Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review May 17, 2001 / 24 Iyar, 5761

James K. Glassman

Jim Glassman
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


It's No Time to Go Wobbly on Kyoto

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
IS George W. Bush going soft on Kyoto? Two months ago, in a decision marked by clarity, good sense and not a little courage, the president said he was dropping the climate-change protocol, which was signed by Al Gore in 1997 against the express wishes of 95 senators. Since the rejection, Mr. Bush has become the target of vituperation at home and abroad. That's hardly a surprise.

But now there are troubling signs that he may be responding to the criticism by weakening his opposition to an agreement that was rash, lopsided and based on unsettled science.

WAVERING WHITE HOUSE
Over the past few weeks, a group of scientists has been called in to brief administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, on climate change. That group is reportedly dominated by individuals who believe man-made global warming is a serious problem requiring an expensive policy response. According to the New York Times, at least: "There is a growing realization at the White House that the blunt rejection of the treaty may have caused more problems than it solved."

And James Pinkerton, a former official in the previous Bush administration with close ties to this one, reported last Monday in Newsday: "The buzz in Washington is that Bush, having suffered from six weeks of withering criticism since he junked the Kyoto treaty, is going to come back with a compromise in his forthcoming energy plan," expected next week. An environmental newsletter even reports that a global-warming enthusiast -- or, more concisely, calamatologist -- from a leading green organization may get an important White House post.

In 1990, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sought to stiffen the spine of the president's father, who was wavering on a decision to halt Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. "George," she said, "this is no time to go wobbly." A similar admonition may be necessary now for the son. He needs to stand by his original Kyoto decision. It was good science, good economics and, ultimately, it will be good politics.

Mr. Bush didn't really kill Kyoto anyway. He simply offered the benediction. Kyoto died last fall, when European negotiators at the Hague refused to compromise on a treaty that would have had a devastating effect on the U.S. economy. President Clinton's own Energy Department estimated that reducing carbon-dioxide emissions to meet Kyoto's target would cut gross domestic product by 4.2%, or more than $400 billion a year. A separate study by WEFA Inc., a highly regarded economic consulting firm, found that Kyoto would "reduce the average annual household income by $2700 [and] cost 2.4 million U.S. jobs."

While Kyoto was written to favor Europe, it's doubtful that cynical European politicians ever wanted to approve it anyway (it took three years for the first "developed" country, Romania, to ratify the treaty); they simply wanted to appease their greens at no cost. Now, the Europeans have their whipping boy. And, boy, have they whipped! "I think this decision is completely mad," said Noel Mamer, a French parliamentarian, in a typical comment. "It is a reason for more isolation for America."

Some say a key reason the U.S. lost a seat last week on the United Nations Human Rights Commission (while slave-owning Sudan got one) was Mr. Bush's rejection of Kyoto. And multicausal celebrity activists like Bianca Jagger and Annie Lennox have gotten into the act, this week launching a boycott of Esso products in Europe because ExxonMobil, the parent, was a big contributor to the Bush campaign and "the power behind the Bush throne."

But Mr. Bush doesn't need ExxonMobil to tell him that Kyoto is a foolish idea. For starters, the treaty is wildly skewed against the U.S. Against congressional objections, the protocol exempts developing nations -- including eight of the 20 largest emitters of greenhouse gases -- from its constraints. So what will U.S. manufacturers do if forced to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 30%? Move to China or Brazil, of course. No wonder union leaders like Jerry Strelick, president of United Steelworkers Local 1557 in Pittsburgh, oppose Kyoto.

Also, the treaty disingenuously sets national limits on emissions of greenhouse gases -- not net emissions. A 1998 article in Science magazine by a group of Princeton scholars indicates that the U.S. is a net reducer of carbon dioxide because of our extensive forests and farmland. The CO2 pumped out by cars and factories is sucked up by these green sinks. Meanwhile, paved-over Europe is, overwhelmingly, a net emitter of CO2.

The main problem with Kyoto, however, is that it is a drastic solution to a problem that may not exist. Scientists know very little about global warming -- only that the earth has become hotter by one-half degree Celsius over the past century. But even that insignificant heating has occurred in fits and starts -- a warming in the early part of the century, then a cooling from the 1940s to 1970s, then another warming. That intermediate cooling led, predictably, to warnings by calamatologists (some of whom are now warming enthusiasts) of an imminent "new ice age." Newsweek reported at the time on a proposed solution to global cooling: "melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot." In a few years, Kyoto may sound just as farcical.

As the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has reported: "We do not understand the climate system well enough to clarify the causes and likelihoods of rapid or abrupt climate changes."

If 20th-century warming has been caused by human-generated greenhouse gases, then why hasn't the earth heated up consistently, as CO2-emitting manufacturing and transportation activities have increased? It is generally agreed that the earth has been hotter in the past -- during the Middle Ages, for example, long before SUVs were invented. Strong evidence is emerging, in fact, that the earth's heating is cyclical, and that the prime mover in warming is the magnetic activity of the sun, as Sallie Baliunas, a respected Harvard astrophysicist who is also deputy director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory, has been finding in her research.

