Moving Beyond Kyoto:
A Responsible Approach to Climate Change
US Senator Chuck Hagel
7 September 2000
It is an honor to be here, at an institution named for an American
whose name is synonymous with competent, trusted American leadership
... James Baker. I also appreciate the opportunity to discuss
changes in the earth's climate here at the Baker Institute. This
is an issue that is very important to the future of our nation.
Unfortunately, over the last decade we have frequently heard
discussion and debate about climate change from the refrain of
doomsday prophecies and catastrophic consequences if we do not
halt global warming.
That was the refrain which led to the Rio Summit in 1992 that
set voluntary agreements by the world's nations to reduce man-made
greenhouse gas emissions. When that did not abate the cries of
impending disaster, the United Nations and global environmental
organizations determined that greenhouse gas reductions should
be enforced by legally binding mandates. The result was the 1997
This November, a week after our elections, the nations of the
world will again meet, this time to work out the details for the
implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Deep and serious problems
have existed since the flawed treaty was first negotiated---chief
among them are the lack of participation by developing nations
and the disastrous impact this treaty would have on the U.S. economy.
If one wants to dwell upon catastrophic consequences they will
surely occur if the United States were to allow our nation's future
and economy to be held hostage to the provisions of the Kyoto
Protocol. Fortunately, the debate has shifted since the negotiation
of this 1997 treaty.
A review of climate change developments over the last few months
presents a considerably different perspective than the one of
doomsday certainty advanced by those so completely sure of climate
change catastrophe. One by one, reports have come out showing
the early doomsday predictions to be not only grossly overstated
but inaccurate. The uncertainties and complexities of science
have become more and more apparent as we extend our search for
answers to climate change. Some of the earliest and strongest
advocates of global warming have now revised their conclusions.
And the computer models that predicted global catastrophe are
just that---computer models based on "what if" scenarios
and indefensible, unaccountable, imaginative assumptions.
The day to day, forecasting of the weather is an inexact science.
There are variables and uncertainties about our climate we don't
understand. If we're unwilling to trust the weather forecast for
the next day---why would we rest the future of our nation on predictions
claiming to know with great certainty, based on these computer
models, what will happen 100 years from now?
I agree with the recent comments by Dr. Fred Singer, the former
director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service: "Climate
models do call for a warming trend as levels of atmospheric carbon
dioxide rise because of the burning of fossil fuels. Hence the
dilemma: Do we believe theoretical models of the atmosphere or
the atmosphere itself? I prefer to believe the atmosphere and
the actual observations that show no current warming. If this
clashes with the accepted popular wisdom and media hype, so be
it. I go with published data."
The debate over climate change is complicated and frequently
contradictory. There are many theories, many studies, many predictions,
but very few clear answers.
We know that the earth's climate has for thousands of years
gone through cycles of warming and cooling. Ice core samples from
Greenland more than 2 miles deep, dating back more than 100,000
years, have shown dramatic fluctuations in the earth's temperature
long before the emergence of man, much less the industrial age.
Since the end of the last Ice Age 11,000 years ago, when the earth
was 12.6 degrees Fahrenheit colder than today, there have been
several warming and cooling periods. The first was the Holocene
Maximum 7000 years ago, with the warmest temperatures. Then there
was the Medieval Warm Epoch between the years 1000-1200, when
temperatures averaged 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today.
As Dr. Singer pointed out, "Recall that 1,000 years ago the
climate was so warm that Vikings settled Greenland and grew crops
there for a few centuries." The earth recently underwent
a period of cooler temperatures during the Little Ice Age, which
began between 1250 and 1400 and ended between 1850 and 1900. Temperatures
have been increasing since then. Over the last 100 years surface
temperatures have increased by approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit.
Furthermore, most of that increase in temperature occurred
before 1940---yet 80 percent of the man-made carbon dioxide was
emitted after 1940.
