- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 13, 2004

The global warming treaty known as the Kyoto protocol is politically dead in the United States. But the treaty’s left-leaning environmental extremist supporters haven’t given up their fantasy of creating a socialist global economy by controlling energy use.

Rather they’ve merely switched tactics to achieve that dubious aim — and I’m not referring to making dopey movies like “The Day After Tomorrow.”

The new tactic pressures publicly owned corporations into reducing carbon dioxide emissions — essentially committing to private Kyoto protocols on a corporation-by-corporation basis.

The sort of pressure used by the global warming activists is not the usual one of forcing corporate managements to cave in under the threat of bad publicity. Instead, the activists become shareholders of publicly owned companies, attempting to steer corporate policy under the guise of being corporate “owners.”

During 2003, these activist shareholders filed resolutions with more than 25 companies, urging them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. None of the resolutions came close to passing, but in some cases they received significant shareholder support: 32 percent at ChevronTexaco; 27 percent at American Electric Power, the largest coal-fired U.S. electricity generator; 23 percent at General Electric; 21 percent at ExxonMobil.

American Electric Power in February announced it would assess and report to shareholders on the risks of its greenhouse emissions and effects of efforts to cut discharges.

Another major coal-burning utility, Cinergy Corp., also agreed to demands from state and church pension funds that it report on greenhouse emissions and other environmental matters.

And let’s not forget the 40 or so large corporations — including DuPont, IBM and Boeing — who have caved into the activists by joining the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. BP has even taken to labeling its primary product, oil, a “necessary evil” in television commercials.

Pressure on corporations to act on global warming is also coming from something called the Carbon Disclosure Project, 87 institutional investors managing $9 trillion in assets. The Project has asked 500 large companies to disclose their carbon risk and pans for mitigating the problem.

Global warming activists have marshaled pension funds managing about $800 billion to lobby the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to force balance-sheet disclosure by publicly owned companies of financial risks of global warming. Even more frightening is the activists’ move toward the ultimate corporate takeover.

Surfing the wave of bad publicity related to corporations like Enron and WorldCom, the activists lobby the SEC to propose a rule allowing minority shareholders to nominate corporate directors. Although corporate shareholders have the right to vote for directors on corporate boards, the process of nominating those directors has traditionally been an internal corporate process not involving the shareholders.

The activists hope, if they can get their candidates nominated, they can elect them through a shareholder voting method called “cumulative voting,” designed to assure minority shareholders can elect their candidates.

The activists don’t plan to stop there. Ultimately, they would like to see controlling “independent” board majorities of publicly owned corporations — with no ties to corporate management. Activist ties, of course, would be allowed.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of all is the lack of awareness about what the activists are up to.

Of the 690 public comments sent the SEC on the proposal to allow minority shareholder nomination of directors, only 10 were from corporations and executives. The vast majority were favorable comments from activists and their supporters.

United for Jobs, a project of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Survival Committee and the United Seniors Association, lampooned release of “The Day After Tomorrow” with a mock movie poster titled “The Day After Kyoto,” featuring Depression-era unemployment.

Fearing disastrous ramifications of a global warming treaty, President Bush withdrew the U.S. from the Kyoto protocol in 2001. No global warming legislation has been seriously considered by Congress. The proposal of Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, to cap U.S. greenhouse emissions at 2000 levels by 2010 and create an emissions trading system is unlikely to pass either. Politicians of both parties know the junk science-fueled Kyoto protocol would be an economic suicide capsule.

Though Greens have failed to advance their agenda through scientific and political debate in the public policy arena, they haven’t quit. They’ve just changed pressure points.

Steven Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of “Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams” (Cato Institute, 2001).

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