The Kyoto Protocol (named after the Japanese City where it was formulated in 1997) calls for participating countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by about 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012.
President Bill Clinton had signed the protocol but never sent it to the Senate for ratification, because the Senate preempted him in 1997 by voting 95-0 to oppose any international agreements that could harm the economy.
For his part, President Bush withdrew the president’s signature when he took office in 2001 after calling Kyoto “fatally flawed.” Since then, the administration has settled on voluntary agreements that emphasize new technologies and private sector participation.
Although repeated attempts have been made to navigate a “cap and trade” scheme through the U.S. Senate, these efforts have stalled.
(Under cap and trade, electric utilities, manufacturers and other firms would be limited in the amount of carbon dioxide they could release in the air. In the event companies emitted more than the prescribed limit they have, they would have to buy “carbon allowances” in a government-contrived system from companies that had carbon credits.)
Most recently, a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) that would impose “cap and trade” was withdrawn from the Senate floor in June when it fell 12 votes shy of what was needed to surmount a filibuster.
But this does not mean the U.S. economy won’t face more emission regulations, said Eric Heidenreich, director of State Environmental Watch, a project of the Capital Research Center (CRC), a conservative group.
While the Kyoto Protocol has been stalled at the federal level, an effort is under way to impose Kyoto-type rules at the local level, said Heidenreich.
Seven states in the Northeast have already agreed to limit greenhouse gases by participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The agreement was initially set up in 2005 when the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Vermont set a goal for cutting emissions, he said.
Specifically, the RGGI states that by 2019 the participating states will reduce their emissions by 10 percent via a “cap and trade” system.
“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which includes many of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, has been pressuring state officials, with some success over the past few years, to accept costly restrictions on economic activity,” Heidenreich said.
“The success and influence of RGGI and other state level arrangements is thanks primarily to funding from liberal foundations that seek to advance Kyoto-style cap and trade practices by way of pliable state and local officials,” he added.
The Energy Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts are two of the largest donors standing behind global warming bills at the state level, he said.
State-wide push could spread
Heidenreich anticipated seeing “mini-Kyotos” pushed in new regional agreements on the West Coast, in California especially, in the South and in the Midwest.
Until now, the “de-facto” Kyoto regime has not been codified into law in most states, but this could change if New Jersey is a barometer, Heidenreich said.
Under the global warming act passed last year, state law now calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to where they were in 1990 “no later” than 2020. It further requires that emissions not exceed 80 percent of their 2006 levels “no later” than 2050.
The New Jersey Global Warming Act is the most restrictive and economically harmful such measure in the entire country, Republican Assemblyman Mike Doherty told CNSNews.com.
“The idea of man-made global warming is a scam, it’s nothing more than a cover for socialism, bigger government and even global government,” Doherty said.
“It’s going to kill the economy in New Jersey, and it’s going to kill the U.S. economy. The DEP [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection] has been unleashed,” he said. “This means businesses and citizens will flee the state.”
Doherty also said the new law ignores new scientific studies that call into question the premise behind Kyoto measures offered up at the state and national level.
He referenced a petition signed by more than 31,000 scientists that was released in May by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.
The petition says: “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will cause in the future, catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate."
Unfortunately, lawmakers who favor mandatory emissions caps tend to pin their arguments around government-funded studies like the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC), which are heavily reliant on computer models, Bonner Cohen, senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., told CNSNews.com.
“Models can give proponents of the notion of human-induced climate change what they really want to see, because models can be rigged in such a way to produce a desired outcome when the climate itself doesn’t cooperate and when temperatures don’t rise the way they should have risen if the theory of human-induced global warming were valid,” said Cohen.
“The global warming hysteria is not driven by science, and it certainly has not been driven by observations that are put into proper geological context. If you took away the models from the quiver of weapons at the disposal of proponents, they would have absolutely nothing,” he said.
Nevertheless, there is strong sentiment in favor of policy changes built around the assumptions of Kyoto, even as new scientific data are brought forth, Heidenreich said.
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine seemed to encapsulate the thinking behind RGGI last year when he signed off on his state’s global warming bill.
“In the absence of leadership on the federal level, the burden of reducing greenhouse gases has now fallen upon the states,” said Corzine. “I’m proud that New Jersey is one of the first among a handful of states that are leading the nation to combat global warming and I hope more states will follow in our model.”