The Keynote Address at last week's AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology
Policy was delivered by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Assistant to the President
for Economic Policy. Lindsey opened his speech by declaring:
Lindsey devoted the remainder of his remarks to energy and global
climate change. His entire address can
be viewed here. Lindsey's remarks on the Bush Administration's position
on global climate change follow:
"This financial math is important when considering some of the biggest
environmental challenges one faces today. When confronting long-run
challenges - and the environment is certainly one of these - investments
in the research and development of new technologies, with actual applications
decades in the future, are far more cost-effective than trying to
act with existing technologies.
"It is for precisely this reason that the Administration opposes
the Kyoto protocol for precisely this reason. We believe the Kyoto
protocol could damage our collective prosperity and, in so doing,
actually put our long-term environmental health at risk. Fundamentally,
we believe that the protocol both will fail to significantly reduce
the long- term risks posed by climate change and, in the short run,
will seriously impede our ability to meet our energy needs and economic
growth. Further, by imposing high regulatory and economic costs, it
may actually reduce our capacity both to find innovative ways out
of the environmental consequences of global warming and to achieve
the necessary increases in energy production.
"First, consider the supposed benefits of Kyoto. Under the terms
of the agreement, the estimated level of greenhouse gases expected
in the year 2100 will instead be put off by about a little over a
"Few of the developed nations who say they support the treaty have,
in fact, undertaken domestic policies to lend credibility to the idea
that they will meet Kyoto's targets. The two leading exceptions are
Britain and Germany. In Britain's case, the abandonment of intensive
use of coal and a switch to utilization of new natural gas discoveries
made the conversion fairly easy.
"In Germany's case, the inclusion of the industrial base of the
former DDR after reunification in the treaty's1990 base year made
attainment easy. It would have been cost effective to shut down much
of East Germany's highly polluting electricity generation even without
Kyoto. Looking at the other nations, attainment of the Treaty's goals
is not realistic. A further 27% reduction by Japan, and a 22% reduction
by Canada are as unlikely as the 30% reduction by the U.S. from its
projected 2010 levels.
"Of course, a large amount of the environmental failing of the Kyoto
treaty is based on its lack of inclusiveness. Much of the projected
growth in greenhouse gas emissions is likely to come from the developing
world. How one deals with this issue is crucial to both increasing
the quality of life for the great majority of people on this planet
as well as for success in controlling global warming.
"It should also be noted that the treaty does little to promote
investment in new technologies even though these advances offer the
greatest long-term potential reward both in terms of reducing the
effects of global warming and raising the quality of life on the planet.
Recall that technological solutions are most likely to succeed if
investment and research are allowed to take place over a long period
of time. Kyoto, by requiring dramatic up-front reductions in greenhouse
gas emissions by those countries with the greatest ability to do such
research, turns this on its head. The treaty makes innovation largely
irrelevant by imposing onerous restrictions before technological solutions
can be developed. Kyoto compounds this problem by making no requirements
for much longer-term greenhouse gas emission reductions or for mitigation
of the environmental effects of global warming.
"Indeed, while the degree of uncertainty now associated with the
science of global warming suggests some modesty about the degree of
the certainty attached to any action, the treaty requires that America
and other advanced nations commit enormous amounts of resources to
the project. These resources must be expended today, when uncertainty
is high, while little is required in the distant future, when uncertainty
might be significantly lower.
"A study done by the Clinton Administration estimated that the Kyoto
protocol would involve costs of between 0.6 percent and 4 percent
of GDP. Electricity prices would run anywhere between 20 and 86 percent
higher than current levels. There would also be an increase in gasoline
prices of between 14 and 66 cents per gallon. In light of the very
limited environmental benefits, a commitment as structured as this
is not prudent.
"Worse, the treaty goes out of its way to raise these costs. This
anti-economic reasoning involves treaty-imposed inflexibility in allowing
the use of a number of creative options. As a practical matter, proponents
of Kyoto have worked against such promising solutions as reforestation
and more sensible agricultural land use that would likely provide
enormous quality of life externalities for people on all parts of
the planet. These options should not be excluded from consideration.
"And of course, it is natural that the United States government
would object to a treaty that requires twice as much reduction in
emissions from the United States as from Europe and Japan combined.
This is not a judgment of the Bush Administration, but reflects a
long-standing view of the political process. In 1997, the Senate approved
a resolution by a vote of 95-0 not to ratify the Kyoto agreement in
its present form. In last year's Presidential election, neither party
platform supported ratification of the Kyoto Treaty.
"We oppose this failed attempt at negotiating a solution to excessive
emissions of greenhouse gases. Sound public policy should encourage
efficiency, not dictate austerity by telling families and businesspeople
to choose how to ensure their health, safety, and happiness by restricting
the efficient use of energy.
While our plan reduces wasteful use of energy, it does not seek
to shrink our economy or lower living standards. People work very
hard to get where they are. And the hardest working are the least
likely to go around squandering energy, or anything else that costs
them money. Our strategy will recognize that the present crisis does
not represent a failing of the American people.
"To speak exclusively of conservation, of environmental protection
or of increased energy production, is really to duck responsibility
for all the consequences of what one proposes. Sound, comprehensive
energy, economic and climate change policies require that we focus
on multiple objectives. Happily, if we make the right decisions today
and establish an environment where innovation can flourish, these
objectives are achievable - and mutually reinforcing. America's energy
and environmental challenges are serious, but not insurmountable.
Most important: it is impossible to understate the role that science
and technology will play in solving these problems."