|The Week That Was
October 26-November 1, 1998
Some experiences are best avoided. Watching sausage being made usually tops the list, but attending a UN summit, on virtually any topic, is a close second. Here in Buenos Aires, representatives from 166 nations and dozens of industry and Green activist groups-some 9,000 people in all-have come together for the Fourth Conference of Parties to implement the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The proposal is to allot each nation a "quota" of greenhouse-gas emissions, the objective of which is to limit world energy consumption and supposedly culpable economic activities. The waste of time, money, and human resources is appalling.
Actually, that's putting it too harshly. Let's just say that the Argentines hosting this event-i.e. taxi drivers, hotel staff, translators, restaurateurs--are doing quite nicely. Nightclub owners, probably less so, since the pinch-faced and pious are a rather dour bunch, caught up as they are in endless discussions of fixed costs, carbon sinks, pollution credits, bad restaurants, dirty water, and how to avoid getting mugged by the locals in a foreign city.
Here at the conference center we find Americans engaged in the usual self-flagellation about how much U. S. citizens consume, and island nation delegates engaged in the usual whining about how global warming is going to put them all under water. (New research suggests otherwise, but it's the only way they can get attention.) Pro-global warming scientists complain that government grants are going to pay for global warming "education" instead of research. (Well, hey, the science, as Tim Wirth said, is settled). Central American delegates complain that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are to blame for Hurricane Mitch. Green political parties from the United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Canada, Venezuela, and Mexico complain in a flyer that ecology has become "a useless and demagogic discourse" and that "worldwide meetings on the environment serve only to spend a considerable amount of money and to inflate the vanity and pockets of the few…" (Wisdom at last.)
Buenos Aires is not as fervid and packed with the press as Kyoto (reporters got a heads-up that this summit was likely to be a bust), so Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, and other Green groups, operating out of massive suites here at the conference center, are keeping their antics at a minimum. Announcements, press releases, brochures, and glossy, inch-thick reports are being handed out by the ton, but daily briefings and most panel discussions have plenty of empty seats. Still, some delegates are just glad to be here and not "there," wherever "there" is. As I write this I am sharing a table with a couple of Latvian delegates who've been riding the global warming circuit since Berlin (1995). They've just been making small talk about how glad they are to be in Buenos Aires, enjoying the warmth of early summer, instead of in Latvia, where it's pretty darned cold. The irony of their words completely eludes them.
The issue dearest to the hearts of the U.S. delegates-committing developing countries to "voluntary" emissions limits-was raised on the opening day by Maria Julia Alsogaray, Argentina's minister of environment, only to be quickly voted off the table, with China and Indonesia leading the opposition. As junk science expert Steve Milloy put it, the problem may be global, but the solution apparently is local--and we don't mean here.
Not that the United States government has given up. Wednesday, a group of "objective" U.S. scientists, led by Stanford's Stephen Schneider and Gore acolyte Robert Watson, head of the World Bank's environmental program and new chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are holding a press briefing and panel discussion to try to give the summit some scientific legitimacy. As we saw at Kyoto, most of the panel-in this case, scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography-will mumble something vague (maybe this, maybe that, maybe yes, maybe no) and Schneider and Watson will provide the appropriate spin. Organizers are anxious to shield reporters from any other view. Attempts to notify the press that Dr. S. Fred Singer, a leading critic of global warming alarmism, would be available to answer questions after the science press briefing caused serious upset. The organizers refused to allow any flyers to be distributed. In other meetings they've refused to permit him to ask any questions.
It is clear that what taxpayers are supporting here is two weeks of propaganda for a plan to hand over much sovereign power to a new global bureaucracy run by the United Nations. Rumor has it that Strongman General Albert Gore will turn up later this week to exert his personal influence on the delegations, not to mention set the conference atwitter with his presence.
While her husband may walk on water, Tipper Gore, attempting to "raise her political profile," has recently been making every effort at home to portray herself as one of the masses. According to the October 26 issue of U.S. News & World Report, Tipper's aides are touting her as a "shy homebody" who prefers flying coach on commercial jets, accompanied by just one or two staff members, as she travels around the United States promoting "family values" and "mental health." Not that she's all work and no play. "For diversion," says U.S. News, "Tipper frequently spends evenings feeding the homeless" and "often leaves her White House office to buy her own cup of Starbucks," an example of wifely sacrifice not seen in Washington since Georgette Mossbacher, then wife of then Commerce Secretary Robert Mossbacher, was urged to give up her chauffeur-driven limo and tool around town in a Jeep Cherokee.
Meanwhile, eco-terrorists in the United States have begun upping the ante in their violent attempts to enforce their Green agenda. Some, like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who killed and maimed nearly two dozen people before the police finally caught up with him a couple of years ago, have been strongly influenced by Gore's book Earth in the Balance. (Kaczynski even paraphrased some of the book's passages in his manifesto, which was published in the Washington Post.)
