- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2010

As climate scientists gathered in Cancun, Mexico, the past few weeks for yet another United Nations-sponsored global warming “summit,” some were openly calling for the West to commit economic suicide. Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, for example, claimed that the only way to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to save the Earth from cataclysmic climate change - without punishing developing countries - is to halt, yes halt, economic growth in the developed world over the next two decades. To achieve this, he recommends rationing on a level not seen since World War II and the Great Depression.

Mr. Anderson conceded that it “would not be easy” to persuade people to undergo such drastic, voluntary privation, and no wonder: As the Daily Telegraph reports, it would mean “[A] limit on electricity so people are forced to turn the heating down, turn off the lights and replace old electrical goods like huge fridges with more efficient models. Food that has traveled from abroad may be limited [as would] goods that require a lot of energy to manufacture.”

Yet even as climate warriors grow more vociferous than ever in their utter hatred for Western economic productivity, their movement’s ability to sway public opinion and effect policy change from governments is diminishing by the hour. Major liberal-leaning news outlets, which once deluged U.N. climate conferences with breathless and extensive coverage, barely covered the Cancun confab. New York Times’ environment editor Erica Goode explained why: “There is not a lot expected at Cancun.” The lack of expectations coincided with the virtual disappearance of the global warming issue from many op-ed pages. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, “the amount of climate-change coverage in 2010 declined significantly in some major American newspapers - to a four-year low.”

The causes of the collapse in expectation and interest are not hard to fathom: The past year gave us the leaked e-mails constituting the Climategate scandal, which showed prominent climate scientists conspiring to manipulate data and blacklist climate-change skeptics (Climategate and its aftermath are masterfully detailed by Patrick Michaels in the October issue of Green Watch); as well as a blistering critique of the U.N. climate establishment by the independent and prestigious InterAcademy Council. And, of course, the holy grail of legislative environmentalism, cap-and-trade, fell short of becoming law in spite of large Democratic majorities in Congress and a pliantly liberal president in the White House.

The makeup of Congress has recently become even less favorable to the greens, but fortunately for them, their presidential champion remains. And as long as Barack Obama sits ensconced in the Oval Office, surrounded by his coterie of czars and technocrats, the greens don’t have to convince timid congressmen or, God help us, the Great Unwashed citizenry, of the need for stringent anti-carbon measures. The Obama government is moving to implement a series of regulations via bureaucratic fiat that they could not accomplish at the ballot box: Environmental Protection Agency-mandated emission limits on industrial boilers, for example, which could comprise a capital cost of an estimated $20 billion and cost as many as 300,000 people their jobs, according to industry sources.

The choice of sunny Mexico for the latest climate confab was doubtlessly designed to avoid the embarrassment of last year’s Copenhagen fiasco, when a global warming conference was blasted by a brutally ironic blizzard. Yet once again, the choice of locale proved unfortunate: Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Atmospheric Sciences Center (CCA-UNAM) in Mexico City are now warning that the Mexican government’s own environmental policies may be based on seriously flawed science. As Cecilia Rosen reported for the website of the journal Nature: “The group, led by climate-change economist Francisco Estrada, is questioning the set of regional climate-change scenarios produced by Victor Magana, a well-known climatologist also based at the CCA-UNAM who is one of the key academics advising the government on climate impacts.”

U.N. staffers planning the next global warming hype-fest should take note: Copenhagen or Cancun, it makes no difference. Bad science doesn’t get any better under the sun.

Terrence Scanlon is president of the Capital Research Center.