The Week That Was
November 2 - 8, 1998

"We're spending a lot of time debating the details of a treaty that is fundamentally flawed. If something is not worth doing, it sure isn't worth doing well."

While the quote above, from Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, drew more than a few chuckles here in Buenos Aires last week, the point he was making was clear enough. The Kyoto agreement is unworkable. Unfortunately, that doesn't count here. The likelihood that U.S. energy (and thus every product whose manufacture depends on energy) will become more expensive, or that U.S. jobs will be exported overseas, is irrelevant to the horde of consultants and industry reps who hope to make more than a few bucks off the Climate Treaty. The pressure is on.

We delayed this week's TW2 because rumors were circulating that either Clinton or Gore would go to New York to sign the Treaty, signaling U.S. commitment to Kyoto. Surprisingly, when it finally happened, both Clinton and Gore decided to dodge any photos of them putting pen to the page and instead left the deed to poor old Peter Burleigh, acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. What courage.

While our "leaders" were playing this game (You do it! No, you do it!), Chief U.S. Climate Change negotiator Stuart Eizenstat was telling members of Congress attending the UN Summit in Buenos Aires that signing the Treaty was just "symbolic," merely an attempt to jump-start the talks, secure the United States a place at the table. Eizenstat has been aggressively seeking binding targets for limiting emissions from Mexico and Brazil, including threatening to derail IMF loans. Mexico is particularly vulnerable to such tactics. Eizenstat has also been meeting with Green groups to tout soon-to-be-launched strategies to reduce U.S. emissions (without ratification of the Treaty). The goal is to convince the Greens and developing countries that the White House is serious about this issue (well we have no doubt about that).

Meanwhile Argentine President Carlos Menem, who has shown an extraordinary willingness to curry favor with the White House by licking Clinton's boots, made a surprise announcement that Argentina will be the first developing country to set voluntary (whatever that means) targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions. If we are to take him seriously-and there are reasons to think his announcement is also "symbolic"--it would mean that President Menem is willing for political reasons to put the screws to his own country, despite its already stagnating economy. We suggest that Menem have his chauffeur drive him out near the Buenos Aires garbage/solid-waste disposal facility to tour the hundreds of corrugated tin and cardboard shanties where men, women, and children live in the kind of poverty Americans can't even imagine. No clean water, no electricity, no sewers, no heat. Maybe he could use those people as a backdrop for the press conference detailing his proposal.

Here in Buenos Aires, developed countries are pushing for some agreement on emissions trading and other flexibility mechanisms, schemes for softening the blow (or an least giving that impression) to their own economies. Developing countries are looking for an agreement on technology transfers, i.e. power plants and other aid they assumed they were promised at Kyoto. Developing countries suspect they're about to get stiffed. Word is they may be right.

And the scientific debate? On Friday, Stanford University's Stephen Schneider and the panel of "objective" scientists flown in for the press ridiculed those many scientists in the United States who object to the activist-driven global warming hysteria. Schneider stopped just short of calling on the U.S. government to revoke the constitutional right to free speech, though government protection from any scientific challenge is clearly his preference.

At the UN Summit, of course, there is no constitutional right to speak, or guarantees of a free press. The COP-4 daily paper abruptly cancelled an interview with Fred Singer: Enzo Scilinguo, a member of the editorial staff said editors were pressured by someone "near government" not to talk to him.

Not that the situation is much better in the United States at the moment. Reporting by Reuters, the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times has been excruciatingly bad. We can only comment that Americans are poorly served when reporters fail to educate themselves on even the basic facts. Just prior to the opening of COP-4, the Washington Post published a 6-page supplement, which Post editors referred to as a "forum" on climate change. It would have more accurate to head each page with the word "advertisement." Forum it was not.

All of this has caused us to wonder if we aren't on the verge of Environmentalism's "defining moment," the one riveting event that so exposes the irrelevancy, moral corruption, and utter hypocrisy of its leadership that the public takes the only reasonable action-it decides to ignore them. Such moments have already occurred with two of the three great social movements of the 1960s. With Civil Rights, it was the 1992 Rodney King-Los Angeles riots, when television viewers saw a hapless man dragged from his truck and nearly beaten to death by a mob, then heard so-called Civil Rights "leaders" make excuses for his assailants. For Feminism, it's been the Paula Jones-Monica Lewinsky scandal: seeing the same "ladies" who drove Senator Bob Packwood from office for drinking too much and trying to smooch women in the elevator stand on the Capitol steps and defend Bill Clinton's depraved antics, saying that "overall" he was good for women's issues.

There is always overreach. There is always the point where the absurdities and pinch-faced pieties can no longer be seen as furthering any conceivable goal. What will mark the end of this quasi-religion called Environmentalism? This week it seems to be moving toward critical mass.

TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall, this week an observer to the latest UN summit on global warming (Officially, the Fourth Conference of Parties) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Go to the Week That Was Index

________________________________________________________________ TW2 is compiled by SEPP Policy Research Associate Candace Crandall,