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 # 446  

January 2003




McCain and Lieberman Join the Ranks of Ecoactivists With New Legislation on Global Warming

 

by Amy Ridenour

 

It's a peculiar and pervasive phenomenon in the nation's capital. Invent a major problem where none exists, then propose a complicated and costly solution, create yet another bureaucratic fiefdom and hand out scads of federal grant money and patronage positions.

That's apparently what Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) have in mind with their new legislation to install a "cap-and-trade" system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Their bill essentially was drafted by the eco-activist Pew Center on Global Climate Change and several multinational conglomerates, including British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell. It would establish mandatory emissions limits for carbon dioxide and set up an exorbitantly expensive Rube Goldberg apparatus that would allow companies to buy or sell permits to emit CO2.

It is the sort of plan Enron used to lobby for.

Ostensibly, the idea is to force U.S. companies to reduce emissions of CO2, emissions of which environmentalists believe will cause the Earth's temperature to warm by as much as 8-10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century and, supposedly, trigger catastrophic flooding combined with cracked-earth drought.

Yet the vast majority of American scientists who specialize in climate studies - including such giants as S. Fred Singer, former head of the U.S. Weather Service's satellite operations; Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences; and the University of Virginia's Patrick Michaels - believe the fear-mongers are wrong. The UN Panel on Climate Change, often cited by environmentalists, bases its projections on worst-case scenarios from two flawed computer models, each of which significantly contradicts the other when it comes to impact of global warming on specific geographical areas.

"The problem with this projection is that the models are based on assumptions about how the climate works and not known facts about critical processes," says Seitz, President Emeritus of New York's Rockefeller University. "To make projections for 100 years, assumptions then are made about factors that are not only not known but also practically unknowable." These undeterminable factors, Seitz notes, include population levels, the mix of energy systems that will exist decades hence and the levels of various economic activities - all determining factors in the level of greenhouse gas emissions.

What is known is that the Earth's temperature has increased about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last 120 years, but even that figure may be misleading. NASA satellites show a slight cooling over the last two decades in the lower atmosphere, and, in any case, as the 19th century very likely was the coolest century of the last millennia, a slight warming since then is actually a happy sign that the planet's temperature is in equilibrium.

Scientists point out that the Earth has gone through repeated cycles of gradual warming and cooling for millions of years. This isn't likely to change under orders from the U.S. Senate.

While the McCain-Lieberman proposal would not mandate the draconian 30 percent cutbacks in energy use required by the 1997 Kyoto Treaty that is favored by most environmental groups, it would put a major hit on U.S. economic growth. Their bill would require all major industries to significantly reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, which would cost tens of billions of dollars and likely result in layoffs of thousands of workers.

An economic stimulus plan it isn't.

The Bush Administration acted wisely in 2001 when it rejected ratifying the Kyoto Treaty, an action consistent with a 95-0 Democratic-controlled 1997 Senate vote urging the Clinton Administration (which ignored the advice) to do the same thing.

President Bush and his science advisers believe further study is needed into climate change, but they are promoting economic incentives to encourage voluntary reduction of emissions.

In the meantime, all eyes are on McCain and Lieberman (which, doubtless, is the way they want it). Expecting opposition from other Senators, they've bypassed the Environment and Public Works Committee, which normally would have jurisdiction over their bill, providing an early leadership test for new Senate Major Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). With the U.S. about to go to war in the Middle East, Frist should back his President and strip McCain of jurisdiction over an ill-advised piece of legislation aimed at fixing something that doesn't appear to be broken.

Until sound science actually demonstrates that global warming is a real problem - and proves that it is one caused by man-made emissions - Congress shouldn't do as McCain and Lieberman ask and take the chance of pushing a frail economic recovery into a major relapse.

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Amy Ridenour is President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

 


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