Green Distortions

It is, of course, political ritual for ideological factions to flog their own issue as one for which an elected majority was granted a mandate, even when that issue was demonstrably eschewed during the campaign by the victors. 

The case of global warming or climate change in the 2006 elections is no different, as revealed in the remark attributed to Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, that “the politics of global warming has changed and a new consensus for action is emerging” (“Senators sound alarm on climate,” Page 1, Wednesday). 

Indeed, each of the numerous presidential hopefuls who spoke at Tuesday's Senate hearing trumpeted that it is clear now that we must “do something.” Yet, what is actually clear is that no such consensus or mandate is found in the 2006 election results, with Democrats actually having downplayed talk of such legislation during the campaign. Further, this first in a series of grandstanding hearings proves that the public is not yet onboard with proposals to charge them a lot for absolutely no environmental benefit, which is to say that by “doing something,” upon scrutiny, these senators really mean, instead, to do a very expensive nothing. 

Consider the financial cost of the Iraq war, whose expense these same senators (and many others) decry, which equals 0.8 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP). The Clinton administration's Energy Information Administration projected that the Kyoto greenhouse gas reduction treaty would cost up to 4 percent of GDP annually, or five times the tab the Iraq war is running, and that assumed that only $2 gasoline was required to curb auto emissions. (Europe's experience to date, with $6 to $7 gas no less, proves that this was quite optimistic.) For what in return? Amid the green rhetoric it is important to recall that not one of these rationing schemes, as even their most breathless champions admit, would have any detectable influence upon climate under any scenario of assumptions. 

No, our presidential aspirants do not seek to “do something” that would impact the climate; they seek to do something to burnish their green credentials on an issue so laden with potential cheap virtue that is bound to play a significant role in the upcoming election. But it is incumbent upon the voters to remind each and every posturing candidate, and every elected official striking the global warming pose, that this presumably cheap virtue is not cost-free at all.