Seniors And Global Warming

The Kyoto Treaty

By James L. Martin

“Good afternoon. I am president of a national, non-partisan senior citizens’ advocacy group, the 60 Plus Association. Our role is to look at public policy from the perspective of how it would assist seniors to better enjoy their golden years, and be free of the burden of government and higher taxes. Thus, we approach senior issues in expanding freedom for seniors, with less government and less taxes.

I especially commend the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, Senator Malcolm Wallop and Executive Director George Landrith for sponsoring this important conference only global warming, because the current controversy will have a major effect on our millions of senior citizens.

Is the planet warming? And if so, does the warming justify ratification of a treaty or the implementation of its provisions by regulation, which will have a dramatic effect on our economic system and way of life? We need to think about this prospect carefully before our country takes a leap into the darkness.

We have an American tradition that people can take us at our word. If our country ratifies a treaty, we will mean to keep it. We will not fudge on it or violate it. So we must be extremely careful as we enter what could be an abyss.

We are the most powerful nation in the world. We have also shown the world how to advance economically. We have also produced efficiencies in the use of fuel. However, make no mistake about it, there are some facts we must face: we will be using fossil fuel in order to keep our economy going; we cannot rely on nuclear fuel as a substitute because political considerations have stopped the impetus toward that supply; and we, as a growing nation, will be increasing our energy supply.

The 60 Plus Association is an active member of what is called the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group that, by its name alone, dashes cold water on the global warming theoreticians. Our hope, and the one

overriding thought I hope you go away with today, is that cooler heads will prevail in this debate.

I would like to make three points on how the hysteria over global warming will be a disaster for our senior citizens.

Senior citizens will be the ones really burnt if this foolish global warming (Kyoto treaty) is implemented — burnt with higher energy costs for fuel in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, both of which are essential for their health.

The three points I want to mention are the (1) the unreliability or uncertainty of the data; (2) the overall negative effect on our economy thus impacting seniors; and (3) the human costs to seniors.

First, as we discover in our readings and the presentations today, it is very uncertain that there is global warming. Scientists do not agree if the planet is getting warmer, getting cooler or staying about the same.

In fact, there has been some discrepancy in the data on the temperature from surface measurements and from satellite. Why this discrepancy, we do not know. There may be many factors, but we do know it does not give us a clear picture. In fact, temperature measures from satellites for the period 1978 — 1997 show no temperature rise at all.

The senior scientist for climate studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Dr. Roy Spencer, has aptly noted: “The popular perception of global warming as an environmental catastrophe cannot be supported with measurements or current climate change theory.” (Earth report 2000)

Seniors are very practical people. They have learned a lot about life through experience.

And they tend to be suspicious of unproven hypotheses, especially if it affects their lives and the great contributions they have made to the growth of this country.

We see much in the debate that has become “politicized.” The scientists who get attention are the ones who say there is global warming. It then becomes a non-story in our media, “politically incorrect,” when other scientists state that the evidence is faulty or there is no global warming.

The debate is too important to leave to the politicians. I am sure with their with their practical spirit, our seniors are saying ‘let’s not rush into foolish choices.’ We need to step back and let the scientists, not the politicians, make the call.

And what about some of the global warming specialists, including our Vice President Al Gore, who tells us unless we take drastic action, all these horrible consequences are going to take place in the next 10, to 20 to 30 years? We are measuring the climate with techniques and instruments we use to measure the weather. And, bless his heart, Willard Scott, he and other weathermen cannot tell the weather accurately day to day, no less than a year or a decade in advance.

Second, the experts tell us that we will have to cut back on emissions. Our own U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that we may need to cut back energy consumption about 10%, although it may be closer to a 20% or 30% cutback. This power will drastically increase the role of government and diminish freedom for individuals. Politicians are ready to make these cutbacks while scientists are still debating on the issue.

This proposed cutback in emissions of six greenhouse gases from the 1990 level, estimated as a 7% reduction for the United States, has serious consequences for all Americans. As Margo Thorning of the Center for Policy Research of the American Council for Capital Fromation has noted after a thorough study, the slowdown in economic growth (lowering GDP by 4% in 2009) would cause the projected budget surplus (excluding the Social Security surplus) to disappear. She concludes that “implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would make it much more difficult to: sustain tax cuts, ‘save’ Social Security, promote the retirement security of the baby-boom generation or achieve other public policy goals.”

And third, this global warming hysteria will have a real impact, a negative one on senior citizens. Seniors are most vulnerable when economic slowdowns occur and especially in the case of drastic changes in the economic picture.

Seniors in many cases live on fixed incomes. An increase in taxes (e.g., such as the carbon tax) would have serious economic consequences for seniors, as it would pass through to their daily uses, including fuel, heating oil and air conditioning costs. A rise in unemployment would hurt seniors who might be forced into early retirement or may lose a post-retirement or a second job they hold to make ends meet. (This would be especially ironic just as Congress has voted to repeal the earnings limit on seniors between the ages of 65-69 receiving Social Security.) One study estimated that as many as one million additional people annually may be unemployed between the years 2001-2012 from emission reductions by just the curtailing of fossil fuel use alone.

However, beyond the uncertainty of the data on global warming, and the figures on cutbacks in the economy, I believe we must bring this matter down to the very human level to understand its impact on seniors.

Unemployment causes an array of problems, including loss of income, disruption of stability in life and health problems, especially depression. Remember a few years ago when a terrific heat wave hit the city of Chicago. The ones who died or became seriously ill were seniors with little or no air-conditioning. We can imagine how this would be multiplied in a post-Kyoto world if heating costs were become too costly for seniors and they are forced to cut back on heating oil and the same holds true for air conditioning. Health will be at risk and health costs will increase. Seniors are most vulnerable to these effects. The so-called experts on global warming ignore these individual results, which can soon become human tragedies. There is a greater danger to seniors from global warming policies than global warming itself!

It follows very logically: higher energy prices lead to slower economic growth; this in turn lowers personal income; then we have more unemployment; and then higher incidences of health problems occur, leading to increased and earlier deaths. We, as a humane nation, should not want to wish this fate on our seniors. As Joint Economic Committee economist James Carter has noted, treaty supporters “should explain why the benefits from an earth less than one degree cooler in 2050 are worth the [economic] carnage Kyoto would generate today.”

These are difficult times for our senior citizens who have given so much over the years and want to enjoy their remaining years in peace, contentment and prosperity. Ratifying the Kyoto treaty, either through legislation or by regulation, is a threat to all of these objectives. The 60 Plus Association is working actively to protect all these seniors from these dire consequences. And it is fortunate that we have a conference like this one today to focus on this important problem, which is getting so little attention from our mainstream media.

Although I disagree with the new ABC-TV anchorwoman whom you’ll soon see interviewing President Clinton in an upcoming one-hour show, Leonardo DiCaprio, the 25-year-old movie star of Titanic and one who brings his (quote) expertise (unquote) to this issue. He was quoted recently as saying that, “I personally feel this is the most highly ignored, yet important issue facing the world today.” Hyperbole at its typical Hollywood best! I would offer to young Leonardo the Senate’s rejection of the flawed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a tad bit more important. If rogue are in a position to lob nuclear missiles at the United States, that will truly be global warming of real significance, not this trifling movement of the thermometer a mini-millimeter in either direction. My time is up.

I thank you for yours.

60 Plus Association (703) 807-2070
Vital Speeches of the Day | PO Box 1247 | Mt. Pleasant, SC 2946