In discussions of global warming, such expert voices of dissent are rarely heard. Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, tells me flatly that "the NRC report was suppressed by the media." And a new study by the Media Research Center reviewed 51 stories on global warming by five cable and broadcast news programs and found "only seven references to the existence of global warming skeptics." Six of those were on Fox News Channel and the seventh was a reference on CNN by Mr. Bush himself to "the incomplete state of scientific knowledge."

RUSH TO JUDGMENT
And it is incomplete. I have been talking to some of the thousands (literally, see www.oism.org/pproject/2) of scientists who oppose the rush to judgment on global warming. For example, Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at MIT, told me that his work casts serious doubt on climate-change models that project big temperature increases because clouds trap hot air. In fact, he says, clouds may act as a "thermostat" to cool the earth when it gets too hot.

At this stage, the science is too unsettled to impose a solution that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars -- and, as many of its advocates agree, may not work anyway. Mr. Bush was right to reject Kyoto, to clear the decks for a more dispassionate, less political approach to the science of climate change. What is needed now are cooler heads, less hot air and, please, no wobbling.


JWR contributor James K. Glassman is the host of Tech Central Station. Comment by clicking here.

Up

05/02/01: Diversify with techís leaders
04/26/01: To Revive The New Economy, Release A Chokehold   —   Break Up The Bells
04/24/01: Whoís To Blame For Broadband Crisis? Wired Article Points To Bells
04/19/01: The Bush Budget
04/12/01: To revive The New Economy, release a chokehold --- break up the Bells
04/04/01: Even as stocks have fallen, the Net keeps booming
03/28/01: Whereís The Profit In Biotech Future?
03/22/01: The Joy of Debt: The last thing we should want is a U.S. Treasury flush with cash
03/19/01: 'Defensive' Stocks in the NASDAQ
03/15/01: Bush administration must say no to Jane and Kyoto
03/08/01: Time to buy small caps? Consider these five great techs
03/01/01: Billís and Larryís continued political adventures
02/26/01: Chips on the Dips?
02/23/01: How Tauzin Can Keep His Word And Stop Telecom "Remonopolization"
02/13/01: Consumers, WAKE UP! Middlemen are ripping you off
02/02/01: Publicity-Seeking Politicians and Contingency-Fee Lawyers Corrupt the Law
01/26/01: DoubleClick, eBay And Their Promising Ilk
01/24/01: Will Cyberspace Look Like France or America?
12/27/00: Cut interest, taxes and regulation to save high-tech economy
12/20/00: Close, But No Big Czar
12/15/00: A Down Year? Maybe. But Letís Put It in Perspective
12/13/00: Clintonís sorry midnight race into history
12/07/00: Is Telecomís Future The Bells, The Bells, and Only The Bells?
12/01/00: Money talks and walks in election aftermath
11/29/00: Climate Treaty Deadlock Shows Lack of Consensus and Common Sense
11/23/00: Climate change participants donít listen to reasons for uncertainty
11/21/00: Will Regulators Create a Recession?
11/14/00: The Election and the Market
10/26/00: Hang on for the long term
10/25/00: On privacy, one size doesnít fit all
10/24/00: Perish the bearish thought
10/19/00: Beating hunger --- the biggest prize
10/13/00: Way to play biotech
10/12/00: Bush vs. Gore on Technology
10/11/00: Global Climate Scare: Fools Rush In
10/05/00: Avoid the Apple Trap
10/03/00: Goodbye, anti-Microsoft crusader --- and good riddance
09/29/00: Should You Invest in Tech IPOs?
09/27/00: Could technology end airline delays?
09/22/00: Donít Forget Small Caps
09/20/00: Is the New York Times Rooting for Disaster?
09/13/00: The Best Argument Against Net Regulation
08/30/00: Political Risk in Big Drug Stocks
07/27/00: Tech Dividends
07/25/00: Government Privacy Violators
07/20/00: If I Had to Pick One Tech Stock
07/18/00: Our Favorite Lawsuit
07/13/00: Silicon Valley East
07/11/00: Election 2000: Year of the Investor Class?
07/07/00: Adventures on the Amazon.com
07/06/00:The Difference Between Bill Gates and Larry Ellison
06/29/00: In the Chips
06/27/00: Free market wins in Federal Court!
06/22/00: Wireless Bargains?
06/20/00: Is Your SUV Warming the Planet?
06/15/00: Shopping for Government
06/13/00: Top 10 Tech Stocks
06/08/00: Riding the eBook Wave
06/06/00: "The Last Mile"
06/02/00: Keep Buying!
05/31/00: Who Asked the FTC to Regulate Online Privacy?
05/25/00: "When Itís Time to Sell"
05/23/00: End the "Telephone Tax"
05/16/00: Time Warner Gets a Bad Rap

© 2000, Tech Central Station