A new U.S. government study says global warming poses serious environmental problems. The report did not endorse the Kyoto Protocol that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Still, it is believed to be the first time such a study was issued under the current American administration. President George W. Bush has shrugged off the study, saying it was done merely by bureaucrats, and reaffirmed his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol.
Washington, 6 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush is distancing himself from a new report by his administration's Environmental Protection Agency that says global warming will have far-reaching effects on the environment.
The report says the burning of fossil fuel -- primarily oil, gasoline, and coal -- emits heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As a result, the study said, continued reliance on large amounts of fossil fuel is likely to increase the threat of drought, heat waves, and increased air pollution in the United States.
On the positive effects of global warming, it said that balmy weather will boost crop productivity and accelerate the growth of forests.
The study does not recommend making rapid reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions such as accepted by countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol at a United Nations climate conference in Japan in 1997.
Bush shrugged off the agency's report this week: "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy. I do not support the Kyoto treaty."
Fifty-five nations producing more than half of the world's carbon dioxide emissions must approve the pact before it becomes binding. The latest country to ratify the accord is Japan. Russia is also expected to sign it by the end of the year.
Under the protocol, named after the Japanese city where it was drafted, industrialized nations must reduce emissions by an average of 5 percent over the period 2008-12, compared with 1990 levels. Bush said the economic price of adhering to the accord is unacceptable to America: "The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States economy, and I don't accept that. I accept the alternative that we put out, that we can grow our economy at the same time through technologies improve our environment."
Two leading independent experts interviewed by RFE/RL disagree about whether the U.S. should embrace the Kyoto Protocol.
Patrick Michaels is a senior fellow at Cato Institute, a policy research center in Washington. Michaels sums up his position this way: "The Kyoto protocol will do nothing measurable about global warming and would cost this country disproportionately. It's that simple."
Michaels said that since 1900, life span has doubled in the United States, crop yields have quintupled, and average wealth has increased to levels beyond the imagination of someone alive a century ago. He said all of that occurred as the planet warmed.
He said the Kyoto Protocol would accomplish little besides costing the U.S. billions of dollars: "It's a nothing instrument. Bush, I think, took fair leadership in saying, 'No, we're not going to do something that's not gonna do anything. We're not so sure global warming is as big a problem as everybody thinks.' And he has a good argument there, by the way."
Kevin Baumert is a senior associate of World Resources Institute, another Washington-based think tank. His research focuses on climate changes. Baumert takes a different position on Kyoto: "The protocol doesn't pretend to solve the global-warming problem. It's a first step in a longer process. And the protocol establishes that process that the parties would have to meet every year and agree on future emission reductions as science warrants."
Baumert said it would have been symbolically important for the U.S. to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and build on the accord. Asked why the administration is so adamant against Kyoto, Baumert said both Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, have had extensive ties to the oil industry. "I think they [the Bush administration] are against it because their interests are aligned with the fossil-fuel industry, which doesn't want to see any regulation of energy-related products and fuels. They are ideologically against signing onto international treaties of this kind."
Baumert said the actual cost of going along with the protocol could range from nothing to billions of dollars. He said the costliest scenario would be about 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.