2005 Economics Nobel Price Winner
You're doing a lot of writing about global warming. And some of your writing indicates the results might not be all bad.
I've always thought it was a bad thing. I got involved way before most people did. I got deeply involved way back in 1980 when I served on a National Academy of Sciences committee called the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee.
You came out against the Kyoto Treaty [which requires countries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases].
Oh, I think the Kyoto Treaty was a flop, but that's because it was not much as a treaty. I don't think it has accomplished anything. I don't think it is going to. It was a bad idea.
Well, what should be done then?
What I have proposed is that the major industrial nations, like the U.S.A., Japan, Western Europe, Canada, Australia, Israel, should all get together and think about how they might embark on a set of commitments, to actions they would take, including joint actions of research and development to improve energy efficiency and energy conservation. I don't believe that there will ever be enforceable obligations. I think it is bound to be voluntary. I tried to ask, "Have nations ever embarked on a cooperative venture as important and likely as expensive as doing something about global warming?" And my answer is yes: NATO is a superb example. In NATO, nations undertook commitments, and their commitments were to actions they would take, and for the most part they met those commitments. It is partly because of a sense of community of the nations involved. You can't get that kind of community with 185 nations. But if you could get that kind of community with the countries of the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] and Japan, then I think after maybe five or 10 years, they would have demonstrated they were serious, and they could talk with the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians, Indonesians.
So the developed world has to do it on its own first?
The idea that they would make commitments subject to sanctions is a poor one. I am impressed with the fact in the articles of the European Union, it is explicit that any nation that for three years in a row has a budget deficit in excess of 3 percent of gross domestic product is to be subject to severe sanctions. A year ago, France and Germany both completed three years in a row with budget deficits in excess of 3 percent of GDP, and absolutely nothing was done and nothing was even contemplated. Nobody is going to try to slap a tax on France or Germany, and nobody is going to threaten military invasion because they won't pay a penalty.
It sounds as if you think there is nothing that can be done right away, but it is more of a long-term . . .
A big part of it should be research and development. I would hope that a lot of that could be done through international cooperation. . . . I think it will be hard to do anything without the U.S. taking a leading role, and I think this administration was never going to. But I don't blame just George Bush. Al Gore went to Kyoto during the negotiations. After the treaty was signed, the Clinton administration just let it sit there for three years and did nothing about it. Since the Kyoto Treaty was roughly aimed at the year 2010, three years to do nothing was a lot of time to let go by. If Gore had been elected, he might have been embarrassed because he might have felt obliged to go up to the Senate and ask for ratification of the treaty. And they might have said, "If we ratify this treaty, what do we have to do? We're going to have to raise taxes, have subsidies. We're going to have to finance a lot of research and development. We're going to have to pass a lot of new legislation, regulate automobile mileage, or boating standards, and all of that." Gore would have had to say, "I don't know. Let me think about it."
link to full interview in USnews.com