We know that the six man-made greenhouse gases---carbon dioxide,
methane, nitrous oxide and three fluorocarbons---comprise less
than two percent of the total greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The remaining 98 percent, primarily water vapor, occur naturally.
There is a great deal that remains uncertain. There have been
numerous studies looking at how man's actions may be affecting
the climate---but none have been able to say unequivocally that
man-made greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for the current
warming trend, or predict what the impact will be.
One of the problems is that many of the dire predictions for
global warming have, as I mentioned before, been based on computer
models. These models have continually been shown to be inaccurate
in forecasting the rate of warming, and its effects on the earth.
In 1990, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
using then state-of-the-art models, forecast a 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit
warming by 2100. In 1995, the IPCC lowered that forecast to 4.14
The IPCC has stated in a report that although studies "suggest
that there is some (man-made) component in the observed temperature
record, they cannot be considered as compelling evidence of a
clear cause-and effect link."
In June of this year, the Clinton/Gore Administration released
a draft of its own National Assessment on Climate Change. They
released it as a definitive report on global warming, even though
two of the five studies were incomplete. However, the information
they did release used two foreign computer models---the Canadian
Centre model arid Britain's Hadley Centre model. This is what
these two models predicted for the American Southeast---one predicted
a catastrophic drought that kills off all the trees, while the
other predicted increased rainfall and the expansion of the forests
in this region of the U.S. Completely opposite and inconsistent
This is what the Environmental Protection Agency had to say
about computer climate models: "Virtually all published estimates
of how climate could change in the U.S. are the result of computer
models.... These complicated models...are still not accurate enough
to provide reliable forecasts on how the climate may change; and
several models often yield contradictory results.... Scientists
are unable to say whether particular regions will receive more
or less rainfall; and for many regions they are unable to even
state whether a wetter or drier climate is more likely."
Recent alarming reports about the melting of the polar ice
caps have also been found to be extravagantly overstated. On August
19th of this year the New York Times reported in a front
page story: "The North Pole is melting...an ice-free patch
has opened at the very top of the world, something that has presumably
never before been seen by humans and is more evidence that global
warming may be real and already affecting climate. The last time
scientists can be certain the pole was awash with water was more
than 50 million years ago." Ten days later, the Times
ran a correction---which said the August 19th story 'misstated'
the history of conditions at the North Pole. This is what the
revised version said: "A clear spot has probably opened at
the Pole before, scientists say, because about 10 percent of the
Arctic Ocean is clear of ice in a typical summer." So, instead
of 50 million years ago, there probably was open water
at the North Pole last year. Just a slight difference. The Times
went on to add that finding water at the North Pole "is
not necessarily related to global warming." Incidentally,
the correction did not appear on page one and a related story
buried on page three of Section F quoted Dr. Mark Serreze, a climatologist
at the National Snow and Ice Data Center as saying, "There's
been open water at the pole before. We have no clear evidence
at this point that this is related to global climate change."
Dr. Singer stated in a August 29th story in the Ottawa Citizen:
"All this proves little about climate change or about
greenhouse warming. For this purpose we use instruments; thermometers
at weather stations, radiosondes carried into the atmosphere by
weather balloons and Earth-circling weather satellites that sense
atmospheric temperatures remotely. All of these agree that the
polar regions have not warmed appreciably in recent decades."
Furthermore, Dr. Patrick Michaels, Professor of Environmental
Sciences at the University of Virginia, noted in an August 25th
article in USA Today that summer temperatures at the North
and South Poles were the same in the early 19th century as they
Even the scientist most associated with global warming, Dr.
James Hanson, the Director NASA's Goddard Institute for Space
Studies, has revised some of his earlier statements based on new
In 1981, Dr. Hansen was the primary author of a report describing
a connection between carbon dioxide emissions and warming temperatures.
In 1988, he testified before a Senate committee that human activities
were causing global warming.
