Technology is the Answer to Climate Change

By | April 14, 2009

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Carbon caps or levies will throttle taxpayers

Last summer, China and the developing world announced the price for their cooperation on a global-warming treaty: up to 1% of the developed world’s gross domestic product. For the U.S., this would mean sending $140 billion a year to China, Iran, North Korea and Cuba, among other countries. This is in addition to the $28 billion we already distribute each year in foreign aid.

For a U.S. family of four, China’s demand comes to nearly $1,900 in yearly taxes. And that’s just the beginning.

The tenor of international climate negotiations has emboldened the Indian government to claim in a February filing with the United Nations that the West owes it billions of dollars in compensation for climate change. These payments, it said, should be mandatory and not "subject to decisions of developed country governments and legislatures."

A November 2008 study by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change forecasts the international costs could be as much as $3 trillion by 2050 for developing nations to make the significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are necessary. The MIT report says that the U.S. share would total nearly $1 trillion of these "international financial transfers of unprecedented scale."

President Barack Obama recently unveiled a budget blueprint that called for a $646 billion climate tax through a carbon-trading system. Already, White House officials are saying this tax could be three times larger. That means a family of four could have to shell out nearly $45,000 in climate taxes during the coming decade.

For beleaguered U.S. taxpayers in a troubled economy, these numbers are disastrous.

The U.S. cannot reduce the growth of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere without the developing nations cutting their emissions as well. A 2007 study by the Battelle Memorial Institute found that if China, India and the other developing countries keep growing at current rates, they will emit nearly three times as much carbon dioxide as will the developed countries by the end of this century. But will China and India join in the effort to reduce CO2 emissions?

During December’s U.N. climate-change conference in Poznan, Poland, I asked delegates from both of these nations if they would agree to cut their emissions. Both said, unequivocally, "no."

The Poznan conference wasn’t my first experience with the developing world’s refusal to sign up for the West’s global-warming agenda. I led the congressional delegation to the infamous Kyoto, Japan, negotiations in 1997, and the story then was the same as now. Without China and India, there can be no deal.

It’s understandable why the developing nations are reluctant to cut emissions — it means higher energy costs and reduced growth. China and India are more concerned with growing their economy, expanding access to electricity, and reducing poverty. I don’t blame them.

U.S. policy makers should remember the nation’s experience with the financial bailout before sending blank checks abroad. Lawmakers will find themselves at a loss to explain to taxpayers how the U.S. paid billions of dollars to China and India only to fund the very coal-fired power plants that are among the worst emitters of greenhouse gases. Giving away money with the hope that it will be spent properly is wishful thinking. China has requested 1% of the developed world’s GDP, but will it agree on how to spend it?

This week, negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the next round of climate talks. The direction of these talks must change from the current path that is promising high costs and few guarantees.

Yvo de Boer, the United Nations climate chief, said last month that the developed world needs "to set out how it will meet its fair share of financial obligations and shed some light on how it will mobilize those resources." Before we ask how we will "mobilize resources," policy makers should know how these resources will be spent.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress on March 17 that researchers must make "breakthrough" technological advances if greenhouse-gas reduction goals are to be met. He is right. Global energy demands are going to rise. Development and implementation of new technologies are the only way to control emissions when they do.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions isn’t about massive federal spending and transfers of wealth to the developing nations. It’s about developing cost-effective technologies that reduce emissions. Federal policy should focus on encouraging these technologies, not meeting demands for additional foreign aid.

Mr. Sensenbrenner (R., Wisc.) is the ranking minority member of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Source: Wall Street Journal – Opinion