Vice President Al Gore is no Willard Scott. After all, Scott found his true vocation as the nation's most famous weatherman after a stint as Bozo the Clown. The vice president is engaged in a similar though possibly opposite career trajectory. How else might one explain Gore's mid-July pronouncement that the month of June was the hottest in all recorded history?
"Disasters around the country, like the devastating fires in Florida, show just how vulnerable we are to extreme weather," the vice president claimed. "That is why we must continue to develop commonsense strategies to protect future generations from the grave risks of climate change. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to listen to what the scientists tell us about global climate change, to speak out forcefully, and to act decisively. Numerous disasters and tragedies around the country tell us we cannot wait."
Wrong, says John R. Christy, an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Speaking before the House Small Business Committee in late July, Christy not only disputed the methodology by which the administration is bolstering its claim of global warming, but slammed allegations that we currently are experiencing the "hottest weather" on record by citing records from the National Climatic Data Center. Indeed, the earth has not gotten warmer since the 1940s.
"The spin one places on extreme events can be very misleading," the respected climatologist said of an Associated Press story claiming that Huntsville was experiencing its hottest June on record. "I did some checking and found at least six other years between 1914 and 1953 in which June was hotter. Yes, it was hot in the South but this was due to a weather pattern that placed warm air in the South and cool air in the West. In fact, for the nation as a whole, the temperature in June 1998 was below normal."
Christy is in the mainstream of professionals on this one. A recent Gallop Poll of North American climatologists found that 83 percent reject the global-warming theory upon which Gore and the radical environmentalists base their cause (see p.4).
The vice president, however, is sure. Scientists aside, he has asked the American people to believe that global warming is occurring and is a man-made problem that can be cured only through drastic reductions in just the sort of "greenhouse emissions" that result from modern manufacturing and transportation. To stop the alleged problem, the administration is urging the Senate to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an extremely controversial agreement that is part of a U.N.-sponsored climate treaty. Under the terms of this agreement the United States would reduce its greenhouse emissions during the next 10 years to 7 percent below 1990 levels.
Administration officials doubt they will receive approval from the Senate, where many question the wisdom of consenting to a treaty that excludes many developing countries including Mexico and China. However, that concern hasn't stopped the administration from throwing tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to environmental organizations drumming up support for the protocol in what some critics believe is an out-and-out attempt to get it enacted without Senate approval.
"The administration has held town meetings around the country to build support for Kyoto-style policies," reports Joel Bucher, an environmental-policy analyst at the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation. "At these events, speakers from federal agencies typically warn that unless the United States and other nations reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the local community or economy may be afflicted by outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever, floods, droughts, hurricanes or other natural disasters. Such scare tactics are used repeatedly, even though the computer models on which global-warming scenarios are based are far too crude to predict regional, let alone local, weather impacts."
According to some critics, such tactics are but the first step down a long road that ultimately would put the United States' energy industry in the hands of the United Nations while costing the U.S. economy trillions of dollars. Whether the Kyoto Protocol itself is binding or not, its critics claim, it could open the door to a massive international regulatory nightmare.
"The philosophy is that first you get a nonbinding treaty as part of the body of international law and then you gradually ratchet up the control level. Eventually, you'll have an internationally binding regulatory agreement," says James Sheehan, a research associate at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, whose Global Greens: Inside the International Environmental Groups, has just been published.
Sheehan's book, which outlines how international environmental groups set regulatory policy using U.S. taxpayer money, comes only three months before Round Four of the U.N. climate treaty, which will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It also came only one week after the House narrowly defeated a budget rider that would have prohibited the Clinton administration from funding the Environmental Protection Agency's ongoing attempts to lobby the public for the warming treaty at taxpayer expense.
"These are decisions that are going to have profound impact on the global economy and people need to understand how these agreements are negotiated and by whom," Sheehan asserts. "They are not negotiated diplomatically one government to another. There were more than 10,000 nongovernmental organizations represented in Kyoto and they are the ones who set the tone for the whole stage."
According to Sheehan and other dissenters, there is simply no venue for critics of the plan to air their concerns. Instead, the negotiating environment is such that credibility is given to nongovernmental environmental organizations whose entire purpose is to advance a single (unscientific) point of view on global climate. Those very same organizations receive direct funding for their activities through both the United Nations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Global warming means big money for many environmental organizations.
