It's not that the scientific evidence of global warming is too weak. It's not that the Clinton administration has tried to stifle debate about the real costs of cooling off man-made warming. It's not even that some students of climate change actually believe a little warming would be good for the globe.
None of these arguments explains congressional inaction on the administration's climate-change agenda. The real problem, according to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, is that notwithstanding high-profile administration global-warming warnings, it just hasn't been able to get its message out.
"We've really been outgunned," Mr. Richardson said last week. "We've been outgunned in the Congress and media ads. We have to do better. And what we need to do is find ways that we can communicate why it's important - climate change, agricultureal disasters, water rising, why - ozone layer, why that is important to the American people."
Apparently Mr. Richardson means the administration is being outspent by evil oil and coal groups whose heat-trapping gas emissions would supposedly generate a kind of industrial Armageddon. The charge is ridiculous. According to a budget analysis released by the Competititve Enterprise Institute earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency alone has handed out some $30 million in grants to promote fear of climate change. James Sheehan and Ilya Shapiro report the money has gone to environmental advocacy groups, academic researchers, government agencies and even foreign governments.
Not only can EPA buy the kind of research findings it wants through these grants. It has created a class of dependents whose interest it is to see that the general public lives in fear.
In 1995, for example, an organization known as the Climate Institute collected $258,000 from EPA to educate "millions" of Americans about global warming. Last year, it got $469,199 to promote "awareness of climate change and air pollution resulting from fossil-fuel use." No agenda there.
In 1994, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy received $333,726 to promote reduced greenhouse gas emissions in China. In 1994 the World Resources Institute got a $1.2 million grant to do an analysis of domestic and international climate change mitigation strategies. In 1998, it collected $150,000 to assess the public health consequences of fossil-fuel combustion and to show how global warming policy can have beneficial results.
Academics, too, have done well by fear of global warming. Tufts University received $1.3 million in 1996 to assess the impact of climate change on water resources. Foreign governments have enjoyed U.S. taxpayer support for their work on climate change. Tanzania obtained $307,480 in 1994 to identify policy measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to heighten public awareness of the impacts of climate change.
And that's just government-funded activism. Private foundations have also contributed millions to get the message out.
Far from being at the mercy of industry on this issue, as Mr. Richardson suggested, the Clinton administration has created an industry of its own to sow fear of climate change worldwide. That it has so far been unable to generate congressional support for its global-warming agenda despite all this spending says less about the need to get its message out than it does about the substance of the message itself.
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