Just a few weeks ago, Dr. Hansen issued a new analysis which
said the emphasis on carbon dioxide may be misplaced. He found
that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide have already been falling,
they shrank in 1998 and 1999. In his new report, he stated that
other greenhouse gases---such as methane; black soot, 'cfc's,
and the compounds that create smog---may be causing more damage
than carbon dioxide and efforts to affect climate change should
focus on these other gases. Furthermore, technology already exists
to capture many of these gases. "The prospects for having
a modest climate impact instead of a disastrous one are quite
good, I think," Dr. Hansen was quoted as saying in the New
This is one of the most significant scientific reports since
the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated. The primary focus of the Kyoto
Protocol is the mandatory reduction of man-made carbon dioxide
emissions by the industrialized nations. But Dr. Hansen's new
findings that other gases may be larger factors make the Kyoto
Protocol largely irrelevant. Essentially all current black soot
emissions come from developing countries, who are exempted from
the Kyoto Protocol. Because of our own strong environmental policies,
the United States and other industrialized countries have already
virtually eliminated black soot emissions. Furthermore, the U.S.
has already made great strides in reducing smog-causing gases
for the health of our own domestic environment. And "cfc"s
are already being phased out, with the industrialized countries
taking the lead, as a result of the Montreal Protocol relating
to the ozone layer.
Other preeminent climatologists and meteorologists have conducted
studies which have offered credible alternatives for the causes
of our warming trend.
Some of the most significant studies have been produced by
Dr. Sallie Baliunas, the Director of Science Programs at the Harvard-Smithsonian
Center for Astrophysics. Using records of changes in the sun's
magnetism going back three centuries, she has been able to closely
correlate changes in the sun's brightness with temperature changes
on earth. Unlike climate models, her studies have been able to
explain why most of the Earth's warming in the last 100 years
occurred before significant growth in man-made greenhouse gas
emissions. According to her work, solar activity may be the most
direct factor in global warming. Imagine that,. the earth's warming
could actually be caused by the sun.
While temperatures on the earth's surface have risen slightly
over the last two decades, satellite temperatures---which are
far more accurate---have shown no warming over the last 20 years.
In fact, from 1979 to 1997. satellites temperatures showed a slight
cooling trend of .04 degrees Fahrenheit. Based on satellite readings
from the first eight months of this year, the tropical region
of the globe may be headed toward its coldest year in more than
We know that we are far from understanding the dynamics of
our climate and what stimulates the changes it undergoes. It would
be irresponsible to categorically deny that anything unusual is
going on in the world's climate system. At the same time, it would
be irresponsible to say we fully understand what's occurring and
know what measures to prescribe to deal with it. That represents
both supreme arrogance and dangerous folly.
We need to continue to seriously study climate change---why
and how it occurs, what it means for humans, what it means for
the future of our planet.
Clearly though, one thing we should not do is jump into a treaty
that would place the United Nations in charge of U.S. energy policy
and devastate our economy. That is what the Kyoto Protocol would
This is a treaty negotiated by an Administration in the face
of clear Congressional intent. That fact gets little play---but
the U.S. Senate told the Administration very clearly on what terms
it would ratify a climate change treaty.
In 1997, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and I became concerned
with the direction of the Clinton Administration's climate change
negotiations. We introduced S. Res. 98, a resolution
that called on the President not to sign any climate change treaty
that would 1) cause serious harm to the U.S. economy, or 2) that
did not include all countries of the world.
The Byrd-Hagel resolution passed the United States Senate in
July of 1997 by a vote of 95-0. The advice of the Senate, which
is our constitutional responsibility on international treaties,
could not have been more clear.
But President Clinton and Vice President Gore did not heed
the unanimous advice of the Senate.
Vice President Gore went to Kyoto during the final days
of the UN conference and instructed our negotiators to "show
increased flexibility." The result was a treaty that went
far beyond the bottom line established by the President himself
prior to the Kyoto negotiations.
A year later, in 1998,. President Clinton signed the Kyoto
Protocol over the objections of Senator Byrd, me and other Senators.
