A Free-Market Energy Blog

Pew Center Realism Towards ‘Kyoto II': Game, Set, Match Adaptation?

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- April 8, 2009

“I can find virtually no one—in government, in the environmental community, in business or in the press—who thinks that the Kyoto Protocol has even the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell of coming into effect in anything approaching its current form.  This is every bit as true internationally as it is in the United States.”

- Paul Portney [then president: Resources for the Future], “The Joy of Flexibility: U.S. Climate Policy in the Next Decade,” Keynote Address, Energy Information Administration Annual Outlook Conference, March 22, 1999, mimeo, p. 2.

Joe Romm at Climate Progress is increasingly fighting his own flank as a number of Left environmentalists are moderating their climate views in response to scientific and political realities. His enemies list grows and grows, the latest being Newsweek’s Jacob Weisberg, whom Romm challenges (and more!) for seriously considering Freeman Dyson’s conclusion that climate alarmism is exaggerated.

Dr. Romm is also upset at Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, who said recently: “Binding targets for the developing nations is [sic] out of the question.” To which Dr. Romm posted under the title Does the Pew Center’s Eileen Claussen get the dire nature of our climate predicament — or did Duke’s Bill Chameides misquote her?

“[Chameides] drops a bombshell quote from Eileen Claussen, head of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change…. But Chameides treats the quote as if it were just another piece of the puzzle, rather than a stunning revelation of a lack of understanding of climate science — assuming the quote is accurate.”

Yes, the quotation is undoubtedly accurate, and welcome to the real world where developing countries want to develop, not live like cavemen with 100% renewable energy (primarily primitive biomass).

Importantly, Ms. Claussen has always been very skeptical toward hard targets, even for developed countries. Here is what she has said about Kyoto I:

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the targets in the Kyoto Protocol cannot and will not be met on the established timetable in the United States and elsewhere.”

- Claussen, “Kyoto—The Best We Can Do or Fatally Flawed?,” Speech before the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, England, June 20, 1999, p. 4.

“’I think it’s going to become clear to a lot of countries—not just the U.S.—that they’re not going to meet their targets. It’s already clear the U.S. won’t meet its target.’”

- Claussen, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, quoted in Richard Kerr, “Can the Kyoto Climate Treaty Be Saved from Itself?,” Science, November 3, 2000, p. 920.

Nor is she the only one. Here is what Christopher Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute said at about the same time:

“The challenge now is to renovate the baroque structure that the Kyoto Plan has become—or else scrap it and get ready to start all over.”

- Flavin, “Global Climate: The Last Tango in Buenos Aires,” Worldwatch, November/December 1998, p. 18.

“Even among industrial countries, the differences in emission levels, economic structures, and political philosophies are so wide that no single goal has universal logic. Once governments began differentiating the goals in Kyoto, the negotiations became a political free-for-all that undermined the credibility of the entire process. In addition, by bundling together six gases, and adding the highly complicated issues of sinks and trading to the protocol, the negotiators have created an agreement that will be nearly impossible to review or enforce, and that at best sends an ambiguous signal to governments and industries.”

- Flavin, “Last Tango in Buenos Aires,” Worldwatch, November/December 1998, p. 18.

Richard Kerr of Science said this:

“The dim prospects for [effective] ratification center on how disruptive and how expensive it would be for countries, particularly the United States, to achieve their target reductions. . . . With the robust economic expansion of the past decade, the required U.S. reduction amounts to ‘a 30% reduction beneath business as usual,’ notes climate researcher Tim Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. ‘Can you imagine the United States in the next 10 years doing that?’”

- Kerr, “Can the Kyoto Climate Treaty Be Saved From Itself,” Science, November 3, 2000, p. 920.

And Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling of the University of Maryland:

“Nobody is going to give away the farm in Kyoto. It is not anybody’s to give away. And even if the United States Senate would actually ratify a bad treaty, anything called for under the treaty would require legislation passed through both houses.”

- Schelling, “Commentary,” Charls Walker, et al., eds., The Impact of Climate Change Policy on Consumers: Can Tradable Permits Reduce the Cost? (Washington: American Council for Capital Formation, 1998), p. 19.

The reality is incrementalism towards carbon mitigation, which destroys the case for mitigation under the alarmists’ own math. Given political reality, adaptation is the reality. And that is good news, for the great climate alarm shows every sign of being just another Malthusian panic attack.

What might it take for Joe Romm, Thomas Friedman, and the dwindling band of hard-core, close-minded alarmists to shift from a public-policy position of pie-in-the-sky, ineffectual government mitigation to wealth-is-health adaptation? I leave that for possible comments–or perhaps we will be informed on this at Climate Progress….

One Comment for “Pew Center Realism Towards ‘Kyoto II': Game, Set, Match Adaptation?”

  1. Andrew  

    Don’t count on it. They are heavily invested, in more ways than one, in alarm, and “mitigation”.


Leave a Reply