- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

We are now deep into the finger-pointing stage concerning the Bush administration's revised position on carbon dioxide (CO2) and global warming. Last week, the president wrote that CO2 is not a pollutant and that there is an incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change.

This represents a major change from his campaign position. And while it is the correct course, the political carnage resulting from this reversal is devastating and obvious. The question is how to keep this from happening again. The worry is that the people who caused the problem in the first place are lobbying for another chance to do more damage.

What happened is simple. Mr. Bush's campaign committee made the mistake of relying on a green lobbying group Environmental Defense for advice on global warming. The group's policy director, Fred Krupp, initially tried to sell both the Gore and Bush campaigns the idea that a basket of pollutants sulfur dioxide, mercury and CO2 could be regulated by allowing utilities to chose their way to reduce some combination of these and other emissions. The DNC passed and the RNC bit.

Environmental Defense's strategy was to divide-and-conquer opposition to pass the legislation they wanted. Because of different emissions profiles, the basket strategy pits coal-fired utilities against gas burners (and some coal burners vs. other coal burners because coal's chemistry varies by region). This is the way the last big environmental regulations passed, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, under George Bush Sr. In that case, the high-sulfur coal people bickered with the low-sulfur (compliance coal) producers over acid rain and the greens got what they wanted.

George Bush Sr. then signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which forces attention on CO2 and global warming and gave rise to the onerous Kyoto Protocol: an instrument that requires economic suicide for the United States at the expense of our competitors. George Bush Sr. has expressed regret over this decision, and it's a good bet that he has been a bit more forceful in private about it with his son. So the current President Bush has taken the step of righting his father's mistake. Greens are out to make sure this never happens again. Now they are proposing that Michael Oppenheimer, the holder of the Barbra Streisand Chair of Environmental Studies at Environmental Defense, becomes Mr. Bush's new scientific adviser on global warming.

Mr. Bush should say no. The president cannot rely on the science advice of a green lobbying group that has cost him a boatload of credibility.

Where else to turn? Unfortunately, the federal process has poisoned environmental science over the last decade. It is a fact that no government science administrator got anywhere by questioning the Gore-Clinton line on climate change. As a result, the federal pool of talent is biased against Mr. Bush, and in many cases, on the record against his views.

That leaves it up to some prominent university scientist who has been in the thick of climate change research. It would also be good if this person has experience dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis. One of the nation's 49 state climatologists, who are mostly at universities, comes to mind: Dr. John Christy, of the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Besides being a crack-shot scientist, Mr. Christy is an ordained minister who has spent considerable time in service of the starving in Africa. President Bush, that sounds like someone you can depend upon.

Mr. Christy is also the scientist who discovered that satellites show no warming of the atmosphere from 5,000 feet to the stratosphere, where all the climate models say it should be warming at this time. That took courage. It takes commitment to literally feed the hungry. It takes communication skills to deal with the public daily as the state climatologist. And it takes the intelligence of a rocket scientist to run the satellite data. Courage. Commitment. Communication. Intelligence. Sounds like a good adviser on climate change to me.

And it sure sounds like a better idea than going back to the green lobbyists that started this trouble for Mr. Bush.

Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of "The Satanic Gases."


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