- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

The Bush administration is taking flak again from both sides for making yet another misstep in formulating policy on climate change, a policy that is, well, batty. So batty, in fact, that in the latest development yesterday President Bush himself denounced it. Flip, flop and back to flip.

The president's problem is that his administration is attempting to have it both ways, maybe even three ways. On the one side, it is suggesting that man's activities are probably contributing to global warming, but on the other, it is encouraging the emissions of greenhouse gasses, which all the models consider causes of global warming.

That problem was brought to the table again by the Environmental Protection Agency, with the release one midnight last week of its U.S. Climate Action Report 2002. As required by the Rio treaty on global climate change, the report gives a sort of state-of-the-nation assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and potential effects of modeled increases in temperature. To that end, it included projections of the consequences of a continental-wide temperature increase of between 5 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.

Many of those predictions, with careful caveats, are catastrophic in (and to) nature such as the speculation of the disappearance of alpine meadows in the Rocky Mountains and damage to coastal areas. However, the predictions were based on faulty models from a catastrophically flawed report, the National Assessment on Climate Change. Unfortunately, by citing this assessment, which has little if any scientific credibility, the administration not only enraged conservatives, but apparently violated the settlement terms of a complaint filed against the report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and several legislators.

No matter what Mr. Bush says, the Climate Action Report 2002 cannot be construed as merely free-lancing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or by any other government agency. According to the New York Times (which broke the story), the report was under review for four months before it was released, and according to an administration official, several agencies participated in preparing it. Mr. Bush cannot persuasively distance himself from it because this is, after all, his administration.

In attempting to placate liberals by taking steps against global warming, while attempting to placate conservatives by trying to ensure that such steps don't cost much, the president has alienated both. As he flip-flops again, the president should consider the lesson from Aesop's bat, which, after refusing to choose sides in the conflict between the birds and beasts, realized to its sorrow, "He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends."

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