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A strange, almost funny thing recently happened at the State Department. This was unusual not solely because proceedings at Foggy Bottom generally prompt fits of sobbing rather than bemusement. At a gathering for his “Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change”, President Bush stood before the media, representatives of more than a dozen European and other nations, plus antagonists from Capitol Hill and, buried in his speech, offered long-overdue if curiously lukewarm defense of U.S. performance on greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
This did not sit well with the attendees, who have expressed great angst over Man-made GHGs, principally carbon dioxide (the plant food, not carbon monoxide the poison, as environmentalists want you to believe) purportedly destroying Creation, according to one of their leading prophesiers. This assessment persists despite Man’s contribution accounting for a fraction of a percentage of the global greenhouse effect.
The United States was until this year the world’s largest emitter of GHGs, not surprising for a large, growing economy which status, like GHGs, arises from energy use. China has just changed that, which only begins the bad news for the anti-U.S., pro-Kyoto crowd.
Specifically, President Bush said “Last year, the United States grew our economy, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” This is true. And it cannot be said of Europe (which collectivized -- a practice near and dear to their hearts -- for purposes of the Kyoto “global warming” treaty), Japan, Canada, or any of the admittedly few major economies actually covered by Kyoto.
This made Bush’s next statement all the more puzzling: “Several other nations have made similar strides.”
The White House offered no names and, although I have apparently been sentenced to live this issue, I admit to knowing of no country that meets that description. This seemed to be yet another sop thrown in by those members of the administration’s “climate” team to play nice with the Europeans, don’t be boastful (Heaven knows, the Europeans hate boastfulness), and maybe they’ll start being nice to us in return.
Instead, the response from European diplomats and media alike was as to be expected: duplicitous and indignant. “US President George W Bush infuriated his critics by professing world leadership on climate change at his meeting of the top 16 world economies”, wrote BBC’s Roger Harrabin, who reveled in seeing how “Some delegates were particularly upset by the extravagant invitation by Mr. Bush for other nations to follow the US lead in cutting emissions while increasing the economy.”.
The Financial Times huffed about “The spectacle of US President George W. Bush exhorting other countries to follow his lead in tackling climate change”, droning on about the U.S. “rhetoric,” its “position”, “attitude” and “motivation.” Oddly -- to journalism students, though not to students of the issue -- the FT never got around to addressing the claim.
All of this over the White House having finally decided to push back, but in the mildest form imaginable.
As it is clear that “global warming” is for most of the elites simply something to emote about, but never sully one’s manicure with facts over, let us indulge in some truths. In response to those insisting that this really is about CO2 emissions and not some longstanding policy agenda to make energy less affordable here -- that is, to “level the playing field for businesses worldwide” in the famous words of Europe’s Environment Commissioner at the time they pushed the Kyoto on Al Gore -- let us actually delve into the truth about U.S. emissions performance. To make it relevant to the headlines, let us do so in comparison to emissions of the European Union, our noisiest heckler on the issue which happens to be embarrassingly under-performing its rhetoric.
Here is what we know. U.S. emissions have risen far more slowly than those of its noisiest antagonists. For example, over the past 7 years for which we have data (2000-2006), the annual rate of increase for U.S. CO2 emissions is 0.38%, compared to the EU’s 1.07%. Indeed, over the same period even the smaller EU-15 economy has increased its CO2 emissions in real terms greater than the U.S. by more than 20%.
To our European critics, please put that in your pipe and smoke it, if there are any places left there where that most ironic of all environmentalist pastimes is still permitted.
There is little doubt that “global warming” is for the first time about to be an issue in a presidential election; it will be so in the context largely of explaining away our allies’ behavior and why they think we’re mean.
There is also a chance that the Republican nominee will dare to confront the mythology rather than meander down the presumed path of least resistance, agreeing with the agenda (particularly if that nominee is Fred Thompson; though this is not likely to matter, John McCain just assured left-wing Grist magazine that, if elected, “global warming” would be a top three priority).
As such, there remains a chance that we can finally have some honesty in this debate. Now, that would be a breath of fresh air.