Beware the Global Warming Treaty

The Clinton administration supports implementation of a global warming treaty negotiated at a United Nations conference in Japan, justifying the treaty as a precaution against global warming in the next century. The existence of man-made global warming is highly uncertain, but the climate treaty’s likely effects are very clear. International restrictions resulting from the treaty would act as an energy tax, doing grave harm to Michigan’s economy.

President Clinton has asserted that we would have to absorb the treaty’s costs by "changing the way we do things." In other words, the government must put us on a strict energy diet. Anti-global warming measures would necessarily reduce consumption of carbon-based fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Such fuels currently provide 90 percent of our energy needs. These fuels release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned, and are suspected of causing a gradual rise in the earth’s temperature.

Total energy use would have to be controlled and rationed by the government to achieve the objectives of the climate treaty. Energy conservation measures and technologies would be mandated by new regulations. Americans may be forced to re-live the harrowing experience of the energy shortages of the 1970s as a result.

By making energy less abundant, a climate treaty will have a profound affect on living standards in Michigan. According to an analysis by WEFA, Inc., an economic consulting firm, Michigan could lose 94,000 jobs by the year 2010 as a result of higher fuel costs. Much of the pain would be felt by those who work in auto manufacturing, transportation equipment, and fabricated metals industries, where wages and salaries would decline by 3.4 percent. For this reason, the United Auto Workers, the Michigan Teamsters, and other representatives of organized labor have joined the business community in opposition to the treaty.

Michigan’s competitive position in international trade is expected to suffer greatly. The state’s economy would shrink by $7.8 billion in 2010 under the weight of international energy controls, according to WEFA. Third World countries such as China, India, and Mexico will be exempt from the treaty’s restrictions, prompting fears that the treaty would export American jobs. "The upcoming UN climate treaty is all pain and no gain for American workers and consumers," complains Cecil Roberts of the United Mine Workers of America. "It is a bad deal for American families, and will provide a perverse incentive for American corporations to relocate their operations abroad."

Rep. John Dingell of Dearborn, the senior Democrat on the House Commerce Committee, has also taken notice of the climate treaty’s unfairness. "Up to this point the international discussions have been much more about protecting competitive advantage than protecting the environment."

Michigan consumers would feel a definite chill from a global warming treaty. Average households would have to spend an additional $500 per year in electricity bills to run appliances and to heat their homes in winter, according to the WEFA study. Gasoline prices would also rise, costing $300 more per vehicle annually. Since the poorest one-fifth of the population pay a greater share of their income for utilities and transportation than average consumers, they would suffer the most in proportional terms.

If the future of the planet were truly at risk, perhaps these painful measures would be somehow justified. But simply put, there is no scientific consensus that man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing global warming. In fact, satellite measurements and weather balloons show a slight global cooling trend for the last twenty years.

Much recent scientific evidence suggests the most important factor in the earth’s temperature is the sun, not human activity. Researchers have begun to link climate fluctuations over the earth’s history to solar variations, brightness and sunspot activity. Dr. Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, found that the sun may be responsible for up to 94 percent of the earth’s temperature changes over the last 120 years.

The risks to society of global warming are speculative and unproved. At worst, the UN estimates that the earth’s climate could warm gradually by a few degrees over the next 100 years. This gives us plenty of time to adapt to changing weather conditions, as our ancestors have done for thousands of years. The risks of energy scarcity, on the other hand, are immediate and devastating. So far, consumers and workers have more to fear from the global warming treaty than from global warming predictions.