NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Consequences of Kyoto

October 14, 2002

Science is the primary tool to understand human-caused global warming. But economic consequences of policies meant to cut greenhouse gas emissions must also be considered.

Kyoto-type greenhouse emission cuts are expected to make little impact on the forecasted rise in temperature. One study, from the United Kingdom's Meteorological Office, predicts that without Kyoto, there would be a rise in globally averaged temperature of just one degree Centigrade by the year 2050. Implementing Kyoto, according to the model, would only make a difference of six-hundredths of a degree. That is insignificant in the course of natural variability of the climate. The study goes on to say that, with the emission cuts enacted, the temperature rise that was expected to occur by 2050, would occur by 2053.

According to this model, one Kyoto-type cut in greenhouse gas emissions averts no meaningful temperature rise. In order to avoid the projected warming entirely, British researchers estimate that 40 Kyoto-size cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would be required.

International policy discussions propose sharp cuts in the use of fossil fuels. What does this mean in terms of economic consequences?

  • Fossil fuels supply approximately 85 percent of energy needs in the United States, and about 80 percent worldwide.
  • The cost of engaging in one Kyoto-type greenhouse gas emission cut ranges between $100 billion and $400 billion of lost Gross Domestic Product annually in the United States.
  • A recent study from Yale University says that over the next 10 years, Kyoto-type cuts would cost the U.S. about $2.7 trillion in lost GDP.

Undertaking a Kyoto-type program would do little to lower the projected environmental risk, while the cost of such a program would divert resources from major environmental, health and welfare challenges.

Source: Sallie Baliunas, "Warming Up to the Truth: The Real Story About Climate Change," Heritage Lecture No. 758, June 19, 2002, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.


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