However, the President and Vice President have refused to send
it to the Senate for ratification. because they know it has little
support and would be overwhelmingly rejected. There are not now,
nor do I anticipate there being, 67 votes in the U.S. Senate
to approve the ratification of the Kyoto treaty.
How harmful would this treaty be? We can look at a very current
and relevant example. This year Americans have faced very high
oil and gasoline prices, and higher natural gas and heating oil
prices are just around the corner.
The high gas prices caused such a consumer outrage that they
have led to federal investigations amid congressional inquiries.
But they are nothing compared to what Americans would endure under
the Kyoto Protocol.
The Administration's own Energy Information Agency has estimated
that implementing the Kyoto Protocol would give us an increase
in gasoline prices of over 70 cents per gallon. But unlike current
price fluctuations, the Kyoto fuel price increases would be permanent
and would continue to grow.
High energy prices don't just effect American consumers. They
would drive many American agricultural producers, manufacturing
and transportation companies right out of business or out of the
Independent economic studies placed the job losses caused by
the Kyoto Protocol in the millions.
And for what? The Kyoto Protocol has no hope of achieving
its stated goal. How can it reduce global greenhouse gas emissions
when it excludes more than 130 nations? Nations such as
China, India, Mexico, South Korea---all of whom are already among
the world's largest producers of man-made greenhouse gases.
Also, as Dr. Michaels noted in USA Today: "If
all the nations of the world cut their greenhouse emissions by
the amount dictated by the Kyoto Protocol, the warming
in the next 50 years would drop, by a tiny 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit.
But the cost would be enormous, exacerbating the world's biggest
environmental problem: poverty."
Despite all of the early celebration, no industrialized nation
has ratified this treaty---including our friends in Europe, who
have criticized the U.S. for our lack of commitment to the environment.
It is now becoming apparent to many of the earliest and strongest
supporters of the Kyoto Protocol that it is unworkable.
On June 22 of this year the Financial Times reported
on a speech by Eileen Claussen before the Royal Institute of International
Affairs in London. Eileen Claussen was an Assistant Secretary
of State during most of the Clinton-Gore Administration. She and
then-Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Tim Wirth
were the Administration's two key architects of U.S. climate change
policy, and led the U.S. negotiations that created all but the
final details of the Kyoto Protocol. Ms. Claussen left the Administration
just a few months before the Kyoto conference to work for an environmental
program of the Pew Charitable Trust.
In her speech, she called for a renegotiation of the Kyoto
targets and timetables. She said that Britain and Germany
were the only two countries that looked like they had any chance
of complying with Kyoto mandates. There are very clear reasons
why these two nations could comply with the Kyoto Protocol.
Both nations are already below the baseline of 1990 emission levels.
With the reunification of Germany, the smokestacks of East Germany
were included in the 1990 baseline and have since been
shut down. Since 1990, Great Britain made the economic decision
to switch from coal to natural gas for its power needs
because of the great abundance of natural gas in the North Sea.
Ms. Claussen then argued against countries even trying to meet
their Kyoto obligations, saying that any effort to reach these
unreasonable targets would cause so much economic harm
that it would undermine international support for cooperation
on all climate change issues.
Even those who helped to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol
admit that it is going nowhere. So where do we go from
It is time for us to move beyond the Kyoto Protocol to a more
positive, inclusive and common sense domestic and international
We need to turn the debate away from un-achievable, UN-mandated
targets and timetables dictated by the Kyoto Protocol---and move
toward a long-term commitment to research and development, a reliance
on sound science, and a more efficient and productive use of energy
Legislation I have introduced with Senator Frank
Murkowski (R-AK) is an example of this new approach. S.882
is a market-driven, technology-based answer to the Kyoto Protocol
that focuses on increased research and development, incentives
for voluntary action, and public-private technology
It calls for $2 billion in new federal funding for research
and development to foster energy-efficient, low-emission technologies.
