Wicker: U.S. Should Not Sign Climate Pact Amid Economic Risks, Scientific Doubts

December 14, 2009

The last major round of climate negotiations took place in Kyoto, Japan, in December of 1997. Participating nations produced a worldwide plan aimed at addressing global warming. The United States never signed on to that treaty due to the deep concerns of Congress and the Bush administration. The countries that did ratify the Kyoto protocol committed to reduce their carbon emissions. Under the agreement, if countries exceeded preset emission caps, they would purchase “credits” from other countries that released fewer emissions. This type of policy is known as a “cap and trade” system.   
Twelve years later, President Obama is set to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to participate in the current round of climate negotiations. Schedule permitting, I hope to attend also with a different point of view.  The President should not commit the U.S. to a pact that is neither predicated on proven science nor has the necessary backing of Congress.

               Scientific Skepticism
First, there is a weak scientific basis for the cap and trade approach. Science shows that there is an increase of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. But it has not been compellingly proven that mankind is responsible for the rise in atmospheric CO2, nor is it clear what impact CO2 has on Earth’s temperatures.

There are nearly 450 academic peer-reviewed journal articles questioning man-made global warming. Over 31,000 American scientists have publicly rejected the science behind the Kyoto Protocol. In late November, we saw one of the sharpest blows to the global warming movement yet. A decade’s worth of email correspondence between leading British and American scientists revealed that some global warming proponents have suppressed scientific findings that undermine their case.

               Devastating Economics
Second, President Obama should not promise the U.S. will fall in step with the goals of Copenhagen without Congress, and the American people who have elected us, behind the pact. Weakening support for the Senate cap and trade bill is a clear indicator that the President has not achieved congressional consent. Senators from both sides of the aisle are unwilling to embrace cap and trade legislation because of the devastating impact it would have on American families. The proposal would levy a massive energy tax on Americans, forcing them to pay higher prices for gasoline, groceries, and utilities. The Obama administration’s own estimate found that a cap and trade scheme could cost American families an extra $1,761 per year.

Our nation can ill-afford the economic devastation that would result from cap and trade. If our businesses are subject to an energy tax, we would risk sending our jobs to global competitors. American manufacturers and small businesses would be hit with skyrocketing energy costs. Meanwhile, they would compete against manufacturers in China and India producing the same goods for less. Rising operating costs and falling revenue would force manufacturers to lay off workers. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, recently discussed how the cap and trade proposal would drive jobs overseas. He told The Hill newspaper that “it really does say to manufacturing, ‘Go to China, where they have weaker environmental standards.’ And that’s a very bad message in bad economic times – in any economic times.”

               Shifting Politics
Despite the flimsy science behind man-made global warming and the Senate’s stalled cap and trade bill, international climate negotiators are counting on a new administration to seal America’s agreement at Copenhagen. Those who hope President Obama will sign a new treaty are likely encouraged by the recent Environmental Protection Agency declaration that CO2 is a pollutant. This outrageous decision gives the Obama administration – through the EPA – power to regulate greenhouse gases without congressional approval. I hope this is not an indicator of what the President intends to convey to the world in Copenhagen.

Considering all that is at stake, it is important that both sides of this debate be represented at the summit. If the congressional calendar allows, I plan to travel to Copenhagen with a number of my colleagues. Our goal is to observe proceedings and to express the deep concern many lawmakers and Americans share on this consequential issue.

Congress has the authority and responsibility to look at both the science and the economics of global warming and to weigh its merits and shortcomings. From that debate, we should set the laws for the protection and prosperity of our nation. Based on what we now know, there is great cause for skepticism and scrutiny.