The U.S. Congress returned to Washington this week, following its July 4 holiday recess, only to face yet another media dog-and-pony show staged by Vice President Albert Gore and his small cadre of government scientists. The press conference is underway even as we write this—the Administration’s fourth global-warming press event in five weeks—but neither CNN nor C-SPAN nor any other local television channel is covering it live. Perhaps the broadcast media has decided that Mr. Gore's press conferences are becoming too boringly predictable. In any case, we won’t have the details until the next TW2.
We certainly sympathize with Mr. Gore, who hasn’t had as easy a time promoting the Kyoto Protocol as he would have liked. To begin with, the 150 country delegations to the U.N. conference on global warming , which met last month in Bonn, Germany, (the latest of many such meeting and, yes, taxpayers are footing the bill), failed to resolve major disagreements over plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Apparently, the delegates agreed to a worldwide treaty in Kyoto, but now that their governments have had a look at this bureaucratic nightmare, the politicians are having second thoughts. The two-week meeting ended in chaos.
Worse, from Mr. Gore’s point of view, members of the U.S. Congress—Republicans and some Democrats—are threatening to close a large part of his taxpayer-funded global warming candy store and moving to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to "backdoor" the Kyoto Protocol, i.e., implement it without Senate ratification. Shortly before Congress adjourned for the holiday, the House dumped nearly $200 million earmarked for solar/wind power research and energy efficiency, and signaled that it had no interest in the Administration’s $6.3 billion, five-year climate initiative.
Most worrisome to Mr. Gore is language in the House bill specifically prohibiting the EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality--headed by Katie McGinty, Al Gore’s former chief of staff--from engaging in taxpayer-funded lobbying on the global warming issue; in short, no "planning sessions," no carefully orchestrated public forums, no nothing until or unless the Protocol is ratified by the Senate. (Watch for Mr. Gore to interpret this as a "gag rule.") Todd Stern, White House coordinator on global warming, quoted by Associated Press (July 7, 1998), questioned whether last fall’s White House Conference on Climate Change could have been held under such restrictions. He questioned whether the White House would have been able to invite, as it did, more than 100 television weathercasters to Washington to discuss global warming.
Stern and EPA spokeswoman Loretta Ucelli also denied up one side and down the other any attempt to backdoor the Kyoto Protocol, saying that just because the EPA’s proposed programs limited greenhouse-gas emissions and create additional subsidies for solar and wind power doesn’t mean they are an attempt at backdoor implementation. Neither, apparently, was an April 10, 1998 EPA memorandum, claiming legal authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 emissions as a "hazardous pollutant." Much hypocrisy and hand-wringing going on here.
Well we don’t need to remind the Congress that a major problem with Kyoto is that it places binding emissions reductions on the United States and 31 other developed countries, while exempting from any restrictions 132 developing nations, including such giants as China, India, Brazil, and Mexico. We would remind the Congress, however, that the White House Conference on Climate Change was not a balanced presentation, included no scientist-critics of the government’s scientific claims, and gave prominence to a fringe activist group, Ozone Action. In fact, Ozone Action representatives were allowed to present the President and Vice President with a petition (signed largely by graduate students, veterinarians, activist public relations types, etc.), which many in the press mistakenly took for Gore’s famous and completely fabricated "consensus of 2,500 IPCC scientists."
As for the 100 weathercasters, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time that many expressed doubts about Administration’s case for global warming; others questioned why they were invited in the first place. A group of TV weathercasters in Ohio not only declined the White House invitation but expressed their frustration with the way the issue was being promoted by staging a press conference in Cleveland to sign the Leipzig Declaration, a strongly worded statement against global warming hype.
Members of Congress from both political parties, including a few high-ranking Democrats in the Senate, are taking a hard look at the scientific evidence for global warming—possibly because the many protestations that the science is "settled" have given Congressional members an uneasy feeling that it isn’t. More important, no doubt, they’re hearing from their constituents. The 29 member states of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, for example, issued a resolution and press release on June 29, 1998, calling on President Clinton and federal lawmakers to employ more cautious, inclusive policy setting on the global warming issue. "This is too important and potentially costly an issue to be decided on a purely political basis or without solid scientific footing," said Governor Ed Schafer of North Dakota, who drafted the resolution. "It’s time for all viewpoints to be heard, and the states are among the most affected stakeholders."
In Europe, the UK Environment Ministry let its commercial fishing industry off the hook by announcing that the drop in the number of salmon entering Britain’s rivers was due to global warming. European farmers may not be so lucky. Cattle are blamed for increases in methane. Some European governments are considering imposing a value-added tax on fertilizers to discourage their "overuse." The possibility of a carbon tax is also being raised—again. The Dutch, Danes, and Finns want to make their individual commitments to limiting greenhouse gases contingent upon all members of the European Union adopting some sort of carbon/energy tax. Since it is highly unlikely that all 15 EU member countries will agree to impose a carbon tax, which would likely mean these three—particularly the Dutch and the Finns--can forget the whole thing and go on their merry way.
The Dutch position is particularly noteworthy. With much of the Netherlands below sea level, the Dutch government has been whining about global warming; even before Kyoto it pledged to reduce carbon emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels. At the meeting of EU environment ministers in Luxembourg last month, however, the Dutch environment minister doggedly stuck to a figure of just 6 percent, reportedly at the insistence of the Dutch government, which fears that any further concessions would slow economic growth.
To wrap up: during President Clinton’s recent foray into China, the Administration bragged about selling nuclear power plants to the Chinese. The nuclear power industry has been advertising itself as a clean and safe source of energy (which it is) and the answer to concerns about global warming. Some of the Swedes are convinced. In Sweden, a citizens committee has now been formed to save the Barseback nuclear power station, slated for phaseout by the Green-dominated Swedish government. U.S. Vice President Albert Gore, however, has already signaled that the Administration has no plans to encourage more nuclear power plants here. The White House announced last week that when Gore visits the Ukraine July 21-23, one of his stops will be Chernobyl. Brace yourselves for another press briefing.
Until next week...
This issue of TW^2 was compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall