Magazine article Insight on the News

Kyoto Treaty Looks Good on Paper, but Is It Bad for America's Health?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Kyoto Treaty Looks Good on Paper, but Is It Bad for America's Health?

Article excerpt

Critics of the so-called Kyoto Treaty argue that it will do little to combat global warming, even if this debatable theory proves valid. The treaty's supporters argue that a rollback in carbon dioxide, or [CO.sup.2], output will prevent Earth from stewing in a sauna of greenhouse gases. Global-warming skeptics respond that Kyoto will restrain emissions among industrialized nations, while allowing Third World and developing countries to churn out [CO.sup.2] as never before. This is as smart as opening the windows, then blasting the air conditioner on a summer afternoon.

But could the Kyoto Treaty be worse than futile? Could it actually do damage?

In a study for the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, University of Texas professor Frank Cross predicts that Kyoto will prove lethal. While it will not make hundreds of people drop dead at once, its unintended consequences could cause thousands of unnecessary deaths annually due to decreased public health and safety. In short, the Kyoto Treaty threatens to kill us softly.

One key problem is costlier power due to the treaty's tight restrictions. An October Energy Department report shows the impact of cutting [CO.sup.2] emissions 20 percent below current levels and 35 - 43 percent below where they are projected to be in 2010 without Kyoto. Fuel-oil prices will rise 76 percent. The Kyoto premium on electricity will be 86.4 percent, with a 147 percent hike in natural-gas costs.

Higher fuel bills will price air conditioning out of the reach of poorer consumers. While this might merely annoy younger people, the elderly routinely dehydrate each summer inside their blistering homes. In a 1995 Chicago heat wave, for instance, 339 seniors perished from heat exhaustion. The Kyoto Treaty could make such tragedies more common.

In the winter, pricier fuel oil and natural gas will prompt some consumers to use substitutes unregulated by Kyoto, such as firewood. As lovely as a fireplace's glow may be, it also poses health risks. The American Review of Respiratory Disease reports that home use of a wood-burning stove increased the probability of a child having a severe respiratory symptom from 3 to 84 percent.

Year-round, homes can be made more energy-efficient by decreasing ventilation rates. While insulation and tight-fitting doors help cool homes in summer and warm them in winter, they also trap carbon monoxide, petroleum vapors and other toxins. One EPA report blames Energy Department weatherization initiatives for 10,000 to 20,000 additional lung-cancer deaths due to radon that stayed inside energy-efficient homes. …

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