|The Week That Was
August 31-September 6, 1998
More bad news for the Clinton Administration, whose grandiose assumptions about carbon emissions trading have been a major part of its "no pain, all gain" global warming package. A preliminary analysis by Robert A. Reinstein, former chief U.S. climate negotiator, indicates that the potential supply of carbon credits through the three "flexibility mechanisms" contained in the Kyoto Protocol -- joint implementation, emissions trading, and the Clean Development Mechanism -- is likely to fall far short of the demand for such credits.
The United States alone, says Reinstein, may require as much as 2 billion metric tonnes of CO2-equivalent credits. Other countries like Japan, Canada and Australia will also be shopping for significant tonnages, which means that if Kyoto is fully enforced any shortfall will leave the lucky with skyrocketing credit prices and the unlucky with some tough decisions to make. Reinstein will be releasing his figures mid-October.
In the meantime, of course, serious doubts are being raised about the feasibility of monitoring and enforcing any international agreement to roll back emissions, so who knows what the prices will do? Some analysts speculate that counterfeiting allowance certificates by the millions will be too sweet a deal for organized crime in Eastern Europe to pass up.
Not that this dampens the enthusiasm of firms now jockeying for a stake in emissions trading. Companies like Bankers Trust, Cantor Fitzgerald LP, Sumitomo Corp., Edison International, Enron, and others are betting that in five years they can turn the results of November's UN conference in Buenos Aires into a multi-billion dollar business.
Remember when children were urged to clean their plates out of consideration for the starving in China and India? Well, some people just can't stand progress. Last week in Paris, medical "experts," gathered for the Eighth International Congress on Obesity, announced at a press briefing that being REALLY FAT is becoming a global epidemic, affecting not just industrialized countries but developing countries as well. Obesity, they said in urgent tones, could one day rival smoking in its impact on public health.
"In 10 to 20 years from now, it really looks like we are going to have a catastrophe on our hands," said Dr. Philip James, who heads the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, a UN commission on nutrition, and a task force for the International Association for the Study of Obesity. (Good grief, who's funding all this?)
James and the other researchers put their hope for a "cure" in new drugs to help the calorically challenged lose weight and keep fit. Until then, however, they've got a plan. Brace yourself. "Public health officials in India and the South Pacific, as well as the United States and Australia," they said in all seriousness, "should begin to modify eating behavior in both children and adults."
We hope they just plan to impose twinkie taxes and regulate McDonalds out of business, rather than resort to mass arrests of closet overeaters. But if any of you fatties think you can weasel out of this outpouring of civic duty and compassion by saying you're happy the way you are, well, think again!
"We can't rule out that there are happy fat people," said Dr. Stephen Rossner of Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, "but the evidence is against it."
Actually, if they'd just wait a few years, the whole situation might resolve itself. A research paper published last week in the journal Science (August 28, 1998 issue) and coauthored by Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, former IPCC chairman Bert Bolin, and 14 other scientists (is this research or a petition?) says that even though food is cheap and plentiful now, and things are going pretty well, the world is running out of soil, ground water, and other resources, and it will eventually all catch up to us. As ever, global famine is just around the corner. In which case, ironically, the fatties will survive those skinny medical experts and eventually inherit the Earth. Who says there's no justice in this world?
In Germany, the Green Party stuck to its ideological guns and retained scrapping nuclear power in its policy platform for the upcoming elections. It also called for decriminalizing drug use and a hefty cut in income taxes for low- and middle-income families. It may all be for naught. Gerhard Schroeder, chancellor candidate of the front-running SPD party, has commented recently about forming a "grand coalition" with Helmut Kohl's conservatives. Schroeder, a self-styled pro-business pragmatist, considers some of the Greens' more long-term policies, such as fuel taxes that would triple gasoline prices over 10 years, nuts.
Closer to home, the National Environmental Trust, like Eileen Claussen's $5.25 million Center for Global Climate Change a Pew-funded "educational" operation, took out a quarter-page ad in the August 31 New York Times to attack Times science writer Jane Brody. It seems that Brody's August 18 news article "Health Scares That Weren't So Scarey" put the NET folks over the edge by suggesting...well...that there were health scares that weren't so scarey.
Like the Clinton Administration, Green activists have recently embarked on a "scorched earth" policy regarding their enemies, i.e., those who express skepticism about the dire state of our food, water, air, climate, planet, etc. Scientists typically have been the target, but this new strategy of including journalists is fascinating for being both reckless and risky.
Last year, the NET, then called the Environmental Information Center, took out a similar New York Times ad denouncing Times reporter Gina Kolata for failing to get with the program on endocrine disrupters. Kolata has since been the subject of a hit piece in The Nation, and is rumored to be the target of another hit piece, this time in the October issue of Brill's Content.
But the trouble with taking action, as opposed to just making threats, is that the tactic rather quickly loses its effectiveness in coercing human behavior. Once a target no longer fears being the "first" or the "only," he or she gains an odd kind of status in being among those deemed worthy of attack.
And if the attacks don't work, what then? Until next week...
TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall