Energy Secretary William Richardson was sworn in on August 24. After Richardson gave a few initial remarks, one of Washington's "objective" journalists asked him what he planned to do to convince "good scientists," and the American public, that global warming was a big threat.
The response was quite remarkable. Despite $2 billion a year from the feds, tens of millions pledged by Green-leaning foundations, promotions by multiple federal agencies and activist groups, almost weekly press briefings by Vice President Albert Gore and government "scientist-communicators," and numerous free promos from network television, National Public Radio, and Time magazine, Richardson complained that "we have not communicated the threat or the science to the American people. We've really been outgunned. We've been outgunned in the Congress and media ads...We need to do a lot better there and we need to be committed towards not just international treaties, but delivering the message to Congress and the American people. The president and vice president are very committed to this...it's going to be a big priority of mine...the Congress knows that this is going to be the lead agency on global climate change."
One might reasonably ask "Outgunned by whom?" Industry opposition to the Kyoto Protocol--that is, those industries that actually spend money opposing it, primarily on TV ads--is a tiny fraction of the river of cash flowing on the pro-warming side.
What Bill Richardson is really concerned about is that common sense may be winning out over "communication." Last week Greenwire, an environmental news service, tallied the newspaper editorials in the aftermath of Vice President Albert Gore's latest "hottest ever" press briefing. The count was five in favor of implementing the Kyoto Protocol, seven against, and one on the fence. Greenwire's list, by the way, omitted a number of "anti" commentary pieces that ran in the Washington Times, not to mention National Review magazine's August 17 cover story, "One-Man Heatwave: Al Gore's Bogus Global Warming Crusade," by Jonathan Adler of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Well, not to worry, the Aspen Institute here in Washington is doing its part. Aspen's just concluded 1998 Energy Policy Forum on Global Climate Change laid down a ground rule that climate science would not be discussed--certainly an interesting format. But in the aftermath, Jack Riggs, who heads the Program on Energy, the Environment and the Economy, began circulating Aspen Forum policy recommendations to a short list of energy industry executives, former government officials, and Green activists, asking them to sign.
The recommendations, intended as a letter to President Clinton and Congressional leaders, were fascinating--a "how-to" on getting around Senate ratification of Kyoto. The list of hoped-for signatories was even more interesting, including not only Enron CEO Ken Lay but also the heads of the World Resources Institute, World Wildlife Fund, the usual Harvard academics, and representatives of oil industry associations and electric power companies. Any of those who might be reluctant wouldn't have to sign as official representatives of their organizations; Riggs told them they could sign as concerned "individuals" and put their affiliations down for identification purposes only. (Oh, BIG difference.)
Mr. Riggs wasn't completely successful apparently. The last we heard, he was reworking the letter to Clinton as a newspaper commentary piece and three of the 15 invited signatories were planning to put their names on it as "co-authors."
Ah, spin, spin.
Frogs are in the news again. A study out of the University of California at Irvine says frog deformities are caused by a family of common chemicals called retinoids, which are derived from Vitamin A. Not so, say researchers with the University of California at Berkeley. They're putting their bets on a fungus as the cause. Neither camp mentioned increased UV from the reportedly decreasing ozone layer. Oregon State University scientists still claim that cause.
Oregon appears to breed radicals on all side of the global warming issue. Oregon state climatologist George Taylor, president of the American Association of State Climatologists, publicly stuck his neck out in favor of sound science a few weeks ago, stating that for every skeptic like Dr. Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia there were dozens of others less vocal but just as unconvinced. Taylor is now speaking out on the global warming issue and encouraging others to do the same.
The Spanish translation of Dr. S. Fred Singer's 34-page booklet, "The Scientific Case Against the Global Climate Treaty," has just been completed. Two more foreign-language editions are in the works. Also, John Carlisle, who heads up the Environmental Policy Task Force at the National Center for Public Policy Research, tells us that the "1998 National Directory of Environmental and Regulatory Victims" is available. The report, just out, is this year's rundown of individuals trampled on by the federal government. For information on how to get a copy, call NCPPR at (202) 543-1286 or e-mail a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, a colleague drew our attention to this item, from a back issue of the journal Nature. Climatologist Hubert Lamb, who pioneered the study of climate change, passed away in 1997. This is part of what Nature said in summarizing Lamb's life: "During his later years, Lamb was skeptical of certain claims regarding the dangers posed by global warming. An empiricist at heart, and well aware of the complexities of the climate system, he felt that climate models were limited in their ability to provide accurate forecasts. As he observed in 1994, 'there has been too much theory and not enough fact in predicting the future.' He had found a new orthodoxy to challenge."
That same orthodoxy, apparently, now complains about being "outgunned." Until next week...
TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall