Kyoto Through The Backdoor

Desperately seeking their Sally Field moment (“You like me! You really like me!”), with the likes of the New York Times and environmental pressure groups, the Bush administration is preparing to issue a “multi-pollutant” proposal that will bear sour fruit just in time for the 2002 mid-term elections. This, in an effort to engage Senate Environment Committee Chairman James Jeffords on an environmental trek toward what the White House fails to see is merely backdoor implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The president will debut this plan in his State of the Union speech.

Recently, contrary signals emanated from President Bush's EPA administrator, Christie Whitman, who said greenhouse gas “concentrations” — not the meaningless “emissions” panted over in myriad environmental debates — must be the focus of any effort to address the theory of man-made catastrophic global warming. Man contributes next-to-nothing compared to the Earth's own processes, so focus on concentrations and the global warming regulators' case collapses.

Mr. Jeffords targets emissions, which can be clearly tied to man, who still contributes at most 3 percent of global greenhouse gases (GHGs). One volcanic eruption dwarfs anthropogenic activity, exposing the follies of regulating energy use on the basis of man-as-weather-machine. The Bush plan will target three other emissions, but so heartily that they require fuel substitution, that is, CO2 cuts. That's clever, if wildly premature.

The greenhouse warming theory says that at some level of GHG concentrations — such level which science refuses to cite — comes dangerous interference with the climate system. Interference clearly presumes nature's dramatic fluctuations are just fine, but that activity traceable to man is inherently bad. First, it irrefutably is not possible to trace climatic activity to man. Second, this presumption that man can only have a negative impact betrays the anti-human philosophy underlining climate alarmism.

The Jeffords plan further presupposes that whatever level constitutes dangerous interference, today's level definitely surpasses it. This ignores the scientific method, though it is in harmony with the Kyoto Protocol. In fact, this is what Kyoto legislation would look like. For the same reasons Mr. Bush rejected Kyoto, he should avoid allowing this idiotic reasoning to infect domestic policy-making.

Mr. Bush faces two distinct paths — insist on addressing the threshold question of concentrations, or feel compelled to “do something.” His June 11 Rose Garden speech came on the heels of announcing that he would not regulate the GHG carbon dioxide as a pollutant and rhetorically distancing the United States from Kyoto. Then, Mr. Bush stressed that science was king, and knowledge would dictate action.

Since then the administration internally bundled two pressing Clean Air Act issues with whatever “something” it will offer on climate change, in effect implementing the economically ruinous Kyoto in lieu of seeking ratification. The goal is to brag to the enviros “see, we got Kyoto numbers,” and to anti-Kyoto forces “see, we didn't do Kyoto.” This is bad policy-making, and will haunt the administration if pursued. It will force the president to confront legislation, including what the Congressional Budget Office admits is an “energy tax,” just prior to elections, in the form of a bill he said he wants and which he allowed to be painted as “green” instead of calling a tax a tax.

Sane policy-making dictates ceasing all machinations toward CO2 reductions and their related economic impact until science answers the threshold question: What concentration level constitutes “dangerous interference”? This precise inquiry constitutes Article II of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (the “Rio Treaty”), Kyoto's predecessor which was unanimously ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1992. U.N. bureaucrats repeated this request prior to the 1997 Kyoto negotiations, though the lack of an answer incredibly did not stop the bureaucrats from hammering out that punitive wealth-transfer.

Kyoto's basis is so flimsy that scientists refuse to answer this question. They justify their refusal by claiming that the level of GHG concentrations that constitutes dangerous interference with the climate system constitutes a “political” question. Is there a political scientist in the house?

Nonetheless, Senate leaders such as Mr. Jeffords and John McCain insist on capping the intentional product of oxidizing carbon-based energy in response to the problem, but no one will actually articulate it. Mr. Jeffords regularly bites on any man-as-agent-of-doom theory, but some McCainiac should explain to their hero that Arizona is supposed to be hot.

More troubling is the administration's zeal for proposing “multi-pollutant” legislation addressing actual pollutants, not carbon dioxide, but doing this so aggressively that principal CO2 “culprit” coal is necessarily a goner through the backdoor.

Message to Mr. Bush: The enviros turned on Al Gore for not being nutty enough. Write them off. Drop the current straddle of “yes, energy use is killing the planet, but gee it's too expensive not to.” If you believe that claptrap, do Kyoto 30 times over as “warmers” demand. If not, say so. At minimum, before risking one job, or putting heating, or automobility out of reach of one person, refine the straddle. If the alarmists insist greenhouse gases must be reduced, insist they at least explain to what level. If they refuse, who is being unreasonable?