The Week That Was
May 18-24, 1998

In Washington, D.C., there's nothing quite like a little nuclear saber-rattling in Third World countries to put lead in the old Eberhard-Faber (pencil, for those overseas).

Two days after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., hosted a half-day, packed-house denunciation of the security implications of the Kyoto Accord, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 420 to zero to exempt the Department of Defense from any emissions limits should Clinton and the EPA lose their heads and actually try to implement this thing. One should note that this was the first House vote on Kyoto and an overwhelming rejection of one of the Accord's key provisions.

Elsewhere, Finland is having second thoughts about cutting its greenhouse gas emissions, saying it would pose an undue burden on the national economy. Reports have it that Denmark is fudging the numbers on its own greenhouse emissions, failing to include emissions it creates in generating energy exported to other countries. The Clinton-Gore Administration is prepared to give the Third World a pass on emissions limits altogether. Riots in Indonesia over price hikes on gasoline.

The Business Roundtable, representing 200 of the largest U.S. corporations, has announced that it is commissioning independent studies of the Kyoto Accord's scientific and economic assumptions. Meanwhile 13 corporations--Enron, British Petroleum, Toyota, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, 3M, Sun Oil (Sunoco), American Electric Power, Intercontinental Energy Corporation, U.S. Generating Company, Whirlpool, Maytag, and United Technologies--most of which will profit handsomely from Kyoto through subsidies, equipment sales, or such proposed schemes as carbon trading, continue to bask in the laudatory excesses of the U.S. commentariat for jumping on the global warming bandwagon. The Washington Post called these "a few brave firms," generously restoring the reputations of Krupp and the chemical trust I.G. Farben for similar bravery in Germany in 1933.

Up on Capitol Hill, Stu Eizenstat, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs and the Administration's point man at Kyoto, has been panning the Oregon Petition in testimony before Congressional committees. With talking points conveniently packaged by Green political activists, Eizenstat is telling Congress that the National Academy of Sciences doesn't agree with the Petition, that an insert mailed out with the Petition was misrepresented as an NAS research paper, that the Petition is salted with phony names, and that those who signed are "not qualified" to evaluate global warming science.

Jeffrey Salmon, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based George C. Marshall Institute responded point-by-point in a letter to members of Congress. Here's a summary:

1. While the "Council" of the NAS (with 2 absent, 1 abstaining) voted not to support the Petition, the membership was never polled.

2. The insert mailed out with the Petition was a review of the published scientific literature. Reviews--a category that includes books on global warming and the IPCC report itself--are not themselves peer-reviewed. Thus no one mistook the insert for an NAS research paper, and no one thought the NAS Council had initiated the Petition. (To be frank, it is widely recognized that the NAS Council doesn't have the guts for such action.)

3. There was one phony name slipped in by a Green political group--one out of 17,000 scientists signatures now verified on the Petition.

4. As for qualifications, more than 6,000 of the scientists hold Ph.D.s in one of the hard sciences. More than 2000 are physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, or environmental scientists and, as such, are particularly qualified to assess any human contribution to climate change. Perhaps "qualified," according to Mr. Eizenstat, means being a scientific spokesman in the pay of the U.S. government.

While Eizenstat tries to discredit the Petition, other members of the Clinton-Gore Administration, including (acting) Assistant Secretary of State Melinda Kimble, are attempting a different strategy to head off criticism of Kyoto--i.e., concede the science is insufficient, but call for an "insurance policy" just in case.

Perhaps we should point out that several decades ago the world took out just such an insurance policy by banning DDT, a pesticide that had proven effective against mosquitoes carrying malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and other dreaded diseases.

Several peer-reviewed scientific studies published in the last 6 months indicate such a ban may have been over hasty. These studies claim that there is no link between DDT and breast cancer, that DDT breaks down rapidly in tropical climates, and that the eggshells of birds actually began thinning some 50 years before DDT came on the market, possibly because acid rain from industrial pollution led to a deficiency of calcium.

If these studies are confirmed, it means that more than 40 million people in the Third World--most of them children--have died because of an "insurance policy" imposed on them by the largely upper-middle-class environmentally anxious in places like Europe and the United States.

Something to think about.

Finally, the cover story in the June issue of PM, Germany's most popular science magazine (circulation 520,000) picks up on a theme we first saw in Atlantic Monthly a few issues back--the threat of a new ice age. The Atlantic, hoping to cover all the bases and still stick to its Green party line, had an ice age being triggered by the build-up of carbon dioxide. PM, however, refutes the enhanced greenhouse argument and has an ice age arriving within 30 years due to the effects of solar radiation on cloud cover (the Svensmark and Friis-Christensen hypothesis, which is suddenly getting serious attention in Europe).

PM's cover shows the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Munich with a glacier looming menacingly in the background. The article, by journalist Peter Repota, closes with this comment: "As long as we remain blind to reality and confuse the virtual world of computer simulation with reality, then a possible catastrophe is heading our way. And it could mean the end of our civilization."

Which is it? Global warming or global cooling? Melting ice caps or advancing glaciers? Well, the Antarctic has posted record cold in the last year (July 1997, April 1998), contrary to greenhouse expectations. Perhaps we should keep our options open.

This issue of TW^2 was compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall

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