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 “We all know that scientific
research lies behind our nation’s long-term economic success.
As I will make clear this morning, good science is also the
key to both defining and addressing many of the great policy
challenges facing our country. That is why I am here today to
talk to you candidly about energy and global climate change.
Ultimately it will be your work – in laying the foundation for
new technologies and increasing our understanding of the world
around us – that will enable our nation to address these
important policy challenges.”

Lindsey devoted the remainder of his remarks to energy and
global climate change. His entire address can be viewed at Lindsey’s remarks on
the Bush Administration’s position on global climate change

“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 decade.

“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

“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.”


Richard M .Jones

Public Information Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3095