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