The Week That Was
October 5-11, 1997

Coverage is coming in on the Clinton Administration's attempt to whip up public hysteria on the global warming issue. Rather than comment on it piecemeal, we're going to assess all of the coverage in next week's report. Also, Dr. Fred Singer is lecturing in Europe until mid-month and will no doubt be able to comment on the view from the continent when he returns.

Overseas, we sense a mini-rebellion brewing. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said his country would lose 90,000 jobs, and see a doubling of electricity prices and a 40 percent increase in gasoline prices if Australia caves in to international pressure for a uniform greenhouse gas reduction target (for developed countries). Australia's position is that developed nations should be allowed to adopt greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets that are based on individual economic circumstances, while the European Union is pushing for a uniform reduction target for all nations. Howard's statement got a strong vote of support from the Australian business sector. Even more important, it is now getting support from China, Italy, and Spain as well. A little reality setting in perhaps. But we do wish, as politicians push the numbers around, that they'd take a peek at current scientific observations.

In Austria, Hans Blix, outgoing director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has been urging world governments to turn to nuclear power as a way to curb greenhouse gas emissions. When he made his pitch at an IAEA meeting in Vienna on September 29, some 30 Greenpeace activists chained themselves together outside of the conference center in protest. (Last July, 65 itinerant anti-nuclear activists staged a similar protest at a nuclear power plant in Russia. The outcome was somewhat different, however. According to an E-wire report, they were visited at their campsite in the middle of the night by 300 irritated Russian nuclear power plant workers. Need we say more?)

If activists have their way, nuclear will not be considered among the possible solutions to CO2 emissions. We suspect that solutions to the spread of tropical disease will not sit too well with them either, so we wonder why they're trying to link it to a putative global warming? Carbon taxes won't reduce the incidence of malaria, nor will putting passive solar panels on your house or growing organic vegetables. What will reduce it is careful spraying with pesticides (which may harm fish and wildlife), selective draining of swampy areas (wetlands, which will destroy habitat), and in some cases introducing mosquito-larvae-eating fish into open waterways (which could disrupt ecosystems).

Is human health worth risking such effects? You bet. But we seem to have lost sight of that. A couple of months ago, the Associated Press filed a wire story on the establishment of a tiger preserve in India. The Indian government, responding to pressure from activist groups, had set aside a broad tract of land for tigers, which are an endangered species. The problem was that in so doing it blocked a village's access to the only source of clean water for miles. One father, whose children were being forced to drink muddy, polluted water, said: "What kind of a world is it where tigers are considered more important than people?" What kind indeed. Surely there are better and more equitable solutions.

In closing we would just like to wish Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt well with his Campus Crusade for the Climate Treaty. Just before the Oct. 6 White House conference, Babbitt spent a week speaking at college campuses trying to pull together a coalition of activist academics, their grad students and post-docs, and undergraduate students, and get them to support the anti-CO2 proposals at Kyoto. Babbitt said he was focusing on college campuses because climate change primarily will affect younger generations. Perhaps he also remembers that back in the 60s, this pool of individuals whose bills were still being paid by Mom and Dad was fertile ground for a whole raft of social movements. As many have noted, however, these same individuals often make a decided move to the right the day they take a look at their first pay stub and see how much didn't end up on the check. This is a generation that has had environmentalist ideology pounded into them from kindergarten on, however. Will they bite?

Until next week.

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