What is global warming? Scientists have discovered that concentrations of minor greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide are rising. Theoretically, these gases could trap more heat in the atmosphere, leading to a gradual warming of the Earth's atmosphere. And, again theoretically, global warming could be harmful to the environment and to human health. The treaty, called the Kyoto Protocol, would require the U. S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide to 7 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol does not become effective unless approved by the U. S. Senate. However, Vice President Al Gore and other spokespersons for the Clinton Administration has said they will attempt to implement the treaty even if the Senate does not approve it.

Why should you care? Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the amount demanded by the Kyoto Protocol would require new taxes on gasoline equal to 68 cents a gallon or more. The government might sell permits to businesses that produce greenhouse gases and allow them to shift the cost to consumers by raising prices. All of us will pay higher prices for products requiring energy to be produced or transported in other words, virtually everything we buy. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will in the future The best strategy is to invest in atmospheric research to determine whether a genuine threat exists, and to invest in reducing emissions only when such investments make economic sense in their own right. Reduced emissions would be an added benefit.

This strategy is called "no regrets." It positions us to respond quickly to bad news while avoiding the mistake of spending too much, too soon, preparing for a threat that never materializes. A "no regret" strategy would include the following activities.  Fund research on the effects of higher CO 2 concentrations on plants and agriculture.  Break the federal monopoly over global warming research, which currently has the effect of funding only those researchers who support the doomsday view of global warming.

 Lower capital gains taxes and make other changes to tax policies and regulations to encourage new investments in capital and technology, thereby speeding up the process of phasing out inefficient machinery. Basically what it comes down too, if it isn't broken, don't fix it.