greenhouse gases on their own and make a buck, mark, or yen in the process. Of course they won't, because as a number of studies demonstrate, this treaty will not be the economic boon the President hopes it will be. In fact, they anticipate the job losses in this country would be significant. One study commissioned by the government's own Department of Energy predicts that half of all steel workers will lose their jobs.

Another study by the economic modeling firm WEFA examines the plan President Clinton now endorses, but comes to a radically different conclusion. It foresees economic losses in every state, with energy-intensive states like Texas and Louisiana suffering the most. The same study also found gasoline prices rising nearly 50 cents a gallon, and electricity rates hiked by as much as 55%. In all, the WEFA study predicts the climate change treaty will cost the average American household up to $2,000 a year.

If the science supported theories of certain catastrophe, I would quickly reverse my position and embrace carbon emission controls. A ruined world economy is better than a ruined world. But that isn't the situation. There is no consensus over whether we're causing warming. The science is so unsettled that nearly 100 climate scientists last year signed a statement known as the Leipzig Declaration, urging a go slow approach in making commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That's the intelligent course to follow. If the danger is real, delaying the treaty a few years may mean we must tighten our belts more quickly down the road. But if the danger is not real, we will save our children from the economic damage we would inflict upon them by signing the treaty in Kyoto.

CURWOOD: Commentator John Shanahan is Director of Legislation and Policy for the American Legislative Exchange Council.



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