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 # 416  

June 2002




A Change in Climate on Climate Change? Don't Count on It


by Tom Randall

"Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise."1

That line and a few others in the Bush Administration's recent rambling, confusing and often contradictory "Climate Action Report 2002" set off a firestorm of criticism of what had been the President's skillfully-crafted and scientifically-sound position on climate change.

"We do not know how much our climate could or will change in the future," President George W. Bush had said on June 11, 2001. "We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it."2

How did we get from the President's position to an Administration report to the United Nations that stumbles, bumbles and fumbles its way into statements that mankind is responsible for global warming? After all, it was signed off on by several departments of government, as well as the President's own Council on Environmental Quality. The specific answer to that question may never be publicly known. But it seems obvious that those involved with the report may not have been as knowledgeable as the President on this issue or may have been too naïve to understand the language of the report. They might even be opposed to the President's view on the matter.

In any case, President Bush was right when he quickly branded the report as the work of the "bureaucracy," which it certainly was, and restated his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. In addition to sticking with his position, for the benefit of the American people - and some members of his administration - it would be wise for the President to make clear a few facts about climate change.

First, the President's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol is in agreement with the U.S. Senate, which voted 95-0 on July 25, 1997 to reject any treaty that would harm the American economy or fail to require developing nations to reduce emissions.3

It is also important to note that the burden of restricting use of fossil fuels - necessary to meet the Kyoto Protocol's goals - would fall most heavily on minorities. A study commissioned by six African-American and Hispanic organizations found that the increased costs that would be forced by the Kyoto Protocol would cut minority incomes by ten percent and cost the jobs of 864,000 blacks and 511,000 Hispanics.4 This underscores the fact that President Bush is right to oppose this treaty.

The President might also point out over 17,000 scientists, including Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who worked on both the National Research Council and United Nations studies on climate change, have expressed serious doubts about the link between global warming and made-made carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.5

He could also allay the fears of some Americans concerning global warming by pointing out that the only evidence of it exists in computer models that have proven to be wrong.

The models say the part of the earth that should warm first under the "greenhouse gas effect" is the lower portion of the atmosphere, approximately one to five miles above the earth, called the troposphere. However, highly-accurate, carefully-documented NASA satellite and balloon monitoring has shown no warming of the troposphere in over 25 years.6

There has been a rise in surface temperatures of about half a degree Fahrenheit. Most of this occurred prior to 1940, followed by slight cooling from 1940 to 1975 and some slight warming from 1975 until now - definitely not a pattern consistent with climate change caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air.7

Presenting these and other facts about climate change would reinforce the President's principled and consistent position on the issue of climate change. It would overcome the scare rhetoric of many in the media and the far left while countering those on the right who are denouncing the administration for what is, admittedly, a flawed report.

When it comes to the much-ballyhooed "Climate Action Report 2002" it is probably best to just forget about it and get on with more important issues, such as the war on terror, conflict in the Middle East and preventing a nuclear holocaust in Pakistan and India.

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Tom Randall is the Director of Environmental & Regulatory Affairs of the John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of The National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC. Comments may be sent to [email protected].



Footnotes:

1 "U.S. Climate Action Report 2002," U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, May 2002.
2 President George W. Bush, remarks in the Rose Garden, The White House, Washington, DC, June 11, 2001.
3 S. Res. 98, introduced by U.S. Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), approved by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 95-0, July 25, 1997.
4 "Study Says Global Warming Treaty Will Hurt U.S. Minorities," Associated Press, July 6, 2000, as cited by John Carlisle, "Treaty to Combat Unproven Global Warming Threat Would Hurt Americans' Standard of Living" National Policy Analysis #309, September 2000, available on the Internet at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA309.html.
5 Richard Lindzen, "Scientists' Report Doesn't Support The Kyoto Treaty," The Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2001.
6 James K. Glassman and Sallie Baliunas, "Bush is Right on Global Warming," The Weekly Standard, June 25, 2001.
7 Ibid.



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