- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

In Poland recently, representatives of the European Union were discussing ways to look like soldiers in the war against global warming while once more dodging the draft. Outside there were the usual sorts of doomsday-prognosticating protesters. Some were dressed as penguins, devils and polar bears, it was reported.

The uniforms strike me as about right, although I also think clown clothes and makeup would be appropriate for many of the loudest worriers about climate change, such as Al Gore and Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s not to say they will fail to get their way as a new president takes office amidst whoppers about how Europe is all progress on this issue while dumb, selfish America is lagging.

The truth that the United States did more to control carbon emissions than Europe during one recently measured period as President Bush took some modest, common-sense precautions and European nations took bows for signing a Kyoto treaty most of the signatories then ignored. The all-show-no-go European Union’s recent conference in Poland produced some tough, new goals along with a plentitude of escape hatches, rendering these goals meaningless from the start.

It’s a clever strategy, and one that President-elect Barack Obama should emulate, given that virtually any program to make energy more costly at this time of economic peril would be catastrophic while achieving something on the order of nothing. A voice of wisdom on the issue is that of William Nordhaus, a Yale economics professor who says the best means to avoid throwing trillions of dollars away to little avail is a coordinated, phased-in program of carbon taxes for the whole world.

But even the Nordhaus analysis rests on assumptions about warming that may not hold up, just as Mr. Obama’s dire forecasts are not so clearly factual as he said in a video message to a governors climate session in California. He spoke of rising sea levels, shrinking coastlines, record droughts, spreading famines and “storms that are growing with each passing hurricane season.”

Hooey, says Bjorn Lomborg, a Copenhagen statistician who has written that sea levels were rising long before the recent warming, that many coastlines in the world have been getting larger, that soil moisture has been increasing in the world, that recent famines have much to do with land taken to produce corn for ethanol and that total hurricane force has been on the decrease since 2005.

Maybe Mr. Obama has been listening too much to what has been called his “green dream team,” a crew picked to advise him and run departments and agencies with environmental missions. They are mostly gung-ho activist types, especially Carol Browner, who never saw an environmental issue too insignificant to waste money on.

Or maybe he was listening to the host of the gubernatorial pow-wow, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who recently said on “60 Minutes” that anyone who didn’t accept his version of global warming also must believe in a flat Earth.

Excuse me, but any number of climate scientists known to be absolutely brilliant disagree with this impersonator of a knowledgeable public official. The whole consensus thing is a myth, at least if what you mean by consensus is widespread scientific agreement that human-induced warming is sure to destroy the planet in the absence of prompt, decisive action. There are too little data, too much that is unknown to say so.

I know, I know. Nobel Prize hero Mr. Gore says differently, but then his movie was rife with errors, his own Tennessee house was a kind of coal-fired plant in hiding and his willingness to listen to other views was amply illustrated by his 1993 role as vice president in booting Will Happer from his Energy Department job as director of research. A distinguished Princeton physicist, Mr. Happer is quoted as saying, “I am convinced the current alarm over carbon dioxide is mistaken.”

Still more testimony to take it easy on this issue, Mr. Obama.

Jay Ambrose is former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard News Service.

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