Ironies grown in Kyoto

by S. Fred Singer
Copyright 1998 The Washington Times
Reprinted with permission of
The Washington Times

He came, he saw, he caved. On Dec. 7, 1997, at the Kyoto Climate Conference, Al Gore chucked the U.S. position on global warming. Instead of holding to the 1990 emission limit, the United States agreed to a 7 percent reduction below that limit. And as far as getting the rest of the world aboard - well, forget it. Anything to have a signed agreement.

The Kyoto Protocol is full of ironies. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions to the 1990 level by the year 2008 would actually require a reduction of 30 percent - an implausible goal. This has now been raised to 37 percent. But what the heck: By 2008, it'll be someone else's problem. In the meantime, Mr. Gore might just fob off the enviros with words and the labor unions within action.

But who knows? He may lose them both. The enviros have already decided that, to achieve CO2 stability, the reduction from 1990 emissions must be at least 50 percent - or as much as 80 percent according to the IPCC, the U.N. science advisory group. And the unions will be none too happy if developing countries, like China, India and Brazil, don't sign on by November 1998, at the upcoming Buenos Aires Climate Conference. On the other hand, well-to-do elitists don't want to be accused of eco-imperialism, holding back the economic development of these developing nations (After all, we sinned by becoming rich; we must pay.)

The absurdity of this whole exercise can best be gauged by calculating the effects of such an agreement. Even if all nations were to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to the 1990 level - or a few percent less - it will not stabilize CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. It will just slow down somewhat the current rate of rise of CO2. And to what effect? Since greenhouse gas concentrations have already increased by 50 percent over the past 150 years, without any attributable warming, it is not likely that a further increase will cause a significant temperature rise. Besides, many experts doubt that CO2 will even double by 2100.

But why bother about science? Cynical politicians have already pronounced the science as settled, so they can go ahead and negotiate. Like good lawyers that they are, they simply stipulate the scientific conclusions. No more research needed; the science is "complete," "compelling" - or whatever; you scientists can now go away and let us do our job. And for heaven's sake, don't come up with any new scientific facts that could mess up our sandbox and ruin our fun.

So why this charade? Why do politicians and others willfully ignore scientific data that contradict the predictions from flawed computer models? After spending just a few frustrating days in Kyoto, I have come up with several answers.

First, there are the upper-middle-class overanxious, who are truly concerned and don't have any hidden agenda. We might be able to educate them by presenting scientific facts and also informing them that the claimed scientific consensus on global warming is a hoax. They might even agree that nuclear energy, emitting no CO2, could be an answer worth pursuing.

Then there are the opportunists, who see the global warming business as a chance for career advancement, political influence, bigger budgets, more perks, or just more money. Lord knows, there is plenty of money available. The federal research budget for global change is around $2 billion a year - and that keeps a lot of scientists and assorted academics in business, like studying the effect of a putative warming on the bee industry in Utah, or whatever. And by scaring people, the enviro-lobby has managed to achieve annual budgets of more than a billion dollars, with their executives drawing industrial-sized salaries. And why not pay a quarter-million bucks to someone astute enough to recognize that global warming has become sexier than protecting seal pups and dolphins?

Another group are the one-worlders. They favor an international control regime - any international regime - as a way of building U.N. sovereignty at the expense of national sovereignty. A climate protocol controlling the use of energy would be the ultimate in central government control, requiring reports to a U.N. authority, international inspectors, and international sanctions - all controlled by nonelected and nonaccountable bureaucrats. It would be the European Commission in spades -and a socialist dream.

Finally, and potentially the most dangerous, are the ideologues, the New Age fanatics returning to paganism, worshiping the nature goddess Gaia, calling for equal rights for all species, including animals and plants, intent on saving the planet from the ravages of humanity.

Just listen to the guru of the new religion, Al Gore, preaching to the faithful in Kyoto. First, the preamble: "We have reached a fundamentally new stage in the development of human civilization . . . in the relationship of our species and our planet . . . ."

Then the punishment, backed up by vivid imagination and no science at all: The human consequences of failing to act are unthinkable. More record floods and droughts. Diseases and pests spreading to new areas. Crop failures and famines. Melting glaciers, stronger storms and rising seas.

Then the utopian remedy - constructing a new man: Our fundamental challenge now is to find out whether and how we can change the behaviors that are causing the problem.

And finally, the spiritual epilogue: To do so requires humility, because the spiritual roots of our crisis are pridefulness and a failure to understand and respect our connections to God's Earth and to each other.

Right on, Rev. Gore!

S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist, is the president of the Science &Environmental Policy Project based in Fairfax, Va. He is former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and is currently the Wesson Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University

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