Last week, the Earth Liberation Front, an offshoot of the eco-terrorist group Earth First, torched a ski facility under construction in Vail, Colorado, doing $12 million in damage. The week before, animal rights activists released 5,000 ranch-raised mink from a fur farm in Michigan. (A similar act at a fur farm in Britain recently saw thousands of the voracious creatures return to their cages searching for food and hundreds of others run over by cars or killed by area farmers trying to protect their poultry. Those remaining went after local wildlife, including the defenseless water vole, a truly endangered species. No matter, said the activists. At least the voles died a "natural" death.)
Americans should brace themselves for more such acts, directed against people and against property. Will Mr. Gore condemn the Greens, loudly and forcefully, or is he counting on this extremist fringe to put him over the top in his bid for the presidency? He said nothing after fan Ted Kaczynski was arrested. Let's hope he speaks out now.
For the present, here in Buenos Aires, the days are clear, sunny, and delightful. And despite the grumblings from delegates, the city is like a cleaner, smog-free New York, but with a Spanish accent. Food is generally good, water is drinkable, traffic is no worse than most places. Moreover, the Argentines are friendly and helpful and clear about the issues. As the chief of staff of a key Argentine state senator told climatologist Pat Michaels a couple of weeks ago: "Look, the science doesn't matter. I don't care if it's cooling or warming. You have money, and we need it, and we'll do what you say."
Unfortunately, he meant what the U.S. government says, not Pat Michaels.
Until next week…
UPDATE: Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, November 5---What is passing for science at the UN summit on global warming (COP-4) would be laughable if it wasn't being used to drive international policy. Today, Paul Epstein, an M.D. not recognized as a peer by the tropical disease experts with the federal Centers for Disease Control, nonetheless stated categorically that CO2-caused global warming has caused malaria outbreaks, is causing them, and will cause more of them in the future-a departure from the more careful statements in his published research paper.
Yesterday, German scientist Stefan Rahmstorf presented a report in which he projected CO2 at 1200 parts per million (ppm) and temperatures at 5 degrees Celsius (8 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. What he neglected to mention to the audience was that his presentation was a hypothetical exercise to determine under what circumstances, according to his climate model, we might see a change in ocean circulation. The ppm (2 ˝ times the current rate of increase) and degrees C (more than 2 times even the IPCC estimate) were not intended to be a forecast of anything approaching reality. Today, when questioned about his presentation, Rahmstorf got defensive and said the paper on which he based his report was not yet published and, in any case, a graduate student was working out more realistic scenarios. Do reporters know that?
Yesterday, IPCC head Robert Watson, according to the account in the official COP-4 daily tabloid, called carbon dioxide a "toxic gas." Today, Stephen Schneider, who appeared on the same climate science panel as Watson, denied that Watson would make such a nutty statement. "Watson knows better than that," said Schneider, who added that that's why he hated the media coverage of this issue. Reporters, he said, are always getting the quotes wrong. (He said, in front of witnesses, that I could quote him on that.) Schneider also said he thought it was "possible" that global warming was affecting the frequency and intensity of El Ninos, but stepped back from the virtual certainty stated by the science panel, again as reported in the COP-4 daily. Asked if it wouldn't be prudent for scientists such as himself, concerned as they are about being accurately quoted, to put their comments in a written document that could be distributed to the press, he replied that, well, being scientists, "they're just too busy." Besides, he said, he'd hate to think that these comments were actually driving policy. (See opening sentence above.) We've experienced these little scenes again and again over the years; scientists who overstate their case to the press and to the Greens and then back off in the presence of their scientific peers who might question their conclusions. Unfortunately, the only real scientist who might confront them in public here-Fred Singer-is not being permitted to ask questions from the floor. On Wednesday, at the climate science panel, he raised his hand repeatedly. The moderator refused to recognize him.
More details on Monday's vote against any discussion of "voluntary" emissions limits for developing countries. Of the Big 4, India's representative said the door was closed and locked, Brazil's said no way, Mexico's kept mum, and China's not only said no but added that even raising the issue was a "cynical attempt" on the part of those countries trying to deny their responsibility for global warming (he meant you know who). The others largely split along developed/developing lines: South Africa said no, Indonesia said no, Japan said yes, Australia said yes, Egypt said put it on the table and suffer the consequences, South Korea said they'd be happy to entertain the idea of a "discussion ," but given their current situation (among other things, exporting Hyundai autos to the U.S.) they couldn't possibly agree to any limits on greenhouse gas emissions for "several decades." The vote was a decided setback for U.S. promoters, though official U.S. government reports tried to gloss it over.
No matter. This summit has moved beyond science, and even beyond economics. This is a conference overrun by consultants hoping to cash in on emissions trading. With every cabinet agency of the Clinton/Gore Administration already overrun by designated climate-change bureaucrats, the "process" is gathering steam. Will even the U.S. Senate be able to stop it? The cynical say no.
TW2 is compiled by Policy Research Associate Candace Crandall, this week accompanying SEPP President S. Fred Singer in observing the UN Global Warming Summit (known officially as the Fourth Conference of Parties) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.