Imagine a nuclear-arms-reduction treaty in which three nuclear powers - say, Russia, France and China - committed to no specific reductions while other nations disarmed.
It seems absurd.Now imagine negotiating a global climate-change treaty to reduce carbon emissions but with no specific commitments from three of the 10 biggest carbon producers and without even a clear global target.
It seems equally absurd.
Clearly this is the view of the Senate, which in late July passed a resolution by a 95-to-0 vote stating that the United States should not sign any climate-change agreement unless it "mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse emissions for (developing countries and) would not result in serious harm to the economy."
Frankly, even if these conditions are met, the president should sign no treaty. Whether humans are influencing the climate is unknown.
Despite the mantra from the Clinton administration that the science is settled, it is not. The May issue of Science magazine made this clear. So too did the Heidelberg Appeal, a petition signed by hundreds of distinguished scientists urging against precipitous action.
But even if you buy the premise behind global warming, this treaty is indefensible. A "global" warming treaty is no such thing if it omits developing nations, where most growth in emissions will take place. This includes China, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and other developing nations, which are expected to produce 60 percent of global carbon emissions in the next few decades. In fact, China is expected to become the biggest carbon producer on the planet.
By failing to include developing nations, we are working against the very purpose of a treaty intended to address the worrisome potential problems of global warming.
Yet the Clinton administration seems to be pursuing just such an agreement in the negotiations leading up to December's international global climate-change meeting in Kyoto, Japan.
Moreover, with the December treaty deadline fast approaching, our government has not conducted its own thorough analysis of the treaty's impact on the American economy, nor has it embraced any of the many macroeconomic studies already produced.
How can such far-reaching policy be negotiated without a thorough examination of the treaty's effects on the economy, American workers and communities?
How can we find solutions that protect workers and communities without first identifying specific global goals?
How can we protect ourselves from economic upheaval without honest public analysis of the economic impact associated with the lower-carbon-emission plan that would be imposed?
We have hard work to do before we make hasty agreements.
Taking time to act intelligently will serve us all better than trying to live with a flawed agreement.