Scientific Uncertainty As Weapon: Kemp Column Distributed by Copley News Service
Kemp Column Distributed by Copley News Service
Kemp Column Distributed by Copley News Service
July 23, 2001, was supposed to mark the "rebirth" of the Kyoto protocol on global warming. On that date, international negotiators in Bonn, with the conspicuous exception of the United States, reached an agreement in principle that modifies and obfuscates the point of the 1997 Kyoto accord, which was to drastically throttle back energy use (and, not coincidentally, economic growth) in the name of slowing global warming. Watered down or not, the Kyoto-Bonn axis leads nowhere so long as it ignores sound science in favor of fads, pseudo-science and selective manipulation of data by global bureaucrats and the media. Bureaucrats were desperate to "rescue" Kyoto from President George W. Bush's firm rejection in order to continue their expansion of global government under the pretext of protecting mankind's common interests (i.e., saving the planet). To keep Kyoto on life support, the Bonn brigade made huge concessions toward allowing agriculture, tree-planting and pre-existing emissions cuts to count toward the goal of reducing CO2 emissions - precisely the issues the European Union countries refused to negotiate with the Clinton administration. Now that the United States is not an active negotiator, the EU caves to the (old) U.S. position. Euro-hypocrisy on Kyoto is reaching mammoth proportions. As columnist Robert Samuelson pointed out, Europe claims moral superiority over the United States because they've done more to reduce CO2 emissions, but "Europe's performance reflects different circumstances - and luck." Emissions cuts in Europe mainly come from closing down old, polluting East European power plants, North Sea gas flowing into the United Kingdom and slower economic growth. There's the answer to controlling CO2 emissions: Slash growth, make everyone poorer and foreclose economic opportunity for millions of aspiring Third World workers and entrepreneurs. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that the Kyoto-Bonn accord "is sketchy, and details are to be worked out over the course of the next year to 18 months." In short, it's an excuse to keep the Kyoto process alive, save the face of bureaucrats who have built whole careers out of global warming hype and justify domestic tax hikes and restrictions on energy use that just grow the power of government, domestically and internationally. The United States doesn't escape the clutches of the new "Kyoto-lite" accord just by virtue of Bush's opposition. Rules on energy use, agriculture, taxation and industrial activity that are imposed abroad in the name of Kyoto can be exported in many ways, especially to U.S. companies that have a growing presence in every corner of the globe. The Achilles' heel of the Kyoto process has always been science, not politics - and not economics, devastating though this treaty would be to the world economy. Global-warming theory is built on uncertainty, and it's no closer to being proven than the proposition that the sun rises because the rooster crows. The science of climate change becomes less certain the more we know. Even the recent National Academy of Sciences report requested by the Bush administration warned that politics was fast overtaking true scientific inquiry: "If scientific participation in the future becomes less representative and governmental representatives are tied to specific postures, then there is a risk that future ... efforts will not be viewed as independent processes." Most government reports on climate change have ceased to be independent of global-warming politics. As Dr. Fred Singer points out, the NAS report, "stands or falls principally on whether the climate warmed in the past 50 years and especially since 1980. The overwhelming bulk of data from different independent sources shows no such warming trend. We are not talking just about science but about evidence. A full-scale open debate is in order to settle this matter." Climate change is the subject of debate within the scientific community. We still have a primitive understanding of the chemical and physical interactions between human industrial activity and the "natural" climate. People are part of nature, too. We do belong on this planet, after all. It's too bad the Bush administration has not taken the issue of scientific uncertainty head-on when it comes to global warming because it has left them at a political disadvantage. In combatting the fear-mongering coming out of Europe, the president shouldn't hesitate to go after the pseudo-scientific underpinnings of the Kyoto mindset, using the genuine spirit of intellectual inquiry to ward off the attack of the global bureaucrats. Otherwise, more events like Bonn will strengthen Kyoto's status as a "vampire treaty" - dead, but still preying on the living.
Jack Kemp is co-director of Empower America and Distinguished Fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Copyright © 2001 Copley News Service.