WASHINGTON — In defending their approach to global warming, President Bush's advisors said Thursday that costly near-term measures to reduce emissions aren't justified, but they will develop a 10-year research plan to better understand climate change.
The White House promises to publish the plan, which was mandated in 1990 but never done, in March. Administration officials also said scientists' ability to create models for forecasting climate change still is not precise enough for the United States to agree to international emission cuts.
James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council of Environmental Quality, told senators that withdrawing from an international climate treaty with mandatory controls for industry will preserve billions of dollars and millions of jobs.
"The Kyoto Protocol would have cost our economy up to $400 billion and caused the loss of up to 4.9 million jobs, risking the welfare of the American people and American workers," Connaughton said. He repeated Bush's complaint that developing countries expected to grow rapidly also must participate for any such treaty to be effective.
Connaughton acknowledged that "greenhouse gases will increase under our approach, no question about it," but said the president's approach is based on the current level of scientific certainty and "guards against costly and misdirected policy errors."
But Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who presided over the Commerce Committee hearing, insisted that the predictions of economic gloom and doom were overstated. He said the Bush administration's own "dire warnings" of global warming's likely effects--contained in its report to the United Nations last month--justify more than a voluntary approach.
"There is an inconsistency," Kerry told the advisors. Even as the administration acknowledges potentially "grave consequences" of global warming, he said, "emissions will increase each year under the president's program."
"Why should Americans be satisfied that this is a legitimate response to this crisis, this problem we face?"
The National Wildlife Federation said Thursday that its analysis of Energy Department data from the last five years shows the nation's carbon dioxide emissions from energy sources over the next 10 years likely will grow by 9.5%, but under Bush's global warming plan that rate probably will increase 13%, assuming the level of economic growth predicted by the White House.
Kerry and other Democrats on the panel, such as Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who cited the environmental group's report, said they favor setting goals for long-term mandatory cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases. Those gases, particularly carbon dioxide, come from various sources, including the burning of oil and coal, and are blamed by many scientists for contributing to a "greenhouse," or warming, effect on global climates.
Bush's plan calls for voluntary action by industry, contrary to the 1997 treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, that mandates reduction of those gases by industrial nations.