For instance there is the Global Environmental Facility, or GEF, an aid agency of the World Bank that is managed jointly with the U.N. Environment and Development Programs. The GEF is the financial mechanism of the 1992 Rio convention which included both the Global Climate Change treaty and the Biodiversity treaty, neither of which has received U.S. Senate approval. According to Sheehan, the GEF already has committed $675 million to grants in support of the treaty's goals, $43 million of which was from U.S. funding in fiscal 1998. Among the environmental organizations to receive funding from the GEF are Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the World Resources Institute.
On the home front, Sheehan argues that since 1995 the EPA has spent more than $12 million domestically to boost the credibility of the Kyoto Protocols, even as scientists themselves remain deeply skeptical about not only the cause and effect of global warming, but whether it exists. Trouble is, despite the vice president's plea that we "listen to what the scientists tell us," the administration is very selective about which of its tame scientists may do the telling.
Here, in fact, is what one scientist had to say at a recent meeting of the House Committee on Small Business:
"There is no scientific consensus that global warming is occurring," said S. Fred Singer, president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project and author and editor of seven books on climate change. "With climate change at the top of the national and even international agenda it is vital to distinguish reality from hype i there is no scientific consensus that global warming is occurring. More than 17,000 scientists have signed petitions against the Kyoto Protocol."
And not only is the administration trying to trick the country into accepting the Kyoto proposal without Senate ratification, its cost to the American economy could be devastating, critics warn.
The White House claims that the United States could meet any Kyoto obligation at only a modest cost to taxpayers. According to figures released in late July by the Council of Economic Advisors, the average increase in the cost of household energy under the protocols would be $70 to $110 per year. But almost no one but the administration believes that estimate.
According to figures released by the National Center for Policy Research, in order for the U.S. to comply with the agreement and reduce its emissions to pre-1990 levels it would be forced to reduce fuel consumption alone by 30 percent of current levels. By comparison, fuel use decreased by only 10 percent during the terrible production shutdowns of the Great Depression in the 1930s.
A study by the prestigious Wharton Economic Forecasting Associates states that just stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels would result in a loss in gross domestic product of $3.3 trillion during the next two decades and a cumulative loss of 22.8 million person-years of employment. At the same time consumer prices could increase by up to 90 percent, with natural-gas and electricity rates rising 132 percent or more. Such figures stand in dramatic contravention to the rosier picture painted by the White House.
But the White House seems dead set on proceeding with the Clinton-Gore three-stage plan for meeting the protocol whether it is approved, rejected or ignored by the Senate. To that end the administration has requested $6.3 billion in additional funding for climate-change programs to be spent during the next five years. The lion's share of that money ($3.6 billion) is to go for tax incentives administered by the Department of the Treasury. The balance would be divvied up by various federal agencies including the Department of Energy, which would receive $1.9 billion, followed by the EPA which would receive $677 million.
However, the Government Accounting Office, or GAO, sharply has criticized the Clinton-Gore spending plans, and in early June issued a preliminary analysis of the administration's scheme that said there is no guarantee such programs would even begin to meet the goals set by the Kyoto Protocol or that the tax credits would create any benefit. Finally, the GAO warned that if the protocol were adopted, the United States could face dire consequences for not meeting its requirements.
"Because stage one lacks a quantitative goal for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, does not have a specific performance plan, and contains incomplete information on expected outcomes and links to the protocol's target, stage one may not provide a firm foundation for stages two and three," according to the GAO report. "Although the administration's response to the protocol is relatively recent, a firm foundation in stage one is important because the protocol's targets for emission reductions are binding on the nations that agree to the protocol, and penalties for noncompliance with the targets are to be discussed by the parties to the protocol in November 1998."
Those who are skeptical about the Kyoto Protocol hope the message will get out and Congress will stop the administration from making policies critics believe will lead to certain political and economic disaster for the United States.
"I think the greatest opportunity we have right now is time," says David Ridenour of the Institute for Policy Research. "Time will give the American people a better understanding of the economic costs. And time will also, we believe, bring with it a better understanding about climate. It is certainly not the right time now."
GRAPHIC: Photos (color), A) Weather man: Gore discusses the latest El Nino report and climate trends in a June meeting at the White House.; B) Gas attack: A delegation member prepares for the U.N. global-warming conference in Kyoto to discuss ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.; C) Air waves: Clinton is pushing a line that 83 percent of climatologists say is unscientific nonsense., A) By AP/Wide World Photos; B&C) By Reuters
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