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Free Market Project

3/6/2006 2:56:20 PM

Updated 02/24/06

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Supporter: Kyoto’s ‘greatest value is symbolic’

By Dan Gainor

     The Kyoto treaty finally takes effect today and one of its major supporters openly admits the treaty’s greatest value is “symbolic.”

     That quote, from today’s Washington Post article by Shankar Vendantam, was a rare hint of honesty in the global warming debate. The full quote came from Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change: “The greatest value is symbolic.”

     The typically one-sided piece from the Post buried the impact signing the treaty would have on the United States. The comment about the treaty being symbolic came in the fourth paragraph. The cost came 17 paragraphs later. According to James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, it would be “5 million jobs and $400 billion annually.”

     Vendantam was quick to criticize the Bush administration for their “stony opposition” to the treaty. Even more, he continued the fantasy about the treaty that “the United States helped shape it. President Bush pulled the United States out as soon as he took office.” In reality, while President Bill Clinton was involved in creating Kyoto, the U.S. Senate, which must approve treaties, was strongly against it. On July 25, 1997, the Senate voted unanimously 95-0 against Kyoto. That vote included Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

     The Post article took one unusual tactic and referred to groups on both sides of the debate as “advocacy” organizations. Had that been it, the result would have been fair if insufficient. Unfortunately, Vendantam cited the background of Kyoto opponents without doing the same for its advocates. Frank Maisano was called “an energy lobbyist and former spokesman for a defunct industry coalition on climate change.” William O’Keefe was referred to as “a former oil industry executive who now works at the Marshall Institute, an advocacy organization.”

     But when the story turned to proponents of Kyoto like Annie Petsonk, she was labeled “international counsel at Environmental Defense, an advocacy organization.” It didn’t mention that the “staff spotlight” from her own organization highlights her work on the Kyoto treaty itself. One of her coworkers even calls her “a warrior for change.”

     The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was given even more of a kid-glove treatment and called simply “an independent research and advocacy organization that works with many large companies interested in addressing the risks of global warming.” But Pew is anything but an independent. In fact it’s enormously in the pro-Kyoto camp and not only accepts global warming as a fact (as does the Post), but blames mankind for it. According to the Pew website, “This warming is largely the result of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities…”

     Just as deceptive was their failure to mention that Claussen, the Pew Center president, had been a Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton and then appointed by him as the Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment, and International Scientific Affairs for the State Department.

     One of the most predictable pieces of the Vendantam story was how he treated the temperature change. According to the story, “Global temperatures are indisputably rising – and, while there are persistent skeptics, the vast majority of scientists say human activity is to blame.”

     Not only is the temperature increase still called into question by scientists, but another part of the foundation on which climate advocates build their beliefs, might be coming down as well. On February 14, the Wall Street Journal did a front-page article highlighting challenges to historic temperature readings used by the environmental movement. One graph, nicknamed the “hockey stick” because of its shape, has been used for years to claim that temperatures rose suddenly in the 20th century.

     An amateur analyzed some of the data and concluded that not only were there flaws, but that the statistical technique tended to draw hockey-stick forms. Even its creator, Dr. Michael Mann from the University of Virginia, admitted this according to the Journal. He’s also corrected the other problems, but claims they didn’t impact the overall result.

     The problems don’t end there. Mann won’t release all of the data, so no one can double check his entire effort. Other scientists point that the technique “could sharply underestimate past temperature swings.” The graph already de-emphasized a warming period around the year 1000 and the “little ice age” in the 15th century.

     The Journal continued its strong coverage of Kyoto with a piece February 15 that discussed the economic hardships for industrial nations that had agreed to the pact. Canada, in particular, is facing hardships and has already spent $3.7 billion encouraging voluntary cuts. But according to the Journal: “By most informed estimates, however, the plan has yielded only about half the hoped for emissions cuts.” Despite all this, Canadian emissions are actually rising and could force extreme cuts by 2012.

To find out more about the current climate debate, check out these two stories:

  • Environmentalists Still Squabbling as Kyoto Protocol Takes Effect
  • A Glacier Grows, Undeterred by Heated Kyoto Debate

As well as the Senate vote against the treaty:

  • Senate Resolution on Greenhouse Gas Treaties


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