The Week That Was
July 27-August 2, 1998

The Dallas heat wave looks like it’s about to break, which will leave the Vice President with nothing to blame on global warming—a temporary condition, at least until hurricane season. Here in Washington, D.C., as in much of the United States, the summer thus far has been slightly on the cool side.

Not that the weather had much effect on panicky pragmatists in the Senate. According to a July 30 report from the Bureau of National Affairs, some Senate Republicans are worried about the tough language in the global warming bill passed by the House 10 days ago. Says BNA, the goal in the Senate "is to get a bill that the president will sign" and to "minimize very controversial issues." Well, a very big controversy for the White House are the restrictions on Kyoto passed by the House. Clinton Administration plans to backdoor the Climate Treaty, buy off the business community with greenhouse pork, and spend tax dollars to lobby for the establishment of an international bureaucracy to allocate energy have been temporarily curtailed. Is the Senate going to blow it with what policy analysts have called "pre-emptive capitulation"? Let’s hope they have more guts.

Guts aplenty down in Australia, where the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has just finished airing the British documentary series "Against Nature." Predictably, outraged letters from Green activists are now pouring in, including one from Clive Hamilton, executive director of The Australia Institute, which appeared in the Australian Financial Review July 29. In many circles, Green activism is associated with Marxist/socialist ideology, so Hamilton's argument that viewers shouldn't believe anything that was said--because, he says, the series' producers are all a bunch of Commies--was just too funny. Indeed, the day Hamilton's piece appeared, we were e-mailed another attack on "Against Nature," this one by Allen Meyers from the Australian group GreenLeft. Mr. Meyers accuses Australian Broadcasting of "pro-capitalist political correctness" and says claims that the "Against Nature" producers are Marxist are nothing but a "cover-up."

The problem with these critics is that in making personal attacks on the producers and those interviewed for the series, they fail to address the issues raised. Have Green activists NOT blocked hundreds of hydroelectric dam projects in the Third World? Have they NOT blocked attempts to introduce high-yield agriculture into Africa? Have they NOT emphasized draconian population control over industrial development? Are the well-dressed, well-fed, well-housed activists NOT essentially saying to the poor, "I've got mine. Too bad the planet can't afford for you to get yours"? Apparently, neither Green activist Mr. Hamilton, nor GreenLeft activist Mr. Meyers, had any response.

Maybe that was intentional. These days the accepted way of promoting policy is simply to personalize the debate, reducing it "to unilateral pronouncements and glib but quotable clichés," as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas remarked last week. No one needs to "do the hard work of dissecting an argument," said Justice Thomas. All one has to do is "attack and thus discredit the person making the argument."

That doesn’t resolve the matter, of course, which is why we agree with Mr. Hamilton on one point: a fair debate would put scientist against scientist (and leave out the activist rant).

No doubt, Dr. Paul Reiter, head of the Dengue Fever Branch of the U.S. government’s National Center for Infectious Diseases in San Juan, Puerto Rico, would have welcomed a chance to face-off with promoters of hype. The National Consumer Coalition brought Dr. Reiter to Washington July 28 to brief Congressional staff and the press on claimed threats of tropical disease epidemics due to global warming. (Some of Dr. Reiter’s writings on this issue are on the SEPP home page, under "Controversies: Link Claimed Between Diseases/Floods and Global Warming") What most frustrates him, he said, is that unwarranted alarms are being spread by those who are not specialists in tropical diseases. Some have persisted in making wild claims even after their "facts" have been specifically corrected by the experts.

As we remarked in the last TW2, so-called "mainstream" media are beginning to take a harder look at the politics behind the global warming issue, and how Carol Browner is running the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Now we have word that journalist John Tierney has a critical piece in the works on the wind turbine industry, possibly for the New York Times magazine. Wind farms, referred to as a "blight on the landscape" by Britain’s Prince Philip and others, have come under fire, even from some Green groups, for playing havoc with bird populations. At the Altamonte Pass facility in California, the largest wind farm in the United States (and the world, for that matter), the population of golden eagles has been decimated. There are rumblings, even within the industry, that Altamonte Pass should be shut down before the Greens start publicizing a "Save the Birds" campaign. Tierney has written some tough articles on environmental policy. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times, which has long been an advocate of California’s ban on smoking in public places, printed a balanced account of the federal court ruling against the EPA’s cooked science on secondhand smoke. The editors put it on page one, above the fold. Perhaps even newspaper ideologues "get it" eventually.

But not politicians wives. Cherie Blair, wife of the British Prime Minister, has been spotted wearing a "bioelectric pendant," which is apparently the latest in State Dinner chic. The Bioelectric Shield Co., which makes the pendant, said it is designed to ward off electromagnetic radiation from modern office equipment, i.e. computers, copiers, etc. A company spokesman says the pendant was recommended to Mrs. Blair by Hillary Clinton. (These two are smart lawyers?) As Robert Park of the American Physical Society, who passed along this item, notes, neither Cherie nor Hillary have been harmed by electromagnetic radiation since donning the pendants.

We are so relieved...

TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall

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