Climate Deal Sets Stage for Global Energy Taxes
Singer, S. Fred, Insight on the News
The Geneva meetings on the U.N. Climate Convention in mid-July have led to a surprising position statement by the State Department, calling for legally binding targets and time frames for the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide, or [CO.sub.2]. Since [CO.sub.2] mostly comes from the burning of fuels, such a policy shift would impose reduced energy consumption on industry and on households by cutting electric power use, driving and heating.
This newly announced policy represents a major departure by the White House from the current plan that relies upon a program of voluntary emission reductions based upon energy conservation and improvements in efficiency The unexpected about-face in Geneva will have significant domestic, as well as international, implications. It is a slap in the face to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski of Alaska and seven other senators, who on July 10 warned the president not to set fixed targets that would require mandatory controls on energy use. The White House policy reversal is sure to require the imposition of high energy taxes. Congress already has expressed its opposition to any kind of energy tax, whether a British thermal unit tax or carbon tax. Little wonder: Voters strongly have resisted even a modest increase in the gasoline tax. An internationally mandated tax would fuel even greater resentment.
The Global Climate Treaty, signed at the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit, is supposed to save the planet from global warming--a threat entirely based upon unconfirmed theory (see Symposium, June 19,1995). Lacking scientific justification, the treaty may turn into a giant U.N. scheme for taxing the use of energy -- with the burden falling primarily on consumers in the United States and other industrialized nations.
True, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas has been increasing since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The purpose of the treaty is to keep the level from increasing further -- an unrealistic goal that spells economic disaster. To stabilize [CO.sub.2] levels, one has to reduce emissions by about 70 percent--effectively reducing energy use worldwide to less than one-third its present amount!
But climate warming turns out to be a scientific nonproblem, despite attempts to portray it as the "greatest global challenge facing mankind." Contrary to all forecasts from computer models, weather-satellite data during the last 18 years show no warming whatsoever. To overcome this embarrassing discrepancy, the United Nations' scientific advisers, in a series of assessments published since 1990, have resorted to convoluted language and recently even went so far as to alter an underlying scientific report to make it agree with a politically negotiated "policymakers' summary. …