These would involve more efficient transportation. improved clean
coal technology. greater use of nuclear power, improved agriculture
and forestry techniques, and a host of other promising technologies.
By developing alternative energy sources, this bill would build
a diversified energy portfolio that would make our country less
vulnerable to the whims of energy cartels like OPEC.
This bill brings accountability to the climate change issue,
placing responsibility in the Department of Energy. For too long,
there has been a web of uncoordinated over-reaching within the
Administration. The White House, EPA, State Department, Energy,
USDA, AID, the Commerce Department, and many other agencies have
all had a hand in climate change policy. There is no one that
Congress can turn to and ask---what's going on? It is time for
someone to be accountable and in charge.
Finally, this bill reaffirms Congress' commitment to voluntary
efforts by American business, industry and agriculture to reduce
or sequester greenhouse gas emissions. It would strengthen current
law and expand the Energy Policy Act of 1992 so that more private,
voluntary efforts will be recognized.
Others in Congress have introduced forward-looking bills to
increase research into climate change, develop American technology,
and make our nation more energy efficient. Senator Larry Craig
(R-ID) has introduced two bills, which I have cosponsored. The
first would provide tax incentives for the voluntary reduction
of greenhouse gas emissions, and for the advancement of science
and technology development. His other bill focuses federal
research on sound science, identifies regulatory barriers to private
sector efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and creates
a pilot program of six international energy projects to improve
private sector cooperation in climate change.:
We must continue to work to find answers to the many outstanding
climate change questions. It affects all of mankind. We
must continue to work to find new technologies and encourage alternative
sources of cleaner energy.
We will not get there by impugning the motives of those
who disagree on this issue. The Kyoto Protocol is not the only
option to finding answers and taking action on climate change.
Disagreement over the Kyoto Protocol should not prevent us
from working together to address the challenges of climate
change. America has always been a nation of innovation. Working
together, we will build onto the incredible progress that has
been made over the last 30 years to clean up our environment
and protect it for the future. That should be our goal.
To get there, we will need to move beyond the Kyoto Protocol
and use the marketplace of ingenuity and technology.
And finally, we must view climate change not in a vacuum, but
with the perspective that the world is interconnected in every
way. There is a certain balance that must be pursued
so that all nations, especially developing nations, are allowed
to create opportunities for growth and prosperity. It is essential
that we encourage and assist the development of
emerging democracies and market economics. This means that productive
capacity. which will require energy resources, must be part of
the climate change equation. The Kyoto Protocol is more about
energy than it is about the environment. It is about restricting
and controlling energy production and use. As nations prosper,
the world becomes more peaceful and free. When there is freedom,
peace and prosperity there is less conflict, poverty, hunger and
war. That is in the interest of all peoples. We must be acutely
mindful of this reality and not allow climate change decisions
by a few to control and impede the progress for a better life
and future for others. This will not work. This will only produce
a more dangerous and unstable world.
The Washington Post, a strong proponent of the Kyoto
Protocol, wrote a very thoughtful editorial on this issue last
week. They discussed the study by Dr. Hansen that I spoke of earlier
and his conclusion that it may be "more practical to slow
global warming than is sometimes assumed." In response to
the Hansen study the Post wrote:
What it does do is remind us that climate issues are
complex, far from fully understood and open to a variety
It should serve as caution to environmentalists so certain
of their position that they're willing to advocate radical
solutions, no matter what the economic cost.
It suggests that the sensible course is to move ahead with
a strong dose of realism and flexibility, focusing on approaches
that are economically viable, that serve other useful purposes
such as cutting dependence on foreign oil or improving public
health, and that can help support international consensus for
addressing climate change. (Washington Post. 8-28-00)
If we are able to do this... If we can move ahead
with a strong dose of realism and flexibility... If we
can put our focus on approaches that are economically viable...
If we can approach climate change from those viewpoints, we will
find answers. We will find solutions. And we will ensure that
our children will inherit a better world. One in which we have
served as responsible stewards of our rich national resources
and our